Transportation Tuesday: Time to Get Geeky – The Amtrak History Website

Perhaps Amtrak is a little late for many rail fans, but the Amtrak history website led to me losing a few hours last night while I poked around the various features. Amtrak will never have the glamour of the Baltimore and Ohio’s Royal Blue service. But for those of us still attracted to the possibilities of passenger rail service, Amtrak is what we’ve got. After 40 years of service, there’s some stuff to look back on.

Really? 2.5 hours? When? Photo: Classicadshop.com.

Features on the website include a chronological history, a virtual tour of the Amtrak Exhibit Train, an online archive of photographs, promotional material, timetables, and ephemera, and a blog. Those of you who enjoy 70s and 80s graphics will find a treasure chest worth of ad porn to click through. The search function for the Archives works well, but the related site The Museum of Railway Timetables (yes! there is such a thing, and I admit, I looked at it) requires too much clicking, requires downloading images to see them clearly, and the thumbnails are a bit small to really browse effectively.

It’s a corporate website, so this isn’t a place to complain about delays on your recent trip. Rail has generated a lot of chatter in the last ten years, so from this place, it is intriguing to look at the ephemera of the most difficult years for passenger rail in the US.

Amtrak advertisement, 1975. Photo: DP Vintage Posters.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.