Favorite destination? San Diego. I'm starting in the unserved community of Ithaca, NY. It takes some getting to, so I always take the fastest route; it's critical to me that the SW Chief runs as *fast* as possible.
Breathtaking Views Ahead, Scout’s Honor
There are 15 long distance routes that crisscross the country connecting our riders to more than 500 destinations. One of those routes, the Southwest Chief, runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Chief offers views of the mighty Mississippi, wheat fields and ranches and carves through canyon passages only a few feet wider than the train itself.
If you are hopping aboard the Chief this time of year, chances are you may be riding with one of the more than 5,000 Boy Scouts riding the route on their way to Philmont Scout Ranch. Today, our President and CEO, Joe Boardman, will tour the Philmont Scout Ranch, providing the perfect opportunity to interview Bryan Hayek, Marketing Manager at Philmont, to learn a little more about the long standing relationship the ranch has with the Southwest Chief.
Amtrak: What is the history of the ranch?
Bryan: Philmont opened in 1939, operating as PhilTurn Rockymountain Scout Camp. By the 1941 season, participation had already exceeded 1,000 Boy Scouts. At this time, railway to Raton had already been established as the recommended means of travel to and from Philmont. The summer of 2014 marks the season of Philmont’s one millionth participant. Today, nearly 5,000 Philmont participants utilize the Raton Amtrak station when traveling to and from Philmont annually.
Amtrak: How many scouts travel to Philmont each year and what type of experience can they expect at camp?
Bryan: Each summer, 23,000 Scouts attend Philmont’s summer camping programs. The majority of Philmont campers trek for 12 days and hike 50-100 miles reaching elevations of 12,500ft. In addition to mountain-top experiences, crews visit a selection of 35 different staffed backcountry camps. Each camp offers unique programs such as living history themes from mining, to logging, to fur trading.
Amtrak: Why do you think scouts choose to take the train to the ranch?
Bryan: The train has provided safe and affordable transportation for Scouts traveling to Philmont for the past 75 years. There is a certain novelty to this experience that a crew of Scouts would enjoy when preparing for a Philmont Adventure. Trains have so much more room to get up and wander around than you get when traveling by air. Far more scenery and culture may be absorbed by looking out the window of a train than when looking down from an aircraft soaring miles above.
We all know when you ride the train the adventure begins as soon as you step on the train, but the destinations, just like the Philmont Scout Ranch, can be pretty spectacular too. What is your favorite Amtrak destination? Let us know in the comments below!