Due to the weather, some customers may experience late delivery of The Roanoke Times. We apologize for the delay.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
If you're taking Amtrak on its Montreal-to-New York run, via Albany, you'll climb aboard the Adirondack. When you leave New York and are headed to Miami, you'll be riding either the Silver Meteor or the Silver Star. And if you're riding the rails from Chicago to San Francisco, it'll be on the California Zephyr.
Such romantic passenger train names are worth considering here in Starville. Because in four short years, maybe fewer, Amtrak will make a triumphant return to Roanoke.
That train will connect Roanoke to Boston and will make stops in Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Providence and other places. Right now the southern terminus is Libertytown - er, Lynchburg - and we must suffer the indignity of a 5:45 a.m. shuttle bus ride to catch it.
Unfortunately, that train currently has a depressingly utilitarian name, the Northeast Regional. Informally, it's known as the "Lynchburg Train." Problem is, both monikers have as much creativity and romance as you'd find in Soviet-era bus to suburban Chernobyl.
We can do better. So today, I'm launching the great Name That Train Game. Email your suggestions to me, explaining your idea, and I'll use the best ones in a future column.
This contest was sparked by "Train Man" Dan Peacock of Manassas, the Old Dominion's unofficial No. 1 passenger railfan . Before we get to his ideas, here's a bit of background.
The return of passenger rail to Roanoke is thanks in large part to a recent gas- and sales-tax increase passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell. Though imperfect in many ways, it will produce hundreds of millions in Virginia transportation infrastructure revenue that's been sorely lacking for more than a decade.
Among the things that money will help finance is a roughly $100-million track upgrade between Lynchburg and Roanoke, which hasn't seen regular passenger rail service since Amtrak discontinued the Hilltopper on Oct. 1, 1979.
There are many ways you can play the "Name That Train" game. One is to head down the history route. We could go back to the Hilltopper, or resurrect names of other people-moving trains that served Roanoke in a bygone era. Those include the Tennessean, the Mountaineer, and the Pocohantas.
All of those are better than (yawn) the Northeast Regional, eh?
Here are a handful Peacock suggested, some serious, others tongue-in cheek:
Roanoke Train, which recognizes its new southern terminus; Roanoke-Boston Train to capture the scope of the service; and Sen. John Edwards Express, because Edwards, D-Roanoke, engineered money from Richmond to assess ridership and to fund Roanoke's share of the current shuttle bus to Lynchburg.
He also suggested the Mayor David Bowers Train, after the politician who's talked about bringing passenger rail service back to Roanoke longer than any other; and Tea Party Antidote Express, which recognizes that group's opposition to the shuttle bus to Lynchburg and state and federal subsidies to Amtrak.
On Friday I put that question to readers of my blog (blogs.roanoke.com/dancasey/). Here are some of their serious and not-so-serious suggestions.
My own suggestion is The Big Licker. This grants a nod to our city's heritage name - until the railroad built its shops here and the town fathers decided we needed something much more respectable-sounding.
Besides, don't you think The Big Licker has more cachet than the Empire Service, which runs between New York City and Niagara Falls? Or the Blue Water, which will take you from Chicago to Port Huron, Mich.? Or the Pacific Surfliner, from San Luis Obispo to San Diego, Calif.?
The Big Licker could be the envy of all of Amtrak's fancifully named trains. And think of the business spinoff benefits. "The Big Licker" T-shirts would sell almost as fast as you could silkscreen them.
But all of the above barely scratches the surface. Surely there are more ideas out there.
Email me yours, both the serious and the sublime, at the address that appears under my mug. Explain the reasoning behind your idea, and include your first and last name and locality, so that I can give you proper credit. Put "name that train" in the subject line.
Soon, Roanoke will once again have a train. It desperately needs a fitting name.
Anything is better than the Northeast Regional.
Weather JournalIcy mix moves in this Sunday AM