The early morning hour mixed with cold and wet weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of more than 100 people that took the inaugural ride of Amtrak passenger service from the depot in Hope Thursday morning. The passengers, which were primarily from the Hempstead and Nevada County area, began arriving at the depot just after 4 a.m. to make the short trip to Texarkana on the Texas Eagle, which arrived in Hope at 5:21 a.m.
While the train was still passing through Emmet, Parks Director Paul Henley, who was primarily responsible for overseeing the Amtrak depot project, addressed the crowd along with Hope Mayor Dennis Ramsey. The men conveyed their excitement for this day that was a long time coming.
Mayor Ramsey noted that it had been 40 years since the last passenger train stopped in Hope. About 10 people in the crowd raised their hands when the mayor asked who had previously taken a train out of Hope.
As the train was on its final approach to the depot, a fireworks display by Don Still lit up the sky and the crowd broke out in applause. As the train came to a stop, conductors began assisting the large number of passengers onboard. There were even a few passenger boarding the train for routes beyond Texarkana.
The mood onboard was one of celebration as the train cars smoothly and quietly got up to speed for the quick ride into Texarkana. The passengers looked out the windows for anything familiar and some were surprised when they realized they were already approaching the Red River in Fulton.
For many, the journey was over all too quickly as they found themselves pulling into downtown Texarkana where they offloaded onto buses provided by the Hope School District for the journey home.
Upon their return to Hope, several of the travelers gathered at Tailgaters Burger Company across from the Hope Depot for a breakfast of pancakes, sausage and eggs prepared by the staff.
The City of Hope has planned an official ceremony to welcome the new Amtrak stop on Saturday, May 18th at 10 a.m. Several Amtrak officials are expected to be among the honored guests at the event.