Amtrak Needs to Adapt with the Times

For years I have wondered why Amtrak is having so much difficulty

By Cynthia Winters

I read Justin Franz’s article about the Amtrak situation and I have something to say to Mr. Stephen Gardner.

For years I have wondered why Amtrak is having so much difficulty turning the century. I love trains. There is nothing quite so sweet a sound as the far off whistle of a train. I could wax poetic, but I have an idea I want to propose. Stephen Gardner, listen up.

The highways between the Flathead and Missoula, and Flathead and Spokane are near rail lines. I’ve seen them. People travel to and from Missoula and Spokane to get outta town, especially in the winter when nearly everyone grows weary of gray skies and freezing temps. I’ve sure done my share of traveling for soccer and lacrosse tournaments and spent oodles of money for transportation, hotels, and meals.

What if Amtrak offered affordable but elegant weekend getaways. The key here is affordable and elegant or Montanans won’t buy. However, this doesn’t just have to appeal to Montanans. Our Canadian neighbors would probably like to save themselves some shopping drive time.

Trains would have to be redesigned to provide comfort and elegance throughout. Take a look at what’s been done with the trains up at the Isaac Walton if you can’t imagine what it might look like. Meals could be prepared tasty with local foods and fresh baked breads complimented with a nice selection of Montana wines and brews served on porcelain and crystal set on crisp white table cloths. Top it off with fine espresso and a bit of live entertainment.

For the weary, offer massage therapies (for an additional cost). For the ambitious, an exercise room. For the bored, a casino.

The weekend package could be modeled after the riverboat cruises in Europe, even with added excursions, sightseeing (also for an additional cost). Consider the view from the train that travels between Whitefish and East Glacier; people drive from all over the world to see what Glacier has to offer.

If it’s packaged well, people will pay to sleep overnight and wake up at their destination, possibly Friday night to Saturday morning. Travelers could have the option to return to the train for lunch, a nap, or another sumptuous evening before departing Sunday to return to their point of origin. There could be so many variations on this theme. European rivers were once primarily freight ways and now they’re populated with elegant river boat cruises.

Come on Amtrak, it’s 2018 for goodness sakes. You can do it. I can’t stand even the thought of never hearing the forlorn call of a train whistle.

Cynthia Winters

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