The completed retrofit of a loading platform at the historic train depot in Hope has finally attracted Amtrak passenger service.
Thursday, officials in the community commemorated the first day of the new service with fireworks and fanfare. Mark Keith, the director of the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce, was one of about 150 people who took the first train ride to Texarkana on Amtrak's new Texas Eagle service leaving from Hope.
"There has been an effort underway to get an Amtrak stop for about 20 years in our community. It’s my understanding that this started in about 1993 with then Senator Dale Bumpers’ office notifying the City of Hope that there might be a possibility Amtrak would stop in the community,” said Keith. “The city has worked very tirelessly to deal with everything regulation wise and spec wise that came down the pike to ensure this could happen.”
Decades ago, other companies had train passenger service in Hope. However, that style of transportation ended at Hope train depot in 1970. Keith says plans for Amtrak service also fell through 15 years ago, due to changes in leadership at the company.
“The coming of Amtrak is just this great, optimistic, and enthusiastic thing for the community,” Keith said. “I was talking to the Amtrak guy from Chicago today and I said 'Do most little towns when they get an Amtrak stop have 150 people come out and ride the first train?' He said he does these kinds of station openings from time to time and he’s never seen anything like this.”
Hope officials have also planned a day of festivities in the city on May 18th to celebrate the new service.
The westbound Texas Eagle departs Hope daily at 5:09 a.m. with stops in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio. The eastbound train leaves at 9:18 each evening with stops in Little Rock, St. Louis and Chicago.
Amtrak says connections to other trains can be made in Fort Worth, San Antonio, St. Louis, and Chicago to Oklahoma City, Kansas City and hundreds of other locations.