By Ron VandenBoom
The Lewis and Clark Expedition will be returning to Montana this time by Amtrak, announced Andrew Banta, Superintendent of the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site in Williston, N. D.
The return of Lewis and Clark is part of the latest edition of the Trails & Rails Program that is sponsored by the National Park Service working in conjunction with Amtrak's Empire Builder. The program's goal is to provide on-board entertainment and educational programs to passengers on the Empire Builder while also promoting the upcoming Bicentennial Celebration of the original Corps of Discovery.
The new program is slated to begin on May 22, 2001, when the Empire Builder is scheduled to leave Williston with a cast of characters ready to take on the roles of notable historic figures like Mariweather Lewis, William Clark, and their famous Indian guide Sacagawea.
The National Park Service, according to Michael Casier, Amtrak partnership program coordinator for the Empire Builder and park ranger for Fort Union NHS, has prepared what he called "route scripts" that will be read over the train's public address system to entice travelers to the lounge car where they will be allowed to view replicas of artifacts that were used on the original expedition. Casier called the replicas a "traveling trunk" display.
The volunteers will also tell stories about the Corps of Discovery as the train progresses through Montana.
Banta said the volunteers will also be available to answer questions about the region, the parks, and the National Park Service. They will also hand out literature on attractions available along the route.
Gary Wilson, vice chairman of the H. Earl Clack Museum Foundation and chairman of the Fort Assinniboine Preservation Association, said he is excited by the potential the Trails and Rails program has to enhance Havre's tourism industry.
"It's a unique and novel way to get the word out," Wilson said. "The program costs Havre virtually nothing and yet offers the potential of some handsome returns."
The train is scheduled to leave Williston at 10 a.m., Tuesday, May 22, and will travel to Shelby where the volunteers will catch the Wednesday east-bound Empire Builder for the return trip to Williston. The program will continue until Labor Day.
A second program presented by the Knife River Indian Villages NHS, will run from Minot, N. D. to Malta on Fridays and Sundays and return to Williston the same day. The program will be much the same as the Fort Union/Lewis and Clark program except for featuring the Indian culture and a "traveling trunk" filled with Native American artifacts. The Indian program is scheduled to begin in July, 2001.
A third program running from Edmunds, Wash., to Shelby will start in June, 2001,
"This is an excellent out-reach program for the National Park Service to make contact with non-traditional visitors to our National Parks and for them to learn more about the Lewis and Clark Expedition," Banta said. "We are very excited about the Trails & Rails program and our partnership with Amtrak and the various communities that the Empire Builder passes through."
Wilson said he feels the program gives Havre a chance to expose itself to hundreds of tourists every year that have never heard of Havre and would not normally be aware of the many quality attractions in this area.
"Many of these people will have their first opportunity to look at a Havre brochure and hear about the area from the volunteers," he said. "Some of those people will want to come back and spend some time. It's a win, win, situation for everyone."