Happening Now

New Territory

September 19, 2013

Written By Abe Zumwalt

It wasn’t publicized widely. And yet, Amtrak’s first special excursion train sold out in little more than five days. Now, offered on the Amtrak website is a second “onetime” opportunity to take in the rare mileage. The trip “(which is usually off limits to passenger traffic) is along the Susquehanna River. Pass through Enola Yard, cross the Shocks Mill and Rockville bridges and make a brief stop in Harrisburg, PA, before continuing over the Columbia Secondary and ultimately back to Philadelphia via scenic Lancaster County.”

It’s not at all that this particular kind service is out of reach in the United States. There are hundreds of shortline tourist railwaysoperating over bits and pieces of leftover railroad rights of way across the country. Insofar as operating over track that is in all other circumstances the exclusive purview of freight trains, the National Railroad Historical Society and the American Association of Private Railcar Owners routinely schedule special trips. No, what makes this particular trip noteworthy is that it is Amtrak’s first foray into the excursion business.

The implication of the choice to offer a limited excursion is perhaps slightly more significant than its innocent pretext. Amtrak is following very strong current of latent demand. By creating an opportunity to generate revenue and public candor, this is Amtrak taking a step beyond simply being an essential utility. Perhaps most significantly, it is a move directed to accommodate (and properly leverage) a dedicated portion of its customer base. It shows a very encouraging glimmer of proactivity within the company, a sign that management is recognizing that their best customers most likely aren’t the ones drafting legislation on Capitol Hill.

While one can hope that this new-found entrepreneurialism will spread nation-wide and in terms of regularly scheduled service, in the meantime, we may as well show our support in the best way we can; my ticket is already booked. If the first trip was any indication, you’ll want to buy your passage sooner rather than later, as many dollars are already voting in favor!


The second frequency of the trip already sold out, within 10 minutes of being offered for sale yesterday morning! To call the popularity and demand 'staggering' might actually be an understatement.