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Luxury train to stop here eight times in spring

[02/20/01] A 1950s-style luxury train line will be making eight stops in Vicksburg this spring as part of tours through the South.

Beginning March 9, the American Orient Express will make a series of half-day stops in the city and provide excursions for passengers to historic sites including the Vicksburg National Military Park, said Al Elmore, director of tourism for the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The 15-passenger cars of the American Orient Express ferry passengers from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans. The stops in Vicksburg were added to the tour this year in addition to stops in Richmond, Charleston and Savannah.

The Pullman cars of the train were built in the 1940s and 1950s and were restored by the American Orient Express at a cost of $15 million. In addition to the five sleeping cars, the train has two dining cars and three lounge cars.

Since 1996, the company has been operating tours in eight different regions in the United States and Canada at different times of the year.

Tickets for the eight-day, seven-night trip start at $2,590, depending on the accommodations.

The tourism-based visits could foreshadow scheduled service. Amtrak officials said this month it will start a new route through Vicksburg as soon as improvements are made to tracks currently used only for freight service.

Passenger service began in Vicksburg when the first tracks were laid in 1836, but ended in 1968 when the last passenger train pulled out bound for Shreveport.

Amtrak operates passenger rail service all around America, including north-south trains linking New Orleans to Chicago and Washington. Under congressional order, Amtrak has until fiscal year 2002 to wean itself from subsidies. The route through Vicksburg is part of a plan to boost earnings.

Under Amtrak’s proposal, the train through Vicksburg would originate in New York City and travel south and west to Meridian. Once reaching Mississippi, the train would be split with one section continuing south to New Orleans and part headed west through Jackson, Vicksburg, Monroe and Shreveport to Fort Worth and Dallas. At that point, the train could connect with trains headed to Mexico and the West Coast.