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Sunday, June 23, 2013
Last Sunday I clanged the bell for a new name for the passenger train that will be serving Roanoke as soon as three to four years from now. And wow!
Train-loving readers up and down the Eastern Seaboard didn’t disappoint. My email inbox filled up faster than a hopper car under a coal chute. Suggestions came from eight states (mostly from Virginia) and are still rolling in — pun intended.
Here’s the good news: Everyone agreed that the current name, “Northeast Regional,” is about as dull as a monastery on Fat Tuesday. If there’s any bad news here, it’s that there’s little consensus on a replacement name. Your suggestions range far and wide.
As you might expect there were many variations on “Star,” which is not at all unexpected given Roanoke’s nickname.
One of the most popular was The Shooting Star. Suggesting that were David Garland, Michelle Parzyck and Kelly Medlin, all of Roanoke, and Steve Wilson of Christiansburg. (His first choice was The Colonial, because the train passes through nine of the 13 original colonies.)
The Shooting Star pays homage not only to Mill Mountain’s famous icon, but also to what Medlin called “our beloved roller coaster” at Lakeside Amusement Park in Salem — which closed 27 years ago.
Wilson added: “it may be somewhat of a misnomer since there will be over 30 stops between Roanoke and Boston.” A good point.
Other variations on “Star” included: Star of the Rails or Star City Express, by Tom Carr of Boones Mill; The Star City by Ronald Bowens of Roanoke; and Dogwood Starliner, which was suggested by Carolyn Nelson of Roanoke. That, she wrote, comes from the state flower, and from the patterned china at the Hotel Roanoke back when it was owned by the railroad and, of course, from the Mill Mountain Star.
“I just think the name sounds trainish and sleek,” Nelson said in an email.
Henry Dralle IV, who hails from Lorton, suggests The Silver Star.
“I’m only 11 so I most likely won’t have the greatest idea in history but please consider my suggestion,” he wrote. “This name will also catch the attention of the public on a commercial, poster, or just spreading the word.” That kid has a bright future in transportation marketing.
Tom Goodale of Lexington suggests Star City Limited; David Yolton of Newport thinks the name should be Star City Patriot; and Kathryn Fox of Roanoke likes Northern Star, because that’s where the train will take us.
Star City-Piedmont Express (or Connection) was offered up by W. Joseph Dupuis of Roanoke County, while Felecia Wilson-Kipfinger, who also lives in the county, suggests The Star of Roanoke, or The Star of Roanoke Express. And Edward Bennett of Salem suggested The Virginia Star.
“How could it be anything other than the Starliner?” wrote Byron Tillman of Jacksonville, Fla. Peggy Fleming of Roanoke likes Mountain Star.
Believe it or not we had a few “Star Trek” fans join the fun.
Howard Warshawsky of Salem boldly went where no reader has gone before with The StarTrain Enterprise. He’d like to use “Starship,” but “there are clear copyright issues” involved with that one, he acknowledged. “Enterprise” is because “it is always about promoting business in the valley.”
“In all seriousness, with all the hassles involved in both air and car travel these days, passenger rail (on high speed lines) may well be the future in the U.S., if the infrastructure can be created,” he added.
Chuck Ayling of Roanoke must have been reading Warshawsky’s mind. His idea was StarTrak, “an amalgamation of Star City and Amtrak.” Charles Knowlton of Roanoke suggested Star Track — he also suggested The Starlight Experience and The Roanoke Railrunner.
Another common theme was “Blue Ridge.”
Dorr Tucker of Roanoke likes Blue Ridge Arrow, a nod to the Norfolk & Western’s famed Powhatan Arrow, which ran from 1946 to 1969. He called it, “a fitting name for the train that will serve both the Hill City and the Star City.” (David Overton of Goshen, Ind., believes The Powhatan would work just fine.)
Blue Ridge Mountaineer was offered up by E. Duane Howard of Roanoke. John Levai of Upper Montclair, N.J., likes The Blue Ridgeliner. Richard Long of Salem suggested The Blue Ridge for the Roanoke-to-Lynchburg run and the Noreaster or the Northeaster for the run up to Boston.
Somehow you knew someone would work “Star” and “Blue Ridge” together, right? That would be Freddie Ballard of Botetourt County, who offered Blue Ridge Mountain Star. John Moore of the Ellett Valley likes Blue Ridge Star.
Marian Carlson of Lexington suggested not only The Shenandoah Streamer and The Valley Comet but The Blue Ridge Bullet.
“Of course, if it’s a slow local train it would have to be The Virginia Creeper,” she cracked.
And now here are the rest of the mailed-in suggestions.
Down in Rocky Mount, Peggie Foster likes The Moonshine Express, because the train follows the same general route (north) that Franklin County’s most infamous product has for years. She got a kick out of my idea, The Big Licker, but won’t support it unless I change the last word to Likker. Sounds like she’s sipping the white lightning, eh?
Katie Slider, a Roanoke native who lives in Atlanta, thinks the train should be The Roanoke Valley Rambler heading south, and The Boston Patriot going North. Doug Burnette of Roanoke and David Robinson of Raleigh, N.C., like a more simple “The Virginian.”
James Trail of Buchanan suggested The Appalachian. So did Henry Palmer of Lexington. Linda Goodrich of Roanoke modified that slightly: The Appalachian Express.
Salem’s Barbara Stanley likes Ro-Bo Express, because the train will run between Roanoke and Boston. I can hear that conductor now: “All aboard the Ro-Bo!”
The Commonwealth Express, or perhaps merely The Commonwealth was the brainchild of Phil Anderson of Roanoke County, because the train links “two of four commonwealths in the country (Virginia and Massachusetts) and passes through a third one (Pennsylvania).”
David Fisher of Roanoke doubts that a passenger train will ever truly come back to the Star City. For that reason, it should be called The Not-Quite-to-Roanoke Express, he said.
Floyd resident Michael Linkous likes The Cardinal Express, after the state bird, or The Dogwood Express, after our state flower and tree.
Jerry Dodson of Troutville says we should name it The American Express. Why? “I am 80 and the politicians are killing my America,” he said. Dodson also requested the train use the Norfolk & Western engine “that had the stars and stripes painted on it.”
Rick Barrow of Christiansburg suggested Mason-Dixon Express. Jesse Phillips of Roanoke offered RoLy Train — a few years ago, he offered a similar name for the bus that goes to the Hill City.
Down in Pearisburg, Melvin L. “Bud” Chambless Jr. offered up The Bean Town - Big Lick Express — or the other way around. Ken Conklin of Daleville voted for the Big Lick Express. He said it could be nicknamed with my idea, The Big Licker.
Jerry Guzi of Roanoke suggested Freedom Trail; Jim Dalmas, a Roanoke native who now lives in Jarrettsville, Md., suggested a play on The Pocahontas: The Pokey-Haunt-Us.
The Old Dominion was the choice of both Rafael Guroian of Baltimore and Carla Sizemore of Roanoke. Guroian said that as far as he’s been able to tell, there never has been a train with that moniker.
“Given the fact that this train goes through the absolute heart of the Old Dominion and has room to stretch further west in future years, I can’t imagine a more apropos name,” he wrote.
Martha Jeffries of Roanoke likes The Arrow, because “now we’ll have a straight shot, instead of having to go to Lynchburg.”
The Rev. Wes Jamison, who grew up in Wythe County but now lives in Silver Spring, Md., believes The Shenandoah is a fitting name. “The line will run almost the length of the Great Valley of Virginia and I can’t think of a better name for it.”
The Phoenix is the best choice, writes Charles Brumbelow of Shelbyville, Tenn. That’s because “it is rising from the ashes of passenger trains past.” But he secretly hopes they call it The Tennessean because that’ll be a hint it will one day serve Bristol.
As you might expect in a column by yours truly, there were also some unusual, funny and sarcastic proposals.
“It should simply be called the Choo-Choo,” writes Dusty Wallace of Elliston. “Why? ‘Cause I’ll get a kick out of respectable-looking people saying choo-choo. ‘Goin’ on a business trip tomorrow. … Gotta catch the choo-choo at 7 a.m.’ ”
William Jones of Roanoke suggests Paul Revere or The Midnight Ride. Seriously? A Yankee moniker for a Southern train?
Last but not least is Jim Martin of Vinton. He said the best name is The Taxpayer Express. “That is who will be paying for it and I think they should get the credit.”
There are more than 100 other suggestions on my blog — so check those out there, and add some more if you like.
Obviously we haven’t settled anything today, but it sure has been fun.
Let’s keep it going, eh? I’ve culled 15 potential train names that you can vote for here.
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