Train Day celebrated
Area residents of all ages came to the Rugby depot May 9 to celebrate National Train Day.
While Amtrak has only celebrated National Train Day since 2008, the event is deeply rooted in history.
“National Train Day really started when they drove the spike on May 10, 1869, joining east and west together,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman. Residents also had the chance to see Boardman arrive in Rugby via a special, three-car train.
Amtrak Media Relations Manager Marc Magliari added: “What it is is a celebration of what the trains have done to build this country, what the trains are doing to keep this country growing. National Train Day celebrates how trains matter to the people.”
Prior to his arrival, Boardman also met with Rugby mayor Dave Cichos and Devils Lake mayor Richard Johnson. Boardman made stops in Minot for that city’s National Train Day celebration, and at Minot Air Force Base. He also made stops in Fargo and Grand Forks.
According to Rugby depot agent Duane Veach, Rugby is the only station in North Dakota that has celebrated National Train Day every year since 2008.
“We kind of have the honor of not having missed a year, and we participate early May of every year,” Veach said. He added that Minot is another station that celebrates regularly, but hasn’t had it every year.
Both he and former mayor Dale Niewoehner organize the event each year. Prior to 2008, the depot had held customer appreciation days.
“We do it to thank the people of Rugby for taking advantage of and keeping Amtrak services,” Niewoehner said.
Magliari added: “This is a lovely event here, and we’re happy to support it every year.”
Depot changes in nineties
In the late ’80s, the Rugby Lions chapter took on the task of restoring the depot. After making restorations, which included painting the interior, the depot had a grand reopening in 1991. The reopening was observed by Amtrak officials.
Also in the late ’80s to early ’90s was a campaign to keep Amtrak service stopping daily in Rugby rather than three to four stops a week. Niewoehner participated in letter-writing campaigns and petition drives toward that end.
“[If] you don’t tell people you’re here, they’ll soon forget you, and that’s what we’ve done all these years,” Niewoehner said. “Mostly I mailed the stuff in to the powers, and we seem to be in good shape still to this day. This continuance of communication for 30 years now has kept Amtrak officials aware that Rugby is alive and well.”
Magliari said, “Rugby’s a pretty famous place in the halls of Amtrak. This town stood up in the late ’80s, early ’90s and told Amtrak not to cut service.”
Westbound Empire Builder to experience delays
Recently, Amtrak announced there will be schedule changes to the westbound Empire Builder route.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, who owns the tracks on which the Empire Builder operates, plans to do railway expansion and signal work on the westbound route. The work is expected to be completed by Sept. 30.
Until then, the westbound route will stop in Fargo. Those traveling to Grand Forks, Rugby or Minot will be taken to those locations via charter bus.
“We’re cooperating with BNSF in trying to fix some of the problems they’ve been having with capacity, especially for oil and for coal, so that we have a better and on-time performance by this fall,” Boardman said.
Magliari said: “We hope they can get the work done sooner. We’re not doing this because we think it’s a good idea, we just think it’s the best idea to get the work done faster.”
Magliari also said that delays have been hurting Amtrak in more ways than one. He said that even though the Empire Builder is one of Amtrak’s most popular routes, ridership has been decreasing by 10 percent from year-to-year due to schedule delays.
Boardman said that despite BNSF working on the track, the eastbound route will, for the most part, not be affected.
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