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Whats in a Name?

How Amtrak Trains Got Their Names

The tradition of naming trains is as old as railroading itself, following the convention of naming ships to give some character and personality to these big machines. Historical figures, cities, states geographic features and significant events are all favorite themes, sometimes mixed with descriptive adjectives that evoke a bit of romance or adventure. Amtrak trains often have a fascinating lineage - take a look at how these trains got their names.

Amtrak

The name Amtrak is the blending of the words America and track.

Acela

The name Acela comes from a combination of the words acceleration and excellence.

Adirondack

The Adirondack is named after the Adirondack Mountains, through which it travels on its daily route from New York to Montreal.

Blue Water

One of the Michigan Services, the Blue Water runs daily between Chicago and Port Huron, Michigan, is named after the "blue water" region bordering Lake Huron on the eastern shore of Michigan.

California Zephyr

Named after the streamlined, diesel-powered passenger train of the same and buoyed by the west wind from which it was inspired, the California Zephyr travels an exceptionally scenic route daily from Chicago to the San Francisco area.

Capitol Corridor

The Capitol Corridor was so named because it links San Jose, California's first state capitol with current state capitol, Sacramento and travels near historical state capitols Vallejo and Benicia.

Capitol Limited

Taking its name from the predecessor train that ran its same route, the Capitol Limited travels daily from the nation's capitol, Washington, D.C. to Chicago.

Cardinal

The New York-Chicago Amtrak Cardinal is named for the state bird of each state of the train's route from Virginia to Illinois.

Carl Sandburg

Part of the Illinois Service, the Carl Sandburg provides daily service between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois. The train is named after Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg, whose birthplace in Galesburg lies along the route.

Amtrak Cascades

The Amtrak Cascades is named after the Cascade mountain range that the route parallels.

City of New Orleans

The City of New Orleans takes its name from the route's southern terminus city, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Coast Starlight

The name Coast Starlight is derived from the names of two former Southern Pacific trains, the Coast Daylight and the Starlight.

Crescent

The Crescent takes its name from the nickname for its endpoint city, New Orleans.

Downeaster

In Colonial times, Maine shipbuilders created superior sailing vessels and called them "Downeasters." Today, the sleek and sophisticated Downeaster runs between Boston and Portland, Maine, journeying "down east" along the New England shoreline.

Empire Builder

The Empire Builder operates daily between Chicago and Seattle/Portland and was named for James J. Hill, the builder of the Great Northern Railway.

Empire Service

The Empire Service, running between New York City and Niagara Falls, takes its name from the state it serves: New York, nicknamed the Empire State.

Ethan Allen Express

The Ethan Allen Express is named after Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allen who fought for Vermont's independence.

Heartland Flyer

The daily Oklahoma City to Fort Worth Heartland Flyer was named by 11-year-old Katie Moore, who submitted the winning entry in Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles' 1999 "Name the Train" contest.

Hiawatha

The Chicago to Milwaukee Hiawatha is named after a predecessor train that served the same area. The original train took its name from The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Hoosier State

The Hoosier State is named after the state through which it runs the majority of its daily service from Chicago to Indianapolis: Indiana — nicknamed the Hoosier State.

Illini Service

Part of the Illinois Service, the Illini Service provides daily service between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois. The train has stops near three major Illinois state universities and college students are frequent passengers, so the train's name is inspired by the University of Illinois nickname — the Fighting Illini.

Illinois Zephyr

Part of the Illinois Service, the Illinois Zephyr provides daily service between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois. The train's name is derived from the state it serves as well as its predecessors, the Kansas City Zephyr and American Royal Zephyr.

Keystone

The Keystone is named after the State of Pennsylvania — nicknamed the Keystone State.

Lake Shore Limited

The Lake Shore Limited is named after Lake Erie, along which the train travels for much of its journey.

Lincoln Service

Part of the Illinois Service, the Lincoln Service provides daily service between Chicago and St. Louis, Missouri and is named after one of Illinois most famous sons — President Abraham Lincoln.

Maple Leaf

The Maple Leaf provides daily service from New York City to Toronto. The route's name is an homage to the national symbol of Canada — the maple leaf.

Missouri River Runner

The name Missouri River Runner evokes the river that parallels much of the route, plus the Mississippi River at the eastern terminus and the Kansas River at the western end.

Pacific Surfliner

The Pacific Surfliner takes its name from the route it runs. For much of the trip from San Luis Obispo to San Diego it travels along the southern California coast providing excellent views of the Pacific Ocean.

Pere Marquette

The Pere Marquette is named after Father Jacques Marquette, a French missionary who explored the Great Lakes region.

Palmetto

Originally named the Palmetto Limited, the Palmetto takes its name from the hardy palmetto palm tree, found in the southern U.S. from Florida to Virginia. It is the state tree of Florida and also serves as the state tree and state symbol of South Carolina.

Saluki

Part of the Illinois Service, the Saluki provides daily service between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois. The train is named after the saluki breed of dog, the mascot of Southern Illinois University.

San Joaquin

The San Joaquin is named after the area of California it serves — San Joaquin Valley.

Silver Meteor

Named after the original classic streamliner of the same moniker, the name of the daily New York to Miami Silver Meteor was inspired by its gleaming silver stainless-steel passenger cars and reputation for speedy service.

Silver Star

Like its sister train the Silver Meteor, the name of the daily New York to Miami Silver Star was inspired by its predecessor's stainless-steel passenger cars and reputation for speed.

Southwest Chief

The Southwest Chief, running daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, takes its name from its former name — the Southwest Chief and the name of its indirect predecessor — the famed Santa Fe Super Chief.

Sunset Limited

The Sunset Limited is descendent of the former Southern Pacific Railway's service of the same name. It is the oldest named train in continuous operation, with service dating to 1894.

Texas Eagle

The Texas Eagle provides daily service between Chicago and San Antonio and is named after its predecessor Missouri Pacific Railroad train of the same name.

Vermonter

The Vermonter, with daily service between Washington, D.C., and St. Albans, Vermont, replaced the original Montrealer, which terminated in Montreal. Vermonter is also a term used to refer to someone who lives in Vermont.

Wolverine

One of the Michigan Services, the Blue Water runs daily between Chicago and Pontiac, Michigan, is named after the state it serves: Michigan, which is know as the Wolverine State. The wolverine is also the mascot of the University of Michigan.