Crowds gathered around the small station on 1000 Range St. in Madison on Friday, Feb. 19 to welcome the Amtrak train to the city. Support for the train was clearly displayed, as people buzzed about excitedly, sharing personal experiences from past on riding the train themselves before the service was ended after Hurricane Katrina destroyed sections of the track in 2005.
City officials, business owners and citizens all took part in sharing the anticipation of Amtrak’s return.
Sunrise Coffee Shop provided doughnuts for the citizens who gathered to welcome Amtrak.
As the time drew nearer for the Amtrak train to pull into the station, everyone grew more excited as they checked their watches and kept watchful eyes on the train tracks. City Manager, Tim Bennett, regularly came to the podium to announce the newest location of the Amtrak until finally, the train could be spotted coming around the bend in the tracks.
Citizens of Madison waved, shouted and clapped as the train smoothly pulled in and stopped, for the first time in 11 years, at the Madison station.
Amtrak spokespersons, government officials and news crews stepped off the train, waving to Madison as the Madison citizens proclaimed their welcome.
Congresswoman Corrine Brown, the future representative for Madison County once the congressional districts shift, arrived on the train and came to the podium to speak to the citizens of Madison and declare her support for getting the return of Amtrak off the ground and running.
There was no end to the bubble of excitement even as the quick visit drew to an end. The train needed to be on its way and the stop was brief, but the thrill was far from over.
“Who wants to ride the train?” was asked to the people of Madison, followed quickly with a spontaneous offer; the next stop of the Amtrak train would be in Lake City and then Jacksonville. Whoever had transportation back from these locations was invited to come and ride on the Amtrak train and give their opinions to the spokespeople on board.
It was a tantalizing offer and the people of Madison quickly accepted. Amtrak’s simple visit had become more, as veterans of the railway climbed on board to relive the train they’d missed so dearly and individuals who had never experienced Amtrak rode the rails for the first time.
As Amtrak pulled out from the station, it bore the exhilaration and hope of the Madison people with it.
The ride that followed was a buzzing one, as strangers mingled together, sharing experience and bonding over their mutual excitement for the future of Madison and Amtrak.
Traveling citizens were invited to experience the style of the Dome Lounge 10031, a unique car with a window-lined seating area that provided guests the opportunity to see all around them without restraint. The car has a long history dating back to the 1950s and it became an Amtrak stable in the early 1970s. Dome Lounge 10031 is the only remaining dome car in the Amtrak service. The car was built in 1955 and originally given the name of “Ocean View” before it was conveyed to Amtrak in 1971 and was later renovated in 1985. The Dome Lounge has a smooth, easy ride that allows its passengers an optimal traveling experience with plenty of comfort, room and the view, which was the main priority with its large glass windows that stretched from wall to wall.
Madison citizens were part of an exciting moment in history as they were witness to the hopeful future of Amtrak in Madison as well as the enthusiasm of those they passed.
People driving alongside the tracks waved to the passing train and when the Amtrak train slowed to pull past Live Oak (which does not have a station of its own), they were breathless at the support of the town.
Fire trucks, balloons and citizens waving flags in Live Oak welcomed the train even though it didn’t stop there.
The message was as loud and clear as it had been in Madison; the people of Live Oak wanted this train.
As the train drew nearer to Lake City, the ride drew to an end and the Madison Amtrak guests filed to the front of the car to disembark.
Spokespeople thanked the citizens for their dedication to Amtrak as well as for the insightful opinions that were given during the brief ride.
The trip might have been complete, but Amtrak is far from finished with Madison County and the surrounding counties.
Madison raised its voice along with the other towns and counties that gathered in their support for the visiting passenger train to say without restraint, “We want Amtrak!”