CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of people jammed Chicago Union Station Saturday — but not because they needed to go somewhere.
It was the fifth annual National Train Day. Many, such as 12-year-old Kevin Mack, were self-described “railfans” or “train geeks.”
Mack held a thick stack of promotional literature and timetables as he said that he wants to grow up to be an Amtrak train engineer.
“As soon as I saw my first Metra train, I really got into it,” he said.
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Told that those wishing to become Amtrak engineers have to study rulebooks and other materials and pass extensive tests, he said, “That’s why I’m trying to keep my grades up.”
There was plenty for the train enthusiast to see — model railroad layouts, displays, new and historic Norfolk Southern locomotives and special trains that took riders on a behind-the-scenes look at Union Station storage and servicing facilities.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the tours sold out quickly and said Amtrak may require advance reservations next year.
Chefs from long-distance Amtrak trains cooked up food and appetizers and shared recipes. And there was a music stage for the kids.
The popularity of National Train Day mirrors that of Amtrak itself. Its ridership continues to break records and Magliari said that those wishing to go Amtrak this summer should book now because some popular routes are already selling out.