Apr 21, 2012 4:38 PM by Lacey Steele

Trails and Rails: History on a Train

Trails and Rails, it's a chance to ride the train and see history firsthand.

We took the train to learn more about the Amtrak and National Park Service program that trains volunteers to tell passengers about the view out their window.

It's a history lesson with a view.

"We talk about the Santa Fe Trail," said Robert Newsom, an experienced volunteer. "We point out mountains of interest. We tell stories about the old timers that used to come down the Santa Fe Trail to Santa Fe with their goods on the trains.

From the moment you pull out of the station in La Junta, you begin to learn.

Seven new trainees went along this time to watch the experienced volunteers tell the history and share artifacts with passengers.

"A lot of people enjoy listening to what we're doing, and it fills my heart with joy," said Scott Beeby, a trainee.

"I want to get to meet other people," said Delma Maldonado, a trainee. "I like to travel. This would be a lot of fun and a lot of history and a lot of stuff to learn."

The passengers aren't the only ones who learn.

"I learn things," said Newsom. "Some of the passengers will tell us something. We'll go back and research it. If it's true, we may add it to the script."

"I'm excited about the history," said Ed Stafford, an experienced volunteer. "I'm excited about the fact that people who come from another area may look out at our prairie, may look out at our plain, and see simply flatness, dullness, monotony."

That's why they say it's important to teach.

"They, too, can be infected with our excitement," said Stafford.

"I ask them to use their imagination," said Stafford.

"These great lumbering wagons are being hauled by perhaps as many as eight or ten oxen, and they are moving only about 12 or 15 miles a day," said Stafford to the passengers during the train ride.

The history can be learned on the Amtrak train from La Junta to Albuquerque on Fridays and Sundays beginning in May.

For more information on the Trails and Rails program, contact Chief Ranger Rick Wallner at 719-383-5024.

Those with the program say they are concerned about its future.

Amtrak is under contract with BNSF Railway until 2015.

At that time the Southwest Chief may take a different track that doesn't even run through Colorado because the current track would need $100 million dollars worth of upgrades.

No decision has been made at this time.



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