Going Green: Riding the Rails on National Train Day 2010

Amtrak Train Image by jpmueller99

All aboard! Just in case you hadn’t heard, the 3rd annual National Train Day takes place this Saturday, May 8th. Celebration events will take place from coast to coast across the U.S. with the official kick-off event being held at New York’s Penn Station on Friday, May 7th from noon to 2pm local time. These events are an opportunity not only to celebrate the importance of trains in our history, but also to learn about the valuable and green qualities trains possess both now and in our future.

This year, National Train Day celebrates 141 years of transporting travelers from coast to coast via railway. On May 10, 1869 the infamous “golden spike” was driven into the final tie that joined 1776 miles of the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railways. America had its first transcontinental railroad.

Today Amtrak, the nation’s intercity passenger rail operator, runs more than 300 trains a day to more than 500 destinations. Last year alone over 27 million passengers rode the rails via Amtrak.

Also, while it has long been considered that the railroad is a greener mode of long-distance travel, a recent Amtrak report estimated that passenger rail travel is about 20% more efficient than airline travel and 28% more efficient than traveling in an automobile.

Harpers Ferry - Freight TrainFreight rail is also a fairly efficient form of transportation, especially considering the American railroads move about 40% of the nation’s freight but only generate a little over 2% of all transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe they should try a little Green Plus Diesel Fuel Enhancer to bring that number down even further.

Image by cliff1066™

Amtrak also has a few more “green” measures they have taken that you may not be aware of:

1) Amtrak has installed both a wind turbine and solar panels in their Chicago yard in order to help power its signaling system,

2) In the Northeast Corridor, trains already run on electricity, so Amtrak has recently added solar panels to help power 50 track lubrication systems,

Acela Electric Train3) About 80% of Amtrak’s electric fleet (mostly East Coast rail services) use electric locomotives which can use regenerative braking,

4) They have a recycling program in place both on their trains and in stations,

5) They are continuing to work on cleaning up contamination on historic railroads, some of which date back to before Amtrak’s time,

Image by cliff1066™

6) They have started testing biodiesel made from beef byproducts as a new green fuel option, and

7) They are working to protect the bald eagle along the Hudson River in New York and ultimately lower/eliminate train and bald eagle collisions.

National Train Day 2010You can learn all about Amtrak by attending National Train Day and checking out their many scheduled exhibits including the:  Trains Move our Economy exhibit, Go-Green Express: Eco exhibit, National Park Service Trails and Rails exhibit, Train Equipment displays, Culinary exhibits, Model Train displays and more. They also plan on having an AmtraKids Depot for the kids.

So celebrate this National Train Day by leaving your car at home and try riding the rails.

If you happen to be looking for a weekend train trip, you might want to check out the Grand Canyon Railway. They have a weekend event that features a trip to the Grand Canyon on their 1923 Baldwin steam locomotive that has recently been converted to run on waste vegetable oil.

But whatever you decide to do, take some time to learn about the history of trains and educate yourself on the trains available to you today and hopefully what we can expect in our future.

Trains have played a big part in America’s transportation history and with further green actions and advancements, they’ll probably continue to play a big part in America’s transportation future. Just read what Vice President Joe Biden had to say about “Why America Needs Trains” and decide for yourself. Do you see trains in our future?


  • nan

    Nice job, Tara! I love train travel (after a road trip, of course…)! It really is the greenest way to go.

  • Stephanie

    I love the idea of traveling across the country (or perhaps down California!) on a train. I haven’t hopped on Amtrak in quite a while, but we did ride trains in Europe many years ago. Its the only way to get from Rome to the Amalfi Coast, IMHO! 🙂

  • LoveEarthAlways.com

    Shipping via trains is much cheaper than trucking, and obviously for passenger service too. Once oil prices rise again trains will look pretty sexy compared to filling up their gas tanks for $150 or more.

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