What’s in a name? In the heyday of train travel in America, railroads established a simple way to assist consumers in making travel plans by assigning names to passenger trains. Names like “Super Chief” and “Empire Builder” made trip planning easier, and, even more importantly, the names assigned to trains essentially became a brand of their own representing a certain fame and distinction that carried the consumer promise of good food, comfort, speed, and other important passenger services.
That same concept is being adopted by the Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad. Effective March 1st, the railroad’s marketing and ticketing will promote two named trains. The A&SV’s excursion trains will be known as the “Flint Hills Express,” while the railroad’s popular dinner trains will be named the “Smoky Valley Limited.”
“The year 2024 will see some important changes to our operations,” said A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling. “As we’ve grown over the past few years, we’ve seen the need to name our trains to establish a brand that consumers can more readily identify with. And the names we have chosen have special regional and statewide significance.”
Boelling said that the process of naming the A&SV dinner trains began with an informal poll on the railroad’s Facebook pages, where readers were asked to submit suggestions for branding the dinner trains.
“Several suggestions were made. We especially liked incorporating the Flint Hills and Smoky Valley names. We went with that and added two terms that were common in the naming pf passenger trains. In railroad lingo, the term ‘express’ signified that a train makes few or no stops, while ‘limited,’ meant that a train makes a limited number of stops. Both terms fit our railroad, since we are a direct trip into our sister city of Enterprise and we make a limited number of stops—in this case, we only make one,” joked Boelling.
Boelling said the names have special regional and statewide significance, reflecting the fact that the Abilene and Smoky Valley is the state’s only excursion railroad and consequently draws passengers from across Kansas. He said the names better brand A&SV trains as a product of the cultural heritage of the region.
The names will be used in the railroad’s scheduling and ticketing operations immediately.
“A name makes a train ride even more special and prestigious,” Boelling said. “Some famous trains have rolled through Dickinson County back in the days of passenger train travel. The Rock Island trains were known as the ‘Rocket.’ The Missouri Pacific’s ‘Colorado Eagle’ used to run through Herington , Hope and Elmo. And the Union Pacific had a passenger train known as ‘The Portland Rose’ that came through Chapman, Detroit, and Abilene. Today, we’re happy to take a page of railroad history and bring it to life for passengers on the Abilene and Smoky Valley.”
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Photo via Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad