WASHINGTON, D.C. — On June 22, 2017, Amtrak recognized three individuals with its “Champion of the Rails” award. Given out annually as part of the President’s Service and Safety Awards, it honors non-Amtrak employees who have worked to promote and improve intercity passenger rail service throughout the nation.
This year, Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman presented the Champion of the Rails award to Carol Kelsheimer of Arcadia, Mo., and Richard and Christina Anderson of Marshall, Texas. All three have strongly supported projects to establish and rehabilitate Amtrak stations in Missouri, Texas and Arkansas.
Kelsheimer was a driving force behind the creation of a new stop on the Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio-(Los Angeles)) serving Missouri’s beautiful Arcadia Valley. The station, which opened in fall 2016, restored regularly scheduled passenger rail service to the area for the first time since 1968.
In 2011, Kelsheimer and the non-profit organization Our Town Tomorrow (OTT) began working with Amtrak, Union Pacific and state and local governments to open the train station in Arcadia. Amtrak credits Kelsheimer’s persistence and business savvy with making the initiative a success. As president of OTT, the owner of the station property and existing historic depot, she managed the communities of Arcadia, Ironton and Pilot Knob in raising funds from stakeholders and working with contractors to construct the required platform.
Throughout the project, Kelsheimer remained open-minded and quick to learn about the railroad. The Arcadia station, whose opening included a festive fireworks display, is projected to attract approximately 7,500 new rail customers per year. A handful of new restaurants have already opened nearby, and shuttle services are developing to take tourists to local state parks including Elephant Rocks State Park, where giant granite boulders approximately 1.5 billion years old litter the landscape, and Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park where the East Fork of the Black River tumbles amid a rocky terrain that creates small pools, waterfalls and fast-moving chutes.
Judge Richard and Christina Anderson have been champions of Amtrak for more than 20 years. Working as volunteers with the Ark-La-Tex Corridor Council since 2006, the Andersons have initiated, led and developed a strong multi-state coalition to establish the Southern Passenger Rail Connection. This proposed connection would extend a section of the Crescent (New York-Atlanta-New Orleans) along the busy I-20 Corridor between Meridian, Miss., and Fort Worth, Texas.
Over many months, Mr. Anderson encouraged local, state and federal officials; urban and rural locales; and freight railroad executives to make the connection a reality. The couple secured more than $750,000 in federal grant monies to help Amtrak with the expansion project. Most importantly, they donated their resources and energy and sought signatures on memoranda of understanding from 48 counties and parishes along the I-20 Corridor.
The Andersons have promoted preservation projects at stations including Marshall and Longview, Texas, and Texarkana, Ark. They also participate in the Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization that provides a forum for communities on that route. Working with Amtrak, the East Texas Council of Governments and EasTexConnects, they have also helped create a program—which is nearing completion—to get veterans to the Veterans’ Administration Medical Center in Shreveport, La.