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2018 Season Trails & Rails Cuts

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The schedule has been posted for 2018 Trails & Rails program dates/routes:

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/amtraktrailsandrails/trains.htm

 

 

Significant cuts include:

 

**Elimination of ALL T&R programs on the California Zephyr

 

**Elimination of ALL T&R programs on the City of New Orleans

 

**Elimination of the last remaining T&R program on the Sunset Limited (Amistad Natl Rec Area)

 

**Two of the three T&R routes on the Empire Builder got cut (including MN and ND programs)

 

**The remaining Empire Builder T&R program stays with-in Washington State -- meaning no programs through Glacier National Park

 

**The only remaining program on the Southwest Chief (out of La Junta, CO) becomes a daytrip to Las Vegas, NM -- no guides into ABQ or over Gloireta Pass

 

**Even smaller T&R programs got cut -- like the Indiana Dunes program -- only going 2x a week for about 3 months now

 

**Elimination of ALL T&R programs out of New Orleans (the founding city of Trails & Rails) -- including runs into Mississippi on the City of New Orleans // on the Crescent to Atlanta // and into Texas on the Sunset Ltd

 

 

I spoke with one ranger who heads a program and was told they wouldn't be surprised 2018 is the last year programs will run.

Edited by rtabern

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I wouldn't be surprised either. They are using podcasts on portions of the Sunset and Eagle. Assuming the route map stays as it is now, this is a fair compromise considering you said that Amtrak wanted to cut eliminate the program in its entirety for 2018.

 

From your previous rant in the Cuts to Trails & Rails:

 

 

I read last night in another post on here (the one about certain discounts not being accepted) -- major changes to Trails & Rails coming for 2018. The OP didn't elaborate, but I was able to do some digging last night and this morning -- and apparently three weeks ago the announcement was made that all overnight Trails & Rails programs would be going away (or will be transitioned into day-time programs only) and that docents will have to pay for their own meals on the train from now on. From what my sources told me, Amtrak initially wanted to do away with the program all-together effective next year, but the National Park Service and Trails & Rails' founder pushed back and are trying to reach a compromise that would keep a minimal number of short routes that do not require meals and will just be day-trips out and back (i.e. the Chicago-based program on the Wolverine that just goes 89 miles over to Niles, MI).

 

I can't imagine the Zephyr without guides on from Denver through the Rockies. :( Even though Trails & Rails was horribly mis-managed by its founder in my opinion... I'm sad to hear this.

 

 

The new schedule confirmed the aforementioned day trip cycle. We'll see if anyone notices and writes.

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This is pretty heartbreaking. T&R was such a fun part of the LD train experience. It wasn't for everyone, but I could appreciate beautiful scenery so much more when I actually knew what I was looking at.

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Having taken several of these routes, I never noticed this program at all on any of my journeys (including several on the CZ). So I guess I will be one person who won't miss it.

You weren't missing much. The programs were HIGHLY inconsistent. The last guide I remember on the Zephyr kept going off on political tangents. I've also heard R&T guides criticize Amtrak and the host railroads over the PA system. Of course there were some good ones as well. The guides from the California State Railroad Museum were consistently good... but Amtrak was paying money (meals and hotels) for a program really no longer made sense.

 

Much like I mentioned in the "amtrak is not the airlines" thread. When this program started you couldn't download a podcast, maps, or google a town you were passing through. Having a "National Park Guide" (whatever qualifications that meant) to tell you about the history of the area was unique and helped pass the time and educate. Times are different now. Ending this program makes total business sense in my opinion.

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This is pretty heartbreaking. T&R was such a fun part of the LD train experience. It wasn't for everyone, but I could appreciate beautiful scenery so much more when I actually knew what I was looking at.

There were some qualified, informative, entertaining guides doing Trails & Rails. And some who were not. The common denominator for the good ones was "Less is more." Tell travelers the basics, as briefly as possible, throw in a bit of humor, then stop talking until passing the next important feature. And, oh BTW, they're not ALL important features..

 

The ones who were downright aggravating rambled on and on, and never learned how to use the PA system so words were crisp and at a reasonable volume.

 

This is a program that should be developed into a Trails & Rails 2.0, using audio and maybe video recordings about the MAJOR features and historical factoids being ridden through. Some of the better guides could play a crucial role in developing T&R 2.0.

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This is pretty heartbreaking. T&R was such a fun part of the LD train experience. It wasn't for everyone, but I could appreciate beautiful scenery so much more when I actually knew what I was looking at.

 

There were some qualified, informative, entertaining guides doing Trails & Rails. And some who were not. The common denominator for the good ones was "Less is more." Tell travelers the basics, as briefly as possible, throw in a bit of humor, then stop talking until passing the next important feature. And, oh BTW, they're not ALL important features..

 

The ones who were downright aggravating rambled on and on, and never learned how to use the PA system so words were crisp and at a reasonable volume.

 

This is a program that should be developed into a Trails & Rails 2.0, using audio and maybe video recordings about the MAJOR features and historical factoids being ridden through. Some of the better guides could play a crucial role in developing T&R 2.0.

I agree with pretty much all of that. I only got to experience T&R a few times, but fortunately I had some very good guides who gave the interesting info about the interesting scenery, without overwhelming us with unnecessary content and footnotes. Edited by cpotisch

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As a side note there is a great conductor on the zephyr who works out of grand junction through the Ruby Canyon. He hangs out in the ssl and tells really interesting facts about the canyon and ghost towns we pass. He doesn't use the PA... He just finds people who are interested in what he has to say. I've seen him a few times on the zephyr.

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The first time I had experience with a T&R program was on the TE out of Austin to FTW in 2007. The woman who was the guide was great with the kids in the SSL, grouping similar ages, introducing them to each other, getting them coloring certain items she pointed out along the way. For the Adults she did not talk continuously. My 7 year old granddaughter made 3 other friends, played together, even ate together all the way yo Chicago. Other T&R staff have never been quite so good, reading a monotone script, not so great with the kids.

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This is a program that should be developed into a Trails & Rails 2.0, using audio and maybe video recordings about the MAJOR features and historical factoids being ridden through. Some of the better guides could play a crucial role in developing T&R 2.0.

 

 

And no reason why this can't be done with wifi and a GPS. You would hear recorded audio and maybe even video of what you are seeing and a background on the area. .

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That would be great, just get it over the car's wifi on your phone. That way those wanted it could hear it and those not interested are not bothered. Only front end expense, nothing reoccurring.

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The only time I personally encountered T&R was on Ocean View on the Adirondack. I knew more about the area then he did. He was listening to me more than he was talking.

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This is pretty heartbreaking. T&R was such a fun part of the LD train experience. It wasn't for everyone, but I could appreciate beautiful scenery so much more when I actually knew what I was looking at.

There were some qualified, informative, entertaining guides doing Trails & Rails. And some who were not. The common denominator for the good ones was "Less is more." Tell travelers the basics, as briefly as possible, throw in a bit of humor, then stop talking until passing the next important feature. And, oh BTW, they're not ALL important features..

 

The ones who were downright aggravating rambled on and on, and never learned how to use the PA system so words were crisp and at a reasonable volume.

 

This is a program that should be developed into a Trails & Rails 2.0, using audio and maybe video recordings about the MAJOR features and historical factoids being ridden through. Some of the better guides could play a crucial role in developing T&R 2.0.

T&R 2.0 has somewhat been developed at the Midwest level. I was a T&R docent on the Empire Builder and Southwest Chief for about ten years. After the Philadelphia wreck, the head of Trails and Rails came at all groups with very tight restrictions about what we could talk about. Some of it made sense (no politics or talking about the wreck) but most of it was crazy. We had to stick to his script and couldn't mention anything unless it was approved. The American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation, which I'm on the Board of Directors of... Which sponsored T&R on the Chief... had enough of the red tape.

 

We broke off from T&R in 2015 and call our educational program the APRHF Rail Rangers. Amtrak has some exclusive deal with T&R... so we do private car trip narration across seven states in the Midwest. We do public programs several times a month on the South Shore Line. We have books and ebooks and are starting to develop podcasts.

 

We basically picked the best 12 of the 70 or so T&R guides out of Chicago when things ended three years ago on the Chief. We are a non profit 501c3.

 

www.railrangers.org

 

www.dunestrain.com

Edited by rtabern

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That would be great, just get it over the car's wifi on your phone. That way those wanted it could hear it and those not interested are not bothered. Only front end expense, nothing reoccurring.

 

That's a great 21st century idea!

 

For us still stuck in the 20th century, I (also) propose a return to the printed brochure-style route guides with a few advertisers picking up the tab so Congress can't b*tch about it. It would actually compliment the hi-tech suggestions.

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Having the Route guide would be good and couple it with the WiFi narration so for some it would be easy to catch up to where the train is actually located in the route guide.

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I suppose this is part of the brainless corporate obsession with "focus", given that it didn't actually cost Amtrak anything.

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I suppose this is part of the brainless corporate obsession with "focus", given that it didn't actually cost Amtrak anything.

Was it cost free? I was under the impression that some of the guides received free meals and a form of stipend. Did I remember this wrong?

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I suppose this is part of the brainless corporate obsession with "focus", given that it didn't actually cost Amtrak anything.

 

Was it cost free? I was under the impression that some of the guides received free meals and a form of stipend. Did I remember this wrong?
They definitely got some free meals. Not sure beyond that.

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It also wasn't cost free in terms of passenger experience. If passengers get fed up with some old coot banging on about spurs, mileposts and the good old days, Amtrak is risking repeat business and bad word of mouth. "Great customer-facing technology", item 5 of 5 on Anderson's "great core railroad" list, makes quality control a lot easier and delivers an experience that the working age population will find agreeable.

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It also wasn't cost free in terms of passenger experience. If passengers get fed up with some old coot banging on about spurs, mileposts and the good old days, Amtrak is risking repeat business and bad word of mouth. "Great customer-facing technology", item 5 of 5 on Anderson's "great core railroad" list, makes quality control a lot easier and delivers an experience that the working age population will find agreeable.

But if a customer gets a really good guide, pax could walk out of it all the more happy with their ride, and come back sooner. Like any product or amenity, it can gain customers or lose customers. That said, with the large number of mediocre and boring guides, it might have leaned towards the latter.

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Even if 9 out of 10 guides were "really good", that leaves passengers on 10% of the trains exposed to a bad experience. Then there are the passengers who aren't interested at all and consider the talks an intrusion. Amtrak is exposed to that on 100% of the trains (with a guide). On the hand, if you lean into the technology – smart phones – that at least 80% of the population has adopted, you can maximise the positive experience (listen or not, at your choice) while eliminating nearly all of the negatives (granted, there will always be a few people who are upset with any change).

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