Originally published in Amtrak Ink, February 2010
The road to love is often paved with milestones, small and big, that add context to our relationships and act as breadcrumbs to guide us back to the good times when we lose our way.
Maybe it's the first kiss; a favorite song; the two-hour, 45-minute Acela Express trip from Washington, DC, to the Big Apple. If it's the latter, perhaps the Amtrak livery should include the moniker "Love Train."
Kaja and Dan
For Kaja and Dan Meade, both 33, the latter was indeed the case. After a blind date set up by the wife of the Swedish consul general, the District-based Kaja and Manhattanite Dan spent the better part of a year commuting back and forth on the Acela Express, falling in love high-speed-rail-style.
Dan and Kaja Meade with the
Acela Express on the platform
at Washington Union Station.
"Dan and I [were] on the trains every week," said Kaja, a gerontologist. "We've tried planes, buses and driving, and the few times we have, it's been unbearably frustrating. It sounds silly to say, but Amtrak literally made our relationship — and now our marriage — possible."
Kaja believed so much in Amtrak that she suggested to Dan that the couple inquire about having their engagement photographs taken aboard an Acela train.
"Dan later told me he thought I was the Queen of Wishful Thinking," Kaja joked. "I know that it's just easier to say 'no' to unusual requests and I was scared that it would take too much finagling to make this happen."
Enter a cross-section of Amtrak employees — Corporate Communications staff who coordinated logistics with the photographer, and Operations folks who ensured that the spiffiest Acela Express was available for the photo shoot — to make sure the day went off without a hitch.
"I never felt like I was dealing with a 'no' mentality, like 'we can't do this until we prove we can,'" Kaja said. "It was more like 'let's figure out how we can do this best.'"
Now, after a September wedding in DC and honeymoon in South Africa, the commute is over. Both Meades reside in New York City.
Deborah and Henry
When Deborah and Henry Mayhew began planning their October 2002 nuptials, there was talk of chartering a jet to transport the entire wedding party from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, California. But, working with Reservation and Information and Crew Assignment clerks in Chicago, Henry secured the "less expensive and more fun" option of reserving two cars aboard the Pacific Surfliner to take his 250 guests to the Four Seasons Hotel in Montecito, California.
On site, an Operations Supervisor mobilized a team to get the cars in place and set up to provide a buffet breakfast for the trip to Santa Barbara and a buffet lunch for the return trip. While the happy couple wanted renowned chef Wolfgang Puck to prepare their meals, company regulations nixed that idea, but Amtrak came up with a more than acceptable alternative.
"At the time, we didn't have a car set up for breakfast service, so we worked with Mechanical to build a steam table and then brought in a catered breakfast of eggs, bacon, potatoes and fresh fruit from a local restaurant," the he said. "On the way back, we served sliced turkey on foccacia and fresh fruit plates for the entire wedding party and guests."
In addition to the meals, the supervisor worked with a local wedding planner to provide onboard entertainment, including Mariachi players, a mini-fashion show and Samoan dancers.
"This was the second marriage for both the Mayhews, so they wanted something that was really unique," he said. "We did a really good job of making it a wonderful, beautiful and magical event." The Mayhews agreed.
"Our guests are still talking about the excellent service and care that they received both at the Amtrak stations in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, and during the journey," they said in a letter to Amtrak.
The Mayhews' letter also credited a host of other employees for their role in wedding memories.
The Stories Are Endless
Love on the rails is as widespread as the track work that spider-webs across the country carrying Amtrak trains. An Onboard Services Manager recalls a couple from several years ago that was married in the theatre of the Parlour Car on the Coast Starlight. They even remembered back to 1983 when singer Rainey Lewis married her husband, Rob, aboard the Sunset Limited, honeymooning all the way from Los Angeles to New Orleans with backup band in tow.
For these passengers, it appears, their love affair with Amtrak is the tie that binds them to each other; a wonderful milestone, a treasured memory.