By Ron VandenBoom
National Park Service volunteer Andrea Heller welcomes Amtrak passengers in both French and English as she prepares to begin her first ever introduction to the Lewis and Clark Trails on Rails Traveling Trunk Exhibit Tuesday.
Heller is just one of the volunteers that boarded the westbound Amtrak out of Williston N.D. Tuesday on the maiden voyage of the Trails & Rails Lewis and Clark Program sponsored by the National Park Service working in conjunction with Amtrak's Empire Builder.
The Empire Builder arrived in Havre at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday and was greeted by members of Havre's tourism community a community that welcomes the opportunity to expose the Hi-Line's cultural and historical treasures to Amtrak passengers.
"I think it's great that Amtrak's doing this," said Havre Mayor Phyllis Leonard. "It's going to give so many more people information about our part of the country."
Heller said the response from the passengers had been excellent and added that she was "just thrilled" by the response.
"It's been unbelievable," Heller said. "I didn't think it was going to be this exciting for our first trip."
Heller said a lot of people had dropped by the trunk display on the upper level of the lounge car to see the display that volunteer Frank Underhill had spread out over the car's bar/kitchenette. Heller said they had had a huge group stop to see the display.
"It's been pretty full and a lot of people have been asking questions," she said.
The volunteers also read what are called "route scripts" that provide general information to the passengers and tell stories about the Corps of Discovery. Travelers are then enticed to come to the lounge car to view the displays first-hand.
Pamphlets and brochures are also carried by the volunteers describing the various tourist attractions along the Hi-Line. Community leaders hope the stories, lectures, and display will inspire return visits by some of the passengers.
The volunteers travel to Shelby were they spend the night before returning to Williston on the east-bound Empire Builder Wednesday.
The program, which is one of three covering various parts of the Hi-Line, will continue on a weekly basis through Labor Day.