Area Residents Encouraged To Welcome VIP Train Next Week

February 10, 2016

A special “inspection train” will ride the rails from New Orleans to Jacksonville next week in advance preparation for the possible return of passenger rail service to cities like Pensacola and Atmore.

And the City of Atmore is doing much more than rolling out the red carpet, asking residents of the Atmore and North Escambia areas to join them in welcoming the train.

The train is set to arrive at 2:31 p.m. on Thursday, February 18 at the Atmore Train Station downtown. They will greeted by music from the Escambia County High School Jazz Band, and the VIP’s will walk through a ceremonial sword arch provided by the Northview High School NJROTC.

The train will leave the passengers behind as it departs at 2:41 p.m., just before speeches from Atmore Mayor Jim Staff, Amtrak Chairman Joe Boardman and Southern Rail Commission Chairman Gregory White.  The passengers will then be bused to the Wind Creek Casino for a press conference and a reception, and many will spend the night in the Wind Creek Hotel.

The passengers will then board buses to Pensacola to an 8 a.m. departure on February 19, with stops later that day in Crestview, Chipley and Tallahassee before an arrival that night in Jacksonville.

Jerry Gehman, Atmore’s self-proclaimed biggest train fan and the city’s representative on the Southern Rail Commission, is urging Atmore and North Escambia residents to turn out for the historic event.

“It’s open to the public; it is not a private event,” Gehman said. “And we’d love people to come and welcome the train and build a favorable impression of South Alabama.”

The inspection train will carry elected officials, industry representatives, community leaders and federal stakeholders. The goal of the invitation-only trip is to examine the existing CSX railroad infrastructure and to better understand rail’s economic, cultural and mobility opportunities. It it designed to provide an unparalleled perspective on reintroducing intercity passenger rail along the Gulf Coast.

The SRC recently released a study by Amtrak detailing the range of feasible service options accompanied by an analysis of ridership levels, projected revenues, and associated costs for passenger trains between New Orleans and Orlando. The models in this new study present the range of service options that will support regional economic resilience and projected population growth.

“If we will get train service, this is the first step, and I am excited about that possibility. The beginnings often lead to great ends, and we’d love that to be the success story here,” Gehman said.

Connecting the cities and towns along the Gulf Coast with passenger rail is one of the top priority projects for the Southern Rail Commission. The earliest service is projected to return is about two years from now.

Pictured top and bottom: The Atmore Train Station has been cleaned up and a temporary plywood decked added in advance of an Amtrak inspection train next week. Pictured inset: Jerry Gehman, Atmore’s representative to the Southern Rail Commission, outlined train arrival activities during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. photos, click to enlarge.


5 Responses to “Area Residents Encouraged To Welcome VIP Train Next Week”

  1. Tom on February 12th, 2016 3:04 pm

    Highways have always been a welfare child also…never paid their own way. Trains are more cost effective than highways.

  2. Rodchester on February 10th, 2016 1:38 pm

    No truer words have ever been spoken. Amtrak has been a Welfare child since day one. Never has it been a bread winner. Supporting this is as smart as voting for a Temporary Tax!

  3. Puddin on February 10th, 2016 10:10 am

    Awesome! Wish I could be there, in person, to show my support. I have to work, but I will be there in spirit.

  4. Ron on February 10th, 2016 9:12 am

    AMTRAK service from Jacksonville to New Orleans will never be reliable or on schedule because AMTRAK does not own the tracks. CSX owns the tracks and CSX trains take priority and right-of-way which is as it should be. AMTRAK service was discontinued from JAX to PNCLA because it was not feasible or cost effective and nothing has changed. It can only be re-established if it is heavily subsidized with tax dollars. While it sounds nice and generates some interest, after the initial enthusiasm dies down, everyone will wonder why their tax dollars are going to support something that only appeals to or benefits a small segment of the population. If the casinos want train service, then they should be willing to subsidize it.

  5. 429SCJ on February 10th, 2016 4:17 am

    Hopefully a friendly card will turn for Atmore.

    Come what may, you put your best foot forward.

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