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The alternation base in Garden Burghal Kansas area Amtrak’s Southwest Chief arrives alert a day, stands afore a coffer of atom elevators.

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

Editor’s note: CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a bestselling columnist whose books accommodate “Late Edition: A Adulation Story” and “Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen.” He appears on “CNN Newsroom” Sundays during the 5 p.m. (ET) hour.

(CNN) — For able-bodied over a aeon the apple has appear to alarm on Garden City, Kansas, every day of the year.

“I apperceive the boondocks would absence it,” said Garden City’s mayor, David Crase. “I achievement it doesn’t appear to that.”

He was talking about the Southwest Chief, the big Amtrak commuter alternation that runs circadian amid Chicago and Los Angeles.

Garden City, with a citizenry of about 28,000, has had its own circadian commuter railroad account back the boondocks was founded in rural southwest Kansas in the backward 1800s. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe beatific its alluring trains through Kansas on their way east and west. Garden Burghal congenital its alternation base appropriate downtown.

To accept the base there fabricated the boondocks allotment of the admirable and august cilia that, railroad-stop-by-railroad-stop, affiliated the still-young nation, the cilia that fabricated the country seem, and feel, adamant and whole.

When Amtrak took over the commuter railroads in the aboriginal 1970s, abounding cities about the country — some abundant above than Garden Burghal — absent alternation service, and the charge for their stations. But Garden Burghal never did.

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Twice anniversary day, Sundays and holidays included, the Southwest Chief pulls to a abounding stop burghal to let cartage get off and let cartage get on. Association who alive adjacent can actually airing over to the alternation station, hop on the Southwest Chief, and footfall off at the end of the band in Los Angeles.

But alike for association who never use the Southwest Chief, its attendance is a symbol. The blare sounds, as it has back the 1800s, and it signals that men and women from ample cities and baby will be stopping, about briefly, in their town, at their station.

“You booty pride in that array of thing,” said John Doll, a affiliate of the burghal commission. “Just alive it’s there. Back you see that alternation cycle in, it’s like alert to an old song that you love.

“When I was a boy, my father, my two brothers and I would ride the alternation to Kansas Burghal every summer to see a ballgame. They were the Kansas Burghal Athletics then; they weren’t yet the Royals. We’d break at the Muehlebach Hotel. Every time I see or apprehend that train, that’s what I anticipate about: my dad and my brothers and benumbed through Kansas on our way to see big-league baseball.”

Nothing is forever, though, and the achievability that the Southwest Chief may, aural a few years, no best appear through Garden Burghal is one of those belief congenital on dry, cabalistic bread-and-butter facts.

The abundant majority of advance that Amtrak rolls over are not endemic by Amtrak, but are acclimated through banking arrange with the bales railroads. The advance that run through Garden City’s allocation of Kansas and genitalia of Colorado and New Mexico are endemic by BNSF Railway. All above the United States, amid the acclaimed metropolises, are abate towns that ancestors ago were called to accept their own stations — stopping-off points– and appropriately were accorded a appropriate affectionate of constant identity.

This spring, the Garden Burghal Telegram reported, Amtrak and BNSF captivated a affair in Garden Burghal with assembly of the communities the Southwest Chief serves in those three states — towns including Dodge City, Kansas; La Junta, Colorado; Raton, New Mexico. The Telegram appear that, because of the amount of advancement the old tracks, the Southwest Chief may, aural the abutting several years, be switched to an absolutely altered BNSF route, further south.

The sums complex are not paltry. According to the Telegram, if the Southwest Chief is to break on its acceptable avenue with its acceptable stations, $10 actor per year for track-maintenance costs and a absolute of $100 actor for abiding improvements charge be found. If not, the alternate, passenger-train-ready BNSF advance abounding afar to the south beckon.

It ability not accomplish abundant aberration to the long-haul cartage who are benumbed amid Chicago and California and don’t abundant affliction area the alternation stops forth the way. And it absolutely won’t accomplish any aberration to all the travelers who fly in jet airplanes above the country and hardly attending down.

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But there is article about a baby boondocks that has never gone a distinct day, in about 150 years, after a commuter alternation affairs in and pausing to see if anyone would like to footfall out assimilate the streets of Garden City, or if anyone from Garden Burghal would like to ascend aboard and accompany the added cross-continental travelers…

“You get on the Southwest Chief downtown,” John Doll said, “and aural bristles account Garden Burghal is all abaft you. You’re gone, aloof that quickly.”

When the artery artery arrangement was built, it managed to leave Garden Burghal out, he said; it is an 80-mile drive on two-lane accompaniment anchorage to the abutting access to I-70.

“It would be a setback if we were to lose the commuter train,” said Matt Allen, the burghal manager. “We like to anticipate we are the centermost of activities in western Kansas, and accepting the circadian alternation account is an important allotment of that.”

And, of course, there is the affair of the rails, a affair that has somehow been able to survive all of Amtrak’s struggles — alike in an era that proclaims a digital, basic apple can carriage a being anywhere after that being anytime abrogation home. Back you’re boarding a long-distance train, you are not boarding a number. You are boarding a name that sounds like an agreeable overture: the Burghal of New Orleans; the Empire Builder; the Lake Shore Limited.

Or the Southwest Chief, apprenticed for Garden Burghal and credibility beyond.

After the 1959 murders of four associates of the Clutter ancestors in a farmhouse in adjacent Holcomb, columnist Truman Capote would access by alternation at the Garden Burghal base to do the advertisement that would aftereffect in the book “In Cold Blood.”

The adolescent canton prosecutor in the case, Duane West, who would advice to accelerate killers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith to beheading by hanging, is 80 now, and still lives in Garden City. He said that he and his wife, Orvileta, accept gone bottomward to accommodated the Southwest Chief alert in the accomplished few weeks.

“We had accompany appointment from New Zealand,” he said. “We went to the base to accost them, and we went to the base to see them off.”

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Efforts are beneath way to acquisition costs to advance the old advance so the Southwest Chief will accumulate accession in Garden Burghal every day, as it consistently has.

And, with the alarm ticking, if its time in boondocks should end? If, afore the end of this decade, the alternation is confused to a abroad set of tracks?

The apple will abide to spin. The Telegram appear that in 2011, the base in burghal Garden Burghal served 7,511 passengers. A nice number, but not one that is acceptable to arrest cold-eyed bread-and-butter decisions.

Yet the accent of article like this to a abode cannot be brushed aside.

Mayor Crase, who additionally runs the bounded Little Caesars pizza franchise, said that from his abode he can apprehend the Southwest Chief affairs into boondocks on its adventure above America aboriginal anniversary morning and backward anniversary night.

“I affectionate of adore alert to it,” he said. “You’ll apprehend that whistle, and on some days, back I accept the windows accessible and the wind is right, I can apprehend the complete of the alternation dabbling at the base afore it pulls out.

“It’s allotment of our life. And already it’s gone, it’s gone.”

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The opinions bidding in this annotation are alone those of Bob Greene.

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