The End Of The Line?

Diaper Bags For Modern Dads - Early Show Segment August 22, 2007 CBS/The Early Show

Amtrak's Empire Builder has run through the bloodstream of remote, small town, northern Montana for generations, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob McNamara.

But unless Congress approves more than $1 billion to run Amtrak for another year, the Empire Builder and 17 other long distance trains -- plus the jobs that go with them -- may be headed for the end of the line.

"To lose it would be disastrous. I mean, to have fifty jobs that are very well paying jobs in our community be eliminated," said Shelby, Mont. mayor Larry Bonderbud.

So in the stores windows along Main Street and over the airways a campaign is underway to save the train.

For 2,200 miles, through seven northern states, the Empire Builder is more than a passenger run from Chicago to Seattle. It's business, bringing everything from fresh flowers to first run movies to America's outback.

Artisan Ray Waller is one of the many who would be affected by the line's demise. He crafts antlers onto lamps he sells and delivers on Amtrak, often saving buyers hundreds of dollars in shipping charges.

"Amtrak to me in my business is a must," he said. "If I couldn't ship to the East Coast or the West Coast on Amtrak, I'm going to lose two-thirds of my business."

There's another reason why people want to save their train -- the weather.

In late May a blizzard dropped 10 inches of snow in about 10 hours. All the roads were shut down, and the only way out was via Amtrak.

"It gives you peace of mind to know that you have another way to get out of here," said Bridget Cline.

Cline and her son Zachary need the train to travel for the many surgeries the little boy requires to treat a hip disorder. She explained, "There's been times when its very hard to transport him, and just for his comfort and safety, it has been really good for us."

But, by Amtrak's figures, the Empire Builder lost more than $45 million last year. There was a loss of $114 for every ticket sold.

And with priorities changed after September 11, the worries are that the Empire Builder could become a ghost train.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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