Monday, April 28, 2014

Trinidad: The Final Segment....for now

Today, my Railroad West segment on the town of Trinidad hit the airwaves. My trip to Trinidad was quite a while ago, and due to some technical difficulties the production took longer than usual. With some time between finishing the piece and it's airing, I've put the Railroad West series on the back burner of my mind. Hearing the piece go live this morning made me sad and nostalgic- It was my last piece on the radio until further notice.

Rest assured though, I don't plan on it being my last piece ever. When I first embarked on this train project with Martha in January, I had only been working at KRCC for four months. While I loved what I was doing, I really hadn't thought about what would come next, let alone a future in radio. Working on this project and getting to live the experiences I was later writing about solidified my passion for this kind of news, and I look forward to someday making a career in the world of radio journalism.

But for now, please take a listen to the Trinidad segment of Railroad West. I was so lucky, during my trip south on I-25, to hear from a number of people who have invested their time and interest in the future success of the old railroad town. Trinidad has suffered a number of economic blows over the past few decades, with the loss of coal mining (too expensive), the subsequent loss of freight train traffic (no longer needed), and then the relocation of the oil and gas industry to Texas. The Southwest Chief running through town is vital for transportation, but also for the growing industry of tourism, something locals are banking on to keep the city alive.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with Andrea and Martha on these stories, to have met countless interesting, helpful and passionate people on our journeys on the Southwest Chief, in Denver, Raton, La Junta and Trinidad, and to learn the importance of small-town America and the connections we need to maintain there.

Please check back on KRCC for more local stories, or my page on the site to hear more of my work.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New Mexico on The Southwest Chief

With the possibility for rerouting still under consideration, the state of New Mexico does not face as great a loss as Colorado; however, northern New Mexico towns like Raton and Lamy stand to lose a large economic driver in the Southwest Chief.

Raton stays connected to the rest
of New Mexico with the Southwest Chief.
Photo by Maggie Spencer.
KRCC News Director, our very own Andrea Chalfin, conducted an interview with Patrick Malone, an investigative and legislative reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican, who has been focusing closely on the issue of the Southwest Chief in his state.

Listen here!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Stay Tuned!

As we finish producing the last few minutes of our series, we want to remind our listeners to stay tuned into KRCC to hear the rest of our pieces about the Southwest Chief. The past month has been an incredible journey for Maggie and I. Devoting ourselves fully to this project allowed us to get out into the field on many occasions and become more confident in our interviewing, writing, and producing skills. My favorite part of this project was physically riding on the train and having the chance to experience the incredible views and the generous hospitality of the men and women working on board. Through my research and interviews I developed a new appreciation for small towns in rural America, and was able to gain an intimate understanding of how the Southwest Chief positively affects these towns. The extensive and exciting history of the Chief is a truly unique story, and I hope that it will continue to be told, regardless of the future of the route. 

This series was a joy to create, and we hope you have enjoyed following us along the way! Please continue to check back here on the blog and the KRCC website for more information about the future of the Southwest Chief and to hear the rest of our series.

- Martha

Maggie and I in the Observation Car of the Southwest Chief.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Railroad Series Part One

If you weren't able to hear the segment broadcast in real time, or you just want to listen again, check out the link on to hear the first installment of our railroad stories. We're excited to finally have our hard work hit the airwaves and look forward to releasing more in the coming week.
- Maggie and Martha

Monday, March 10, 2014

What you hear on the radio...

Really looks like this! Our first piece of the series is in final production. Stay tuned for our air date in the coming days. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Marc Magliari and The Last Pioneer

We had the serendipitous opportunity to meet Media Relations Manager Marc Magliari in person for an interview last week in Denver. Based in Chicago, Magliari serves a very large section of the central United States ( as far east as Ohio and as far west as Montana) including most the Southwest Chief route, so we were fortunate that he happened to be visiting our state. As an Amtrak employee since 1995, he knows there will be more tears than finger-pointing if anything were to happen to the Southwest Chief. 

"Here in Denver, until 1997, we had a train called the Pioneer. The Pioneer broke off the California Zephyr here in Denver and went up to Borey, which is right outside of Cheyenne, across southern Wyoming to Ogden, UT, then up to Boise, ID and across to Portland, and finally to Seattle. It ran three times a week, and we eliminated it in 1997 because we wanted to make more trains daily than just three times a week. We needed the equipment basically to run more trains daily. 

"I was on the last Pioneer out of Seattle to Denver…and of all the experiences I’ve had at this job, that had to be the saddest and worst experience. I looked out the window just north of Ogden; the sun was coming up and we were on the edge of this cliff, and there was this river that dumped into a lake. It was mirror flat and reflected back. I looked out the window and saw the reflection of our train  and said, ‘My kids won’t be able to see this. I’m on the last Pioneer.’ 

"No one else was gonna see it either. Some freight crews would. And to lose that resource and connection is really hard for us as a company as a provider of the service and for the communities who lose it, so we’re working very hard to not have that happen, or expend every resource we can to make certain everybody knows what the consequences are should that happen, because we don’t want it to happen either.
photo courtesy of

"On that last Pioneer, the conductors who were working it were so broken hearted that they were selling parts of their uniforms to the passengers because they would never need them again. They were going to go back to running freight trains. So that’s how tough it is to pull out service and for it to be a last day. We don’t want anymore last days, we want more first days. We want more new days."

Conductor Gary Norris: "Once it's gone..."

Conductor Gary Norris shares the area's historical significance
from the Chief's lounge car.  
Conductor Gary Norris is based in Albuquerque and helps maintain the train all the way to La Junta and back. Although he plans to retire from Amtrak next year, he feels strongly about the future of the Southwest Chief on the current route.

"I believe they need to keep this route; it's really important. Once it's gone, it's gone forever. We can never get it back. As technology improves, train travel is going to become more energy efficient, it's going to become more desired, more needed in lots of ways. This helps transport people of all cultures and you can make a little money or a lot of money and still travel on Amtrak. It's an inexpensive way to travel, and so important. You just can't get rid of this; like I said, once it's gone, it's gone forever."

Norris is a self-proclaimed history buff; like most riders, he finds the route aesthetically pleasing, but knows more about the area than the average passenger can see from the lounge car today.

"Loving history as I do, it's just a constant, and knowing that we are following that same train ... you can just imagine those wagons coming through that area."