Trains create community in fly-over cities

Kim Henry, Staff Writer

Rising early Aug. 2, two interns studying railroad travel geared up for a day of press events in Burlington. They were rewarded for their troubles with miniature bottles of Vermont maple syrup and crisp summer air.

Cait Boyle and Victoria Principato arrived the night before on the first stop of their month-long cross-country railroad trip. Both New Jersey natives and students at the Catholic University of America, Boyle and Principato are the National Association of Railways Passengers’ Summer by Rail interns.

In 27 days, they visited 22 cities across the U.S. and Canada in a promised “ultimate summer internship,” according to the NARP’s website.

As the first stop on the Summer by Rail tour, Burlington provided a prime example of this trip’s importance for train enthusiasts who are trying to bring rail travel back to Vermont.

The interns are documenting their travel experiences on social media and running a blog about the trip.

Nestled among scenic pictures and descriptions of local draughts, Boyle and Principato highlight the Vermont Rail Action Network’s campaign to re-open the Rutland Rail with a stop in Burlington.

The internship’s purpose goes beyond simple sightseeing and social media posting.

“We’re really looking to go into small towns and talk to people, and see how else they would get places if they didn’t have train travel,” Boyle said.

Graduating in 2018 with an engineering degree, she is “hoping to see a lot of infrastructure problems and benefits, and mainly different bridges,” Boyle said joking that she was “nerding out.”

No simple tourist herself, Principato, a finance major, is on the lookout for how public transportation enables the creation of community.

“Communities are really built on these stops where the stations are,” she said. “When I applied for the internship, that’s what I wrote about: wanting to visit the parts of the country that are known as ‘fly-over country.’”

July’s NARP newsletter features Boyle and Principato outside the U.S. Capitol building, ready to embark on their journey.

NARP members wrote in to the newsletter to say how important rail travel was to them. A retired senior living in Tampa Bay, Florida, said that trains allows him to be independent in spite of his limited mobility.

Justin Kratz, a 23 year old, said that his daily life was dependent on train travel, like many commuting millenials.

NARP felt that millenials were not using trains as much as they could and wanted to advertise reach them through their peers.

This is where Boyle and Principato come in.

The Summer by Rail internship joined two necessary elements of train preservation: two women who understand the economic and human impact of the railway, and their ability to romanticize and market train travel via social media and blogging.

Boyle and Principato’s stop brings press coverage to the endeavor to re-open train travel through the city.

“Long-distance train travel is kind of under the radar,” Boyle said. “We’re going to try to show that it is really important. It brings so much to a lot of different cities.”