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Amtrak Train Days - Chicago 2015

Amtrak Train Days - Chicago Union Station

The Inaugural Amtrak Train Days Event

By Robert & Kandace Tabern, Email:

Trip Taken: May 9, 2015
Published: May 20, 2015

Kandace Tabern stands in front of the banner for Amtrak Train Days in Chicago's Great Hall
(Photo by Robert Tabern)

On Saturday, May 9, 2015, we spent the day at the Inaugural Amtrak Train Days, which was held at Chicago Union Station. For seven years prior (2008-2014), Amtrak held an event that was called National Train Day; this occurred on the second Saturday in May in cities all over the country - from Maine to California and from Washington to Florida. Late last year, Amtrak's Marketing Department decided to change things up... and instead of celebrating trains on just one day in different cities across the country, it was decided that each city would be given its own day, with Amtrak Train Days celebrations being held on different dates all throughout the calendar year. The goal was to allow Amtrak staff to focus on just one city on a given weekend, instead of spreading resources too thin all across the country on just one date. Below, we hope you will enjoy some of the components of this very special Inaugural Amtrak Train Days event. Hopefully you will get to attend one soon at a location near you.

Amtrak's Chicago Media Relations Spokesman Mark Magliari (left) welcomed everyone to the event in Chicago (Robert Tabern photo)

A performance in the Great Hall by the cast of "Chuggington" followed. (Kandace Tabern photo)

Amtrak designed a special display train for its 40th Anniversary in 2011; this ended up touring the country from mid-2011 to early 2012. Once the 40th Anniversary Train Tour came to an end, Amtrak changed some of the exhibits inside, and re-branded it as the Amtrak Exhibit Train. It will continue to tour the country for Amtrak Train Days events. This was actually the first time we have seen the Exhibit Train since it was re-done following the 40th Anniversary year.

A sign in Amtrak's Great Hall advertising for the Exhibit Train  (Robert Tabern photo)

Kandace Tabern poses with the Amtrak Exhibit Train (Robert Tabern photo)

Robert and Kandace Tabern take a "selfie" with the Amtrak Exhibit Train (Robert & Kandace Tabern photo)

Another view of Kandace and the Amtrak Exhibit Train at Amtrak Train Days in Chicago (Robert Tabern photo)

Robert and Kandace Tabern like the Phase III paint scheme on the Exhibit Train (Robert & Kandace Tabern photo)

Kandace Tabern looks at the new exhibit about Amtrak's new electric engines used on the Northeast Corridor (Robert Tabern photo)

A new display board on the Exhibit Train will tell Amtrak's History up until its 50th Anniversary in 2021 (Kandace Tabern photo)

Kandace Tabern checks out an Amtrak uniform from the 1970's on the Amtrak Exhibit Train (Robert Tabern photo)

A poster advertises the "coming soon" service between Chicago and Rockford and Moline... and the "proposed new service" to Dubuque, Iowa.
These services have all been put into question after Illinois elected a new governor in November 2014  (Robert Tabern photo)

A poster on the Amtrak Exhibit Train touts new service between Milwaukee and Madison; this never came to fruition  (Robert Tabern photo)

A monitor on the Exhibition Train provided Amtrak trivia questions for visitors  (Robert Tabern photo)

Kandace Tabern poses with some old Amtrak seats; this is what coach seats looked like on Superliners in the 1980's (Robert Tabern photo)

A new addition to the Amtrak Exhibit Train appears to be the chance to step inside one of the new Viewliner Baggage Cars. It was very nice and clean and has racks for luggage and bicycles. These will soon be appearing on most Amtrak trains across the country in the next year or two, as the Heritage Baggage Cars, some of which are 60+ years old, get retired. These cars will be a welcome addition to the Amtrak fleet.

Kandace Tabern poses with new Viewliner Baggage Car #61031 at Chicago Union Station (Robert Tabern photo)

Robert & Kandace Tabern like the new logo and Phase III paint scheme on the new Viewliner baggage cars  (Robert & Kandace Tabern photos)

Kandace Tabern stands inside the new Viewliner Baggage Car; note the luggage racks behind her (Robert Tabern photo)

Kandace (left) and Robert (right) Tabern stand inside a new Viewliner Baggage Car; note the folding bicycle racks  (Mike Pace Photo)

Continuing a tradition established during National Train Day, Amtrak Train Days featured an "Excursion Train" that left Chicago Union Station at 10:00am, 12:00n, and 2:00pm. The price for this was $10.00 per person and participants were issued actual tickets. This train consisted of two engines, two Superliner Sightseer lounge cars, and three Superliner coach cars. The train boarded from the south tracks... went to about Halstead Street on the BNSF... then took the south leg of the wye across the Chicago River... did a move through the inspection building in the Chicago Yards... then went through Union Station on the through track to the north side... and back around to the south tracks. It took about 1 hour and was narrated by an Amtrak crew member.

A sign marks the boarding location for the Amtrak Excursion Train (Robert Tabern photo)

Two children enjoy the views as the train sits over the South Branch of the Chicago River (Kandace Tabern photo)

A conductor comes through the Sightseer Lounge Car to scan everyone's ticket on the Excursion Train (Robert Tabern photo)

Passengers on the Excursion Train got the rare opportunity to pass through one of the Amtrak maintenance buildings (Kandace Tabern photo)

For one of the first times ever, normally off-limit areas of Chicago Union Station were opened up to the public as part of Amtrak Train Days. Despite a steep $75.00 per person price tag, all three tours held on Saturday, May 9th were all sold out within a matter of minutes! Additional tours were added on Friday, May 8th and Sunday, May 10th, and were also sold out. What a great way for Amtrak to make some added revenue and for serious rail fan historians to get a glimpse at rarely seen areas of the station. Tours were led by two Amtrak Chicago managers.

One stop on the Union Station "Hard Hat" Tour was the old Women's Lounge, featuring beautiful murals (Robert Tabern photo)

A closer look at the beautiful murals in the old Women's Lounge at Chicago Union Station, part of the "Hard Hat" Tour (Robert Tabern photo)

Amtrak business car/sleeper "Pacific Bend" travels as a crew sleeper now for the Amtrak Exhibit Train. It is always off-limits to passengers, but due to having some friends in Amtrak management, we were able to get aboard at Amtrak Train Days for a quick tour. It was built in 1950 by Budd Company for the Union Pacific as Sleeper number 1404 and named "Pacific Bend". It came to Amtrak in 1971 as Sleeper 2603. In 1997, the car was renumbered 2504 and converted for service as a crew dormitory. Stored in 2006, the car remained inactive until 2007, when it was renumbered 10020 and modified for use by the Amtrak Police Department as a Special Communications Car renamed "Pacific Command". The original, "Pacific Bend", has been restored since it became part of the Exhibit Train in 2011

Robert Tabern (right) poses with friend Brian Gallagher, Amtrak's Director of Operations of the President/CEO

Kandace poses with the exterior of "Pacific Bend"; note the heritage Amtrak logo (Robert Tabern photo)

This is normally as close as the general public is allowed to go to "Pacific Bend"; it is off-limits as a private sleeper/business car (Kandace Tabern photo)

"Pacific Bend" is designated as "Sleeper 10020"... the "100XX" designation means it's a private Amtrak business car (Robert Tabern photo)

Walking down the hallway of "Pacific Bend"; note that several bedrooms still remain for crews of the Exhibit Train (Robert Tabern photo)

Some of the bedrooms have been removed to make way for this office area at the far end of the car (Kandace Tabern photo)

This car even comes with its own washer and dryer -- it can be a long couple of weeks on the road for the Exhibit Train crew (Robert Tabern photo)

For many years, the area in the southeast corner of the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station was known as the "Gallery Space". It was open from time to time to the public and featured various photos on the wall from different periods of Union Station's history. This is also where meetings were occasionally held for groups. Amtrak recently decided to develop this area and re-brand it was the "Legacy Club"; it had its Grand Opening during the 2015 Amtrak Train Days event. According to several Amtrak officials, when fully completed this summer, this area will cost visitors $20 per person to visit, regardless of sleeper or coach or commuter ticket, and will feature a bar and high-end waiting areas for trains. This area was originally a barber shop and Fred Harvey dining area. The Metropolitan Lounge will remain free for sleeping car passengers.

The "Legacy Club" was formally known as the "Gallery Space" and was only open sporadically to guests (Robert Tabern photo)

New signage on the door for the "Legacy Club" (Robert Tabern photo)

A look inside the newly renovated "Legacy Club"; note it was a kid's play area for Amtrak Train Days, hence the bean bags (Robert Tabern photo)

This area of the "Legacy Club" used to be a barber shop; the glass mirrors are covered up with historical photos (Robert Tabern photo)

Kandace Tabern enjoyed her tour of the brand new "Legacy Club"; again note old barber mirrors covered with photos  (Robert Tabern photo)

Several of Amtrak's special heritage/anniversary engines were on display for the public at the 2015 Amtrak Train Days Event at Chicago Union Station. These are engines painted to celebrate Amtrak's 40th Anniversary in 2011 and the newly painted engine to honor American veterans.

Amtrak Veteran's Engine #42 was on display, part of the Amtrak Exhibit Train (Robert Tabern photo)

Amtrak Anniversary Engine #406 (Phase III) was on display, part of the Amtrak Exhibit Train (Robert Tabern photo)

Amtrak Anniversary Engine (Phase II) was on display, part of the Amtrak Excursion Train (Robert Tabern photo)

Amtrak Anniversary Engine (Phase III) on the left, a Metra in the Middle, and the Veterans Engine on the right (Kandace Tabern photo)

Amtrak also had several displays up in the Great Hall of Chicago Union Station; these seemed more geared to people who had never taken a train ride before. Visitors could get a feel of what coach and business class seating is like, plus the size of a sleeping car roomette bed. There was also a display up about what the new Viewliner II roomettes are going to look like (toilets will be removed).

Some coach seats are on display in the Great Hall during Amtrak Train Days; Kandace Tabern enjoys the comfortable seats (Robert Tabern photo)

Kandace Tabern checks out the nice new business class seats on display in the Great Hall (Robert Tabern photo)

An exhibit shows what a bed looks like in your typical sleeping car  (Robert Tabern photo)

A nice display explains about the new Viewliner II Sleeping Cars, which will soon be in production (Kandace Tabern photo)

A prototype of the new Viewliner II sleeping cars which will be used on trains between Chicago and the east coast  (Robert Tabern photo)

Kandace stands inside the new Viewliner II sleeping car prototype (Robert Tabern photo)

Last, but not least, other exhibitors were also present in the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station, including the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation and volunteers from the APRHF-sponsored Trails & Rails program on the Southwest Chief between Chicago and La Plata, MO.

Trails & Rails had their own booth at this year's event; volunteers form the Chicago to La Plata, MO route were on-hand  (Kandace Tabern photo)

From left to right, Trails & Rails volunteers Dave Poole, Robert Neil, Fred Glure, and Assistant Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern
(Robert Tabern/National Park Service photo)

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Trails & Rails volunteer James Walsh talks to a visitor at the Trails & Rails booth (Robert Tabern photo)

Trails & Rails volunteer Robert Neil (right) talks to visitors at Amtrak Train Days  (Robert Tabern photo)

Junior Ranger Aida Frye was a special guest at the Trails & Rails booth at Amtrak Train Days this year; this 14-year-old from suburban Chicago will travel to La Plata, Missouri on June 6th and earn her first Trails & Rails Junior Ranger badge - she will also "up" her record for the most Junior Ranger Badges earned during the course of this special event -- come out and join us, again, June 6th in La Plata, MO (Kandace Tabern photo)

"Kansas City Nathan" and Chris from the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation have their own booth at Amtrak Train Days
(Robert Tabern photo)


  Amtrak Train Days Homepage | Upcoming Amtrak Train Days Events | Amtrak Train Days Chicago Page

More about Amtrak's Exhibit Train | Amtrak Sleeper #10020 "Pacific Bend" Junior Ranger Aida's Story


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