The Trails & Rails program is a partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service that educates travelers on the heritage and natural resources of a specific region while traveling by rail. The program began in New Orleans in 2000 and that same year, National Park Service rangers created on board programs for Amtrak's City of New Orleans train. Soon that summer program grew into a year-round partnership.
By the mid-2000s, the program had expanded to trains all across the country. Volunteer guides climbed aboard the Sunset Limited, the Empire Builder, and the Southwest Chief. Soon the program expanded to cover most of Amtrak's long distance services and several regional routes out of Chicago and New York City.
The number of National Park Service sites hosting Trails & Rails programs also grew. Host sites sponsor a team of volunteers who facilitate programs. These volunteer guides bring along their interpretation, sometimes including props and maps to help explain the passing regional historic and natural resources to the passengers. The Trails & Rails guides learn the special nuances of conducting programs using the train's PA system, greeting passengers in the cafe car, and walking through the train. To be a volunteer with the program, each volunteer must meet Amtrak's requirements for physical fitness.
Texas A&M University's Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism Science joined the partnership and continues to coordinate the Trails & Rails program across the country. Working with the National Park Service and Amtrak, Trails & Rails guides also participate in special events in their local communities such as Amtrak Train Days. The guides meet people from around the world and share the beauty and history of National Parks and their regional landscapes. They truly are mobile Park Rangers! As of 2013, there were 595 Trails & Rails volunteer guides who gave 70,000 hours of time to the program, and they contacted 500,000 passengers.
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The Trails & Rails program is a partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service that educates travelers on the heritage and natural resources of a specific region while traveling by rail. The program began in New…