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.
"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."