A crowd of about 150 people stood in the mist of a morning rain to take the inaugural ride on the Amtrak Texas Eagle from Hope to Texarkana this morning.
The rain could not dampen spirits on this morning.
The crowd gathered at the McLarty Room at the depot and were treated to coffee and soft drinks, along with muffins, donuts, and fruit snacks. Everyone was talking at once, creating an excited buzz in the room.
The talk was all about the Texas Eagle coming to Hope and some people remembered earlier days of riding the train from Hope. Mayor Dennis Ramsey took the podium and told the group that it had been “about 40 years since the train stopped here in Hope.”
The train was a bit late, but as soon as Paul Henley saw the lights, which indicated that the train was near Southern Bakery, he signaled to Don Still, who was across the railroad tracks ready to light fireworks that greeted the train. As soon as the train pulled into the station, fireworks lit up the early morning sky.
When the train first came into the Hope station, it was going so fast that it didn't seem like it was going to stop, and a gasp rose from the crowd. But, the conductor assured everyone that it was going to stop, and the crowd cheered.
Passengers were boarded on the train in an orderly manner and everyone who wanted to ride was able to board. Some riders went upstairs to the observation deck, and some sat in the lounge cars. It was a smooth ride, with hardly any bumps. One could hear the train whistle sound as the train passed populated spots.
When the train stopped in Texarkana, everyone debarked and were whisked away to two Hope Public School buses. Other private vans also transported some citizens back to Hope, but the majority of the train travelers took the public transportation provided.
When the buses and other transportation arrived back in Hope, most of the travelers gathered at Tailgater's Restaurant, where part of the trip included a breakfast. Many of them enjoyed coffee, orange juice, scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausage, and bacon.
Marc Magliari, media relations manager for Amtrak, was along for the ride and visited with several of the riders in Hope, on the trip, and at the breakfast.
“National Railroad Day is May 11, and we are going to celebrate that day for several weeks,” Magliari said. “In fact, the culmination of the entire celebration will be here in Hope on May 18, with activities and celebrations going on for the entire day. I am looking forward to that and I wouldn't miss it for the world.”