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Open house marks Alpine Amtrak depot renovation

April 13th, 2017 under Top Stories
(photo by JIM STREET) A crowd of community officials and railroad supporters greeted the Amtrak Sunset Limited when it pulled into the Alpine depot Tuesday. The open house marked the completion of construction to improve the rest rooms and make the exterior compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

(photo by JIM STREET)
A crowd of community officials and railroad supporters greeted the Amtrak Sunset Limited when it pulled into the Alpine depot Tuesday. The open house marked the completion of construction to improve the rest rooms and make the exterior compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

By JIM STREET

ALPINE – Completion of work upgrading the Amtrak Depot in downtown Alpine was marked with an open house last week.

About 40 officials of the city, county, chamber of commerce, Alpine Downtown Association and others met with officials of Amtrak and the National Association of Railroad Passengers over coffee and doughnuts.

The westbound Sunset Limited made its scheduled stop, about 50 minutes late, during the event.

Mike and Torrey Adams of St. Louis said they had been to West Texas for a wedding and wanted to visit Alpine. They took the Texas Eagle to San Antonio and drove to Alpine via US 90.

Going home, they took advantage of a two-for-one sale and booked an overnight Amtrak trip from San Antonio to St. Louis for $320.

It includes a roomette with facing seats that makes into a bed in a private compartment. The fare included all meals.

“We go from St. Louis to Chicago [by train] all the time,” Torrey said. “As we get within 20 minutes of downtown Chicago, we see cars stacked up in traffic and we go gliding by.”

Jobeth McLeod, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Alpine, said she has an Amtrak credit card. It gives her points as well as free Amtrak miles.

“I use it to go to San Antonio and Houston,” she said. “I can get on in the evening, work on the train and be in San Antonio the next morning.

“It stops in Sanderson but only if someone wants to get on or off,” she said. “And it stops briefly in Del Rio. There are no other stops.

“And there are no stops between San Antonio and Houston,” she said. “I have learned to sleep on the train, even in a seat.

“It’s faster and easier than driving,” McLeod said. “I have friends that can come straight to Alpine.”

The completed depot upgrades were to make it compatible with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It includes handicap ramps to the front entrance and upgraded rest rooms.

Gwynne Jamieson, a member of the downtown association depot committee, said other upgrades would include refreshing the exterior paint and new signs.

She said she is working to have the signage include an electronic scheduling machine so travelers can see where the train is in real time. She has map of Amtrak schedules that could be displayed on an interior wall.

“They will put benches in front [track side] – vandalism-free benches,” she said. “We are hoping for a vandalism-free depot.”

(photo by JIM STREET) Mariachi Grupo Alegre performed at the Alpine Amtrak depot open house Tuesday. From left, they are Johnny Milan, his brother Richard Milan and Juan Yniguez on accordion.

(photo by JIM STREET)
Mariachi Grupo Alegre performed at the Alpine Amtrak depot open house Tuesday. From left, they are Johnny Milan, his brother Richard Milan and Juan Yniguez on accordion.

Jim Westerman of a Sign of Recognition, a downtown print shop, said he provided a map of the Alpine hiking and driving trail in the depot. Within weeks, vandals had destroyed the map.

The chamber put in a rack for brochures but it had been removed. Amtrak District Station Manager Alexandra Curtis-McVay said the company would provide a new rack to replace it.

Jamieson showed posters of the two-for-one sale and said she has encouraged Amtrak to market Alpine. Too many passengers getting off the train as it stops here say they didn’t know about the Brewster County seat.

She said encouraging more people to ride Amtrak will help battle continuing efforts in the Congress to cancel less-traveled Amtrak routes.

She said it would also help efforts by the National Association of Railroad Passengers to make the Sunset Limited a daily train, instead of three days a week in each direction.

NARP Central Division Leader Bruce Ashton told the Sentinel/International that he is renewing the campaign to do just that, though it has been trying for several years.

He said Amtrak has rail passes where passengers can get off at some stops along the way for a day or two.

That could include Alpine in a future package, he said.

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