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Our meeting time is 1:00 AM at Cincinnati’s Union Terminal, yet in the spirit of travel, we arrived fashionably late. My friends and fellow All Aboard Ohio members gathered to embark on a rail adventure aboard the Amtrak Cardinal. 


The Cardinal, a solitary thread weaving through Cincinnati, offers a thrice-weekly connection from New York to Chicago, with stops in Washington DC, Charleston, Indianapolis, and our very own Cincinnati. Our mission is clear: to document the lifelines Amtrak extends to Ohioans. With only three Amtrak routes serving the state, the Cardinal, the Capital Limited, and the Lakeshore Limited we were eager to hop on board and share our findings. 


At 1:07 AM, the Amtrak station attendants signaled the time had come to proceed to the platform. To our delight, the train was running an unexpected 20 minutes ahead of schedule, promising an on-time departure at 1:41 AM. Our group of 13, buzzing with excitement, contrasted sharply with the subdued mood of the other passengers. The notorious late-night departures of Ohio’s Amtrak service, designed to ensure daylight arrivals in major cities, were a common grievance among riders. 


As the train’s horn echoed through the terminal, heralding its approach, we caught sight of the Cardinal rounding the bend towards platform one. Led by a charger locomotive, flanked by three amfleet cars, and trailed by two viewliner coaches, the train promised comfort for the journey ahead.


Despite the sold-out status, we found a surprising number of vacant seats near our assigned ones. 

The thrill of departure electrified the air as we began our traverse across the Midwest. Ethan, ever observant, clocked our peak speed at 62mph before we settled into our seats for the remaining hours of the night. The seats are spacious, the ergonomics perhaps a little outdated, but with enough readjustments most of our group eventually falls asleep to the rocking of the amfleet trainset. 


At 4:56 AM, the sudden influx of light stirred me from slumber as we arrived at Indianapolis city station for a scheduled hour-long crew change. Seizing the opportunity, most of our group disembarked to stretch and explore the station’s notable amenities—an intermodal hub boasting both Amtrak and Greyhound services, complete with a staffed concession stand, ticketing office, and automated ticketing machines—features we long for in Cincinnati. 


With dawn breaking, we resumed our journey to Chicago, the cafe car opening its doors at 6:30 AM. Engrossed in conversation within the cozy confines of booth-style seating, we watched as the Indiana landscape unfurled before us, bathed in the morning light. Chicago was but three hours away, and anticipation grew with every mile. 


Reflecting on the voyage, I’ve come to appreciate the unique tempo of train travel. As long as I was in-the-know, I’ve embracing the slower pace compared to driving, one can find solace in the journey itself. We hope to have more opportunities like this making there way down the tracks to Ohio soon. From more frequent Cardinal service to new intra and interstate routes that connect us to the people around us in Ohio. There’sa certain charm in surrendering to the rhythm of the rails, finding rest, food, and connection along the way. Indeed, it’s an experience well worth the time. 

 

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All aboard the "Solar Eclipse Express"! Imagine a train journey like no other, where passengers are not just traveling from one city to another but are also chasing the celestial dance of the sun and moon. On April 8th, 2024, a remarkable event will unfold in the skies: a total solar eclipse. This rare occurrence will carve a path across North America, and by a stroke of cosmic coincidence, it will loosely follow the proposed route of an Amtrak long-distance rail proposal connecting Dallas to New York City.

 

The eclipse's path of totality, where the moon will completely cover the sun, will offer a corridor of darkness across the continent, a thrilling spectacle for anyone lucky enough to be within its shadow. The proposed Amtrak route, still in the early proposal stage, aims to connect major cities and provide a modern travel experience across states. The "Solar Eclipse Express" could become a reality, offering a unique perspective arcing across North America.

 

From Dallas to St. Louis to Columbus to New York City, this trip sweeps across the American West, Midwest, and Northeast offering access to some of the most populated cities in the country. Travelling 1,854 miles and connecting more than 4.2 million people. 



The 2024 solar eclipse promises to be a significant event, with millions of people expected to observe the spectacle. The last time a total solar eclipse crossed the United States was in 2017, and it became a nationwide sensation. The upcoming eclipse is already generating buzz, with communities along the path of totality preparing for an influx of eclipse chasers and enthusiasts eager to witness the sun's temporary disappearance.

 

As we look forward to the 2024 eclipse and the potential of the "Solar Eclipse Express," we are reminded of the power of dreams and the endless possibilities that arise when we dare to look up and imagine. So, let's keep our eyes on the skies and our hopes on the rails, for the journey of a lifetime awaits. All aboard!



About the Author:

Ryan Pecaut is a member of the All Aboard Ohio social media team and has been part of the organization for the last 2 years. In his free time, he enjoys sharing his knowledge of space.

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NOPRA Chair Tom Galloway spoke at the 2024 Democracy Day Event in Toledo. Read his speech below.


Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to again address the Toledo Democracy Day gathering on a subject dear to my heart…Trains. I wish to speak today about the very real possibility of Improved and Expanded Passenger Rail service in Toledo and Northwest Ohio. My name is Tom Galloway, and I am Chairman of the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association… I am also the Political advisor for BLET-OSLB.


Toledo has a hidden gem, and under-used treasure, standing less than two miles from where we stand; Toledo Union Station. It opened to great fanfare in September of 1950 and was a hub of activity for years and at its peak, hosted up to 110 trains a day to most any place in the US. Today the Station hosts not only AMTRAK but also Greyhound.  Even though Toledo only has 4 trains a day, it is the busiest AMTRAK station in Ohio.


A little history

In 1969, the time I began my railroad career, Penn Central ran three passenger trains a day each way between Chicago and the east coast through Toledo, and the B&O and C&O each ran a North-South set every day from Detroit to Columbus and Dayton.  There were also Penn Central Passenger trains across Ohio on the former PRR from Chicago to the East coast via Ft. Wayne-Lima-Pittsburgh… Then came AMTRAK.


Suddenly, Toledo went from 10 trains a day to no service whatsoever. The nearest Passenger rail service to Toledo was either Lima, to ride the Broadway Ltd. on the former PRR Line, or Detroit/Ann Arbor for service to Chicago. Eventually, service was returned on the Lake Shore Ltd. (48&49) from Chicago to the east coast. For a short time, there was service between Toledo and Chicago via Detroit on the ‘Lake Cities’, but due to the running time with permanent speed restrictions thru Monroe, that section was discontinued. Eventually, the Broadway Ltd. via Ft. Wayne was discontinued. It was replaced by a reconfigured Capitol Ltd. Chicago-Lima-Pittsburgh-Washington DC., A Three Rivers service was established Chicago-Pittsburgh via the CSX through Fostoria. It was a daylight run and eventually was rerouted through Toledo to Cleveland and Pittsburgh before being discontinued. For a short time, Toledo again had three East-West trains a day, each way! 


Toledo had service, but Columbus and Dayton did not. This was a travesty for a state that had at one time had a vibrant Passenger Rail Network. Even now though it is the ‘busiest AMTRAK line in Ohio’, it is still limited service.

 In the early part of this century, plans were starting to be developed for Amtrak hubs, nationwide. There was, in these early stages, a Midwest Hub and yes, even an ‘OHIO hub’. Then Governor Ted Strickland, seized on this Ohio Hub Plan and pushed for the ‘3 C & D’ Corridor, but we all know how that story ended. It was during this time that I became actively involved in Passenger Rail advocacy.

As part of my ‘new position’ as an advisor to the BLET Board, I was asked to attend a Passenger Rail forum sponsored by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) Passenger Rail Committee and Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association (NOPRA) that was a luncheon at the Toledo Club.


Who I met with,

After the presentation was over, I spoke to some of the TMACOG people. One in particular was the late Diane Reamer-Evans, a Transportation Planner for TMACOG (the Metropolitan Planning Organization {MPO}) for the region).  She was in charge of the Passenger Rail Committee and the Public Transit Committee. Diane asked me if I would be interested in joining the Passenger Rail Committee as my predecessor had moved to Columbus and was no longer attending the meetings I could join as a representative of the BLET Ohio State Legislative Board. That was the first step of many that led to who I am today. I served as Vice-Chairman of that committee.


After I joined the committee, I was introduced, and invited to join the Northwest Ohio Passenger Rail Association (NOPRA), the other group that presented the forum.  NOPRA has a few more freedoms within the community to do their advocacy work. Again, as a representative of the BLET-OSLB, I joined. I now serve as NOPRA Chairman.


NOPRA developed a set of goals, or endeavors, to take around to local stakeholders in Passenger Rail/Public Transit type projects in the region. We had several meetings with our counterpart organizations in the region, most notably the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association (NIPRA) and Michigan Association of Rail Passengers (MARP) on projects of mutual benefit, NIPRA was, and still is as far as I know, involved in an endeavor to bring High Speed (or Higher speed) Passenger rail service from Chicago to Columbus thru Ft. Wayne and Lima.  They have raised funds from businesses and organizations in Indiana for the various environmental and economic impact studies.  Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Committee, (MORPC), an MPO out of the Columbus area has raised funds as well.


There is a group in Michigan, affiliated with MARP for a plan to reestablish Passenger rail service from Ann Arbor to Travers City and Petoskey, Michigan. Unfortunately, Toledo was too late to the table to get in on this… however… in 2018, Dr. Alexander Metcalf of Transportation Economics & Management Systems, Inc. spoke at the Passenger Rail Forum in Toledo about this project.  Dr. Metcalf had been involved in the planning stages of the mid-west hub AND the Ohio Hub plans that would have been implemented had not the money been turned down by Ohio in 2011.  At this forum, a then Toledo City councilman asked Dr. Metcalf why there wasn’t a link from Toledo to the Detroit area… That started a conversation that is ongoing today. One study had been completed, but then COVID-19 hit before subsequent studies could be funded and undertaken. In the meantime, interest in Toledo to Columbus has come up, and the Toledo City Council is looking to commission that study as well, dusting off the earlier Ohio Hub study.


Who WE met with

Also, at about this time, the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association began to roll out a plan for what was to be called the Lake Shore Corridor Initiative, a plan to increase passenger train traffic between Chicago thru Toledo to the east coast to 4-5 trains a day each way from the current schedule of just the Lake Shore Ltd.


Whose support do we need?

While we have more support from Washington, DC than we have had previously under the Jobs and Infrastructure Act. The funding for passenger rail development is at a historic level of $66.3 Billion over the next five years.

Ohio has been awarded three Federal Railroad Administration grants for the study of three routes:

  • Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit

  • Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati and...

  • Chicago-Ft. Wayne-Lima-Columbus-Pittsburgh


More, however, needs to be done at MUST be done at the local, State and Federal levels.


Speak with your local state legislators, as they will be asked to approve state funds to match future federal grants for the three routes I mentioned.  A better-connected Ohio can significantly and positively impact both Ohio’s mobility and economy.


I, personally, have discussed state and national passenger rail improvement/expansion with representatives from the Toledo and Northwest Ohio area representatives, as well as Representative Marcy Kaptur and Senator Sherrod Brown. That being said, they need to hear from YOU. Join with various local and state advocacy groups such as NOPRA, All Aboard Ohio or Disability and Aging Rail Coalition (DARC). Let your voice be heard!


The key to expanding Passenger Rail, here and elsewhere is to get more corridors identified by the FRA …and under the FRA’s Long Distance Study Project, two major long-distance routes have been suggested that could impact Ohio, including a Detroit-New Orleans Corridor via Toledo, among others…


Let’s not let this opportunity slip away… It’s up to us as citizens and you as our elected leaders.

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