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Loss of Amtrak service would be disappointing

By Staff | Jan 28, 2010

Since 1972, that familiar silver bullet of the rails – Amtrak – has been making daily stops in Rugby as part of the Empire Builder route which links Chicago to Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

Amtrak service to Rugby, unfortunately, may come to an end. The need for track repairs near Churchs Ferry likely will force the train to take the Surrey Cutoff instead of Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s north line, and thus, bypass Rugby and two other stations.

Amtrak service here has always been somewhat of an anomaly. Rugby is one of the smallest stations the national passenger rail line serves, but that is not by accident.

It’s because of the tireless efforts of local advocates, including long-time city official Dale Niewoehner, who have helped to keep the train stopping at the Geographical Center.

Regular correspondence with Amtrak officials and meetings with the state’s Congressional delegation by Niewoehner to emphasis the importance of the train service to Rugby all have helped to keep that in the minds of the key decision makers when it came time to consider cut stations or staffing.

Rugby’s ridership figures are also hard to ignore. Despite its size, ticket sales annually at the local station surpass those in town’s twice as large. People around here made it a point to buy their tickets at the station rather than by phone, knowing it would help boost the sales numbers. Even former Rugby residents who live out of state and planned on taking Amtrak there, would call the Rugby station to book their tickets. Indeed, many did what they could to help the community keep its train service.

Over the years tens of thousands of residents have taken the train, but it just wasn’t Rugby residents. People from Bottineau, Rolla, Belcourt, Harvey, Towner and Rolette as well as those from southern Manitoba rely on this form of transportation.

Indeed, Amtrak is an important service for the Rugby region and it would be disappointing to see it end.

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