Skip to content

Amtrak recognizes AV woman

When Amtrak’s “Ceremonial Texas Eagle” made its first stop at the Arcadia Valley Train Station on Nov. 17, it was the end result of years of hard work and hundreds of phone calls made by a strong-willed Iron County resident who refused to take “no” for an answer.

Carol Kelsheimer was a driving force behind the creation of the new Arcadia Valley stop for the Texas Eagle that travels a route from Chicago, Illinois, to San Antonio, Texas, and on to Los Angeles, California. The reopened station restored regularly scheduled passenger rail service to the area for the first time since 1968.

Kelsheimer was among three individuals recognized by Amtrak with its “Champion of the Rails” award at a ceremony held June 22 in Washington, D.C. Given out annually as part of the President’s Service and Safety Awards, it honors non-Amtrak employees who have worked to promote and improve intercity passenger rail service throughout the nation.

“I was very surprised when I received the phone call from Washington, D.C. about the award,” Kelsheimer said. “After that phone call, I received another one from one of the Amtrak people that I have dealt with a lot. They told me how I came about receiving the award. Actually, it’s a long process that started last January.

“I was nominated by three Amtrak people and then me, along with the other nominees, were put through a pretty rigorous decision process. Even Brian Parker, our chamber of commerce president was contacted about me. I was very excited and honored to be selected.”

At the ceremony, Amtrak President/CEO Wick Moorman presented the award to Kelsheimer, along with Richard and Christina Anderson of Marshall, Texas, for “having strongly supported projects to establish and rehabilitate Amtrak stations in Missouri, Texas and Arkansas.”

Moorman also said, “At Amtrak, the President’s Service and Safety Awards give us an opportunity to recognize employees who have been identified by their peers as being truly exceptional. This year we honor 58 employees and three external advocates who have lived our values and made strong contributions to safety and security, taking care of our customers and achieving strong financial performance in the past year.”

Traveling beside Kelsheimer on the train ride to Washington, D.C. was Judy Schaff-Wheeler, who worked alongside her friend during what turned out to be a six-year effort to bring Amtrak service to the Arcadia Valley.

Amtrak, MoDOT, Union Pacific, the city of Arcadia and members of Our Town Tomorrow (OTT) began meeting in 2012 to discuss the documents and funding needed to make the Arcadia Amtrak stop possible.

Eventually, the city of Arcadia was one of 11 southeast Missouri committees selected to receive a share of $2.9 million in federal enhancement funds through an 80/20 grant amounting to $330,000, which along with the $50,000 match provided by the William Edgar Foundation, a $30,000 grant from the Taum Sauk Fund, and more than $7,000 in community donations, was used for the platform’s construction.

At the time the city was awarded the matching grant the projected cost of building the platform was $314,212.25. Adding a 15 percent contingency, the grand total of the proposed project was expected to come in at $361,344.09. Not included in that amount was the 25-year lease from Union Pacific on the platform grounds and all electrical items, such as lights.

Facing a financial shortfall, State Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-Potosi, and Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, announced that MoDOT had secured $100,000 in federal transportation funds to complete the Amtrak stop. In addition to the MoDOT Transportation Enhancement Grant, the project was partially funded by Iron County Economic Partnership and the William Edgar Foundation.

When the day finally arrived for Amtrak’s Texas Eagle to make its first stop at the AV train station, Kelsheimer stood before the assembled crowd and said, “I just have to tell you that my heart is so full today that this project has finally been completed and we’re ready to start bringing people to the valley. It’s hard to tell you what I’m feeling, but I’m just really blessed with having all of you come out here today.

“I don’t know how many of you have had the chance to walk out on [the platform], but it’s absolutely beautiful. We’ve had so many people that put so much time into this ? volunteer work, contractors ? but it’s just a beautiful asset to this community. There’s been many, many people involved in the project and today we’d like to recognize all of you for making this dream come true at Arcadia Valley.”

It’s because of Kelsheimer’s hard work and dogged determination that Amtrak credits her “persistence and business savvy” with making the initiative a success.

An Amtrak statement regarding the project’s complexity read: “As president of OTT, the owner of the station property and existing historic depot, she managed the communities of Arcadia, Ironton and Pilot Knob in raising funds from stakeholders and working with contractors to construct the required platform. Throughout the project, Kelsheimer remained open-minded and quick to learn about the railroad.”

According to Amtrak, the Arcadia station is projected to attract approximately 7,500 new rail customers per year. A handful of new restaurants have already opened nearby, and shuttle services are developing to take tourists to local state parks that include Elephant Rocks State Park and Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park.

“We’re doing good,” Kelsheimer said. “We keep track of the ridership there at the station and, according to our count, we’ve had more than 830 riders since November, which I think is fantastic.”

Our Town Tomorrow President Carol Kelsheimer stands beside Amtrak President/CEO Wick Moorman after being presented the

Our Town Tomorrow President Carol Kelsheimer stands beside Amtrak President/CEO Wick Moorman after being presented the “Champion of the Rails” award at a June 22 ceremony held in Washington, D.C. Kelsheimer was the driving force behind bringing Amtrak passenger service to the Arcadia Valley.

An excited crowd of approximately 200 people gathers <span><p class=at the Arcadia Valley Train Station on the night of Nov. 17 as Amtrak’s Texas Eagle makes its first stop in Iron County. Amtrak estimates the new station is projected to attract around 7,500 new rail customers per year.” width=”800″ /> An excited crowd of approximately 200 people gathers at the Arcadia Valley Train Station on the night of Nov. 17 as Amtrak’s Texas Eagle makes its first stop in Iron County. Amtrak estimates the new station is projected to attract around 7,500 new rail customers per year.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

Leave a Comment