Amtrak logo 1971
Amtrak logo 1971
--- "Railpax" (original brand, unofficial, 1970)
--- "National Railroad Passenger Corporation" (NRPC, official, 1971)
--- "Amtrak" (brand, 1971)

Category: Transportation

Subcategory: Railroad

Founded: May 1, 1971 - Union Station, Washington D.C., USA

First president: Roger Lewis (Los Angeles, January 11, 1912 - Washington, D.C., November 12, 1987)

Operations start: May 1, 1971 at 12.05 am, the first Amtrak train Philadelpia - New York City left Penn Station.

Features: In 1968, a young attorney named Anthony Haswell founded the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), a Washington lobby group whose purpose was to save the passenger trains. After much effort the NARP lobbying worked, and from that success came the Railroad Passenger Service Act, which Congress passed on October 14, 1970. On October 30, 1970, President Nixon signed Public Law 91-518, and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (NRPC) - brand name Amtrak - was created. Of the 26 railroads still offering intercity passenger service in 1970, only six declined to join Amtrak. The company began service on May 1, 1971 serving 43 states with a total of 21 routes. The first train operated by Amtrak was a "Clocker" (No. 235), regular passenger train Philadelphia - New York City, that left Penn Station at 12:05 AM on May 1, 1971. Amtrak's first Reservations Sales Office opened in Chicago on October 1, 1971.

Interesting facts: The name "Amtrak" is a contraction and a blending of the concepts "American" and "track". Previously, the corporation had been known informally as "Railpax", derived from the telegraphers code name for "railroad passenger".

Slogan (1971): «We're making the trains worth traveling again»

Property: National Railroad Passenger Corporation

Official website:

Amtrak directors, March 22, 1971
Amtrak formally announces intended routes (March 22, 1971). U.S. Secretary of Transportation John Volpe, Amtrak President Roger Lewis and Amtrak Board of Incorporation Chairman David W. Kendall, unveil the Amtrak route map.
Amtrak route map 1971

Amtrak first timetable 1971 - cover
Amtrak first timetable 1971 - letter
Amtrak first timetable 1971 - index
Amtrak, first timetable: cover, Chairman's letter, index (May 1, 1971)

Amtrak Clocker 1971
Amtrak Clocker (1971). One of these passenger trains (No. 235) was the first operated by the company.

Amtrak 4316 1971
Amtrak Penn Central E8A - 4316 (May 1, 1971). This train was selected to wear a one-of-a-kind paint scheme for Amtrak's first day of operations.

Amtrak Silver Solarium 1971
Amtrak Silver Solarium (1971). This train was built by the Budd Company in 1948 as one of the original six vista dome observation sleeping cars for the famed California Zephyr, which was inaugurated on March 20, 1949. Ownership was transferred to Amtrak in 1971.

Amtrak TurboTrain 1971
Amtrak TurboTrain (1971). The TurboTrain was an articulated, lightweight trainset with gas-turbine propulsion. Funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation as part of a program to explore the future of high-speed rail service in the 1960s, the TurboTrains were designed by United Aircraft and built by Pullman-Standard.

Amtrak Ad 1971
Amtrak advertising (1971). Updating the existing fleet of passenger cars and locomotives was one of Amtrak’s biggest challenges. In preparation for the start of service in May 1971, Amtrak handpicked approximately 1,200 cars from a total pool of 3,000 held by the two dozen railroads that had been relieved of their passenger service obligations.

Amtrak Ad 1971 by Ted Bates
Amtrak advertising (1971, by Ted Bates agency, N.Y.C.)

Amtrak posters 1973 by David Klein
Amtrak posters (1973, by illustrator David Klein)

Amtrak 50th Anniversary 1971-2021
Amtrak’s 50th anniversary (1971-2021). President Joe Biden (above), Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn and Amtrak Conductor Blake Weaver spoke at Amtrak’s 50th anniversary virtual event in Philadelphia on April 30, 2021.