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Trains track progress

| Saturday, May 10, 2008

National Train Day is long overdue but the first ever arrives today.

On May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah, the "golden spike" in the final tie connected the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways into the first U.S. transcontinental railroad. Celebrations will be held in four of Amtrak's largest stations -- Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.

For more information: nationaltrainday.com .

From the Diolkos paved trackway in Greece in 600 B.C., which enabled boats to be moved overland across the Isthmus of Corinth, to the Flying Scotsman, the Orient Express and the Trans-Siberian Railway (even the B&O freight trains that droned through Pittsburgh's Panther Hollow) -- they all moved mankind forward.

They also moved Edna St. Vincent Millay. From "Travel":

My heart is warm with friends I make,

And better friends I'll not be knowing;

Yet there isn't a train I'd rather take,

No matter where it's going.

From hobo songster Boxcar Willie to Ayn Rand, who used the Taggart Transcontinental line as a vehicle in her exaltation of man in "Atlas Shrugged," railroads are part of society's circulatory system.

But National Train Day is more about the future than nostalgia. Trains continue to carry people and products and the promise of an authentic alternative to grating airlines and gridlocked highways.

All aboard, America

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