Heartland Flyer

The southbound Heartland Flyer at Ardmore Train Station in April 2007

Heart of Oklahoma residents are encouraged to turn out Friday at the train depot to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Heartland Flyer.

June 14 is not only Flag Day but it marks 20 years of rail passenger service between Oklahoma and Texas.

Crowds are expected to gather in both Oklahoma City and Fort Worth and all the stops along the way.

According to Heartland Flyer officials, the train is expected in Purcell at 9:06 a.m. on the way down to Fort Worth this Friday. On the way back, it is expected to be here at 8:31 p.m.

The 20th Anniversary Event includes Oklahoma Department Of Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz, Texas Department of Transportation Rail Division Director Peter Espy and others will be held at the Oklahoma City station starting at 7:45 a.m. and continuing until the departure of Train 821 at 8:25 a.m. A commemorative Heartland Flyer T-shirt will be unveiled and available for sale.

Rail Passengers Association Chairman Peter LeCody and other rail advocates will join the train for the trip down to Fort Worth and a similar event will be held with the arrival of Train 821 at Fort Worth Central Station at about 12:30 p.m.  Citizens are encouraged to cheer the train along its route at Oklahoma and Texas stops.

In commemoration of the event, Amtrak is offering a 20 percent discount code that can be used to ride the train on June 14 and during the summer.

The “Heartland Flyer” was started on June 15, 1999, as a joint venture between Amtrak and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation - ending a 20-year absence of passenger train service from Oklahoma and North Texas, according to the ODOT Heartland Flyer website.

Back in 1999, Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles conducted a contest asking Oklahoma children to name the state’s new passenger train.

The “Name the Train” program was located on Nickles’ web site and provided some suggestions used by Amtrak when picking a train name. 

During the contest, over 300 children submitted 500 different suggestions. The winning name, “Heartland Flyer,” was submitted by 11-year-old Katie Moore.  Now 20 years later, Katie, her husband and their children will be riding down Friday on Train 821 and back that night on Train 822 from Fort Worth.

On June 14, 1999 the 11 car Inaugural Heartland Flyer headed North out of Fort Worth, with dignitaries, including Sen. Nickles, Gov. Frank Keating of Oklahoma, Amtrak officials, and mayors from each of the towns served by the Flyer.

Thousands turned out to greet the new train with waves, smiles, banners, and even marching bands.

Every October, Amtrak and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation add an additional coach to accommodate fans attending the “Red River Shootout” football game in Dallas between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas.

This popular excursion often sells out quickly.

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