Golden Spike Award
Dating back to the 1960s, NARP’s Golden Spike honors work done to advance the cause of a robust national rail system in the U.S. It has been given to celebrities, elected officials, and others who have made important contributions to passenger rail service.
Going back to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, golden spikes were used by railroads in ceremonies to mark the completion of important projects.
George Falcon, publisher of Key magazine (an entertainment and dining guide for the Los Angeles and Orange County area), got the idea for the Golden Spike Award in the mid-1960's from actress Debbie Reynolds, a train lover whose father worked as a conductor on the Southern Pacific Railroad. She was the first recipient. The second recipient was Walt Disney. Since then, the Golden Spike has been given to celebrities, elected officials, and others who have made important contributions to the passenger rail cause.
The award itself originally was just a golden spike. Going back to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, golden spikes were used by railroads in ceremonies to mark the completion of important projects. By the 1970's, the award became a golden spike mounted on a wooden plaque with a brass inscription plate.
Mr. Falcon was an active early member of NARP, which was founded in 1967. As he became more active in NARP, the Golden Spike evolved into a NARP award. Since 1984, the NARP Board of Directors Executive Committee has approved all choices for recipients. Mr. Falcon continued to provide the awards and publicize them in Key through 2003, the year he passed away.
Recipients of the Golden Spike Award
2016 - Senator John Thune (R-SD)
2016 - Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS)
2015 - Joseph Szabo
The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) presented its Golden Spike Award to Joseph Szabo. Szabo, who served as Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) administrator from May 2009 to November 2014, is a fifth-generation railroader who was the first crewman and first union member to head the agency that oversees the U.S. rail system.
During his term at FRA, Szabo focused on improving the safety of freight and passenger railroads by implementing rules designed to improve fatigue management and training requirements for workers, change rail inspection procedures and heighten awareness around trains. He also championed the agency’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, attending a groundbreaking ceremony to start construction of California’s high-speed rail just days before leaving FRA.
2014 - Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
NARP presented Representative Kevin Cramer of North Dakota with the prestigious Golden Spike Award for his strong support of passenger trains and transit, both locally and across the U.S. Only having been in office since January 2013, Cramer has already played an outsized role in keeping America’s trains on track. The North Dakota native helped shine a spotlight on the oil-by-rail freight train congestion that was causing serious delays to Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which serves as a critical transportation connection to tens of thousands of North Dakotans. “I am honored to receive such a prestigious award,” said Representative Cramer.“The Golden Spike carries a rich history in our nation and state. North Dakota is in the eye of the storm as growing demand for rail to move industrial products, commodities and the most precious cargo, people, is highlighting safety concerns like never before. I join my colleagues in insisting on transparency as the industry and the government work together to ensure safety is the highest priority on the tracks.”
2013 - Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) presented Rep. Peter DeFazio with its Golden Spike Award today for his long-time support of passenger rail in America and the work done on behalf of train passengers in the Pacific Northwest.
Mr. DeFazio has long advocated for the importance of a robust, energy-efficient intermodal transportation system, and has been a leader in pushing for a strong passenger train network over his 25-year career in the U.S. Congress.
His work for better trains and transit in the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure—from Amtrak’s intercity services to downtown streetcars—is part of the reason why trains have experienced a renaissance in the past 15 years. This renaissance has directly benefited the people of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, who have access to additional frequencies on the popular Amtrak Cascades service (Eugene – Portland – Seattle, WA – Vancouver, B.C.), and have seen upgrades and improvements thanks to strong investment from federal and state government.
Steady levels of investment in transit also led to a light rail boom—in Portland, Oregon, and the U.S. in general. The private sector has responded to this public initiative, and in 2007, Oregon Iron Works became the first American company to manufacture streetcars in more than 50 years.
2013 - Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) honored Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois yesterday with the prestigious Golden Spike Award, for his long time support of passenger trains and transit, both in the Midwest and across the U.S.
Over the past 13 years, Senator Kirk has been a forward-thinking leader on transportation in the U.S. Congress. During his time in the House, he was a champion for legislation that would have created a funding source for clean, energy-efficient transportation such as passenger trains. The Senator has played a vanguard role in developing a policy framework that encourages Public-Private Partnerships, a necessary element for the 21st Century infrastructure that American businesses need to compete globally.
2012 - Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA)
The National Association of Railroad Passengers presented Representative Patrick Meehan with the Golden Spike Award this week, for his outstanding work in supporting intercity passenger rail, commuter rail, and transit.
“So many Americans, particularly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, rely on our nation’s railways each day. Which is why it’s so important that we protect this mode of transportation,” said Congressman Meehan. “I’m honored to receive this award from NARP and will continue my commitment to ensuring safe and efficient transportation systems in this country.”
As a Republican member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure—and specifically, the T&I Subcommittee on Railroads—Congressman Meehan plays a key role in ensuring that American families and businesses have access to a world class infrastructure system. Representative Meehan has worked hard to ensure that the Committee finds the right balance between the pressing investment needs of U.S. infrastructure and a tight fiscal environment.
2012 - Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers presented Senator Daniel Inouye the Golden Spike Award for his long and unflagging support of American passenger trains.
“I would like to thank the National Association of Railroad Passengers for this honor. I am truly humbled. For more than a century, passenger rail service has been a safe and reliable means for the citizens of our great nation to move about the country. I will continue to do everything I can in the Congress to support this important mode of transportation,” said Senator Inouye.
Despite the absence of Amtrak service in his state, Inouye has been a staunch defender of Amtrak, allowing the company to grow its ridership to the record levels seen over the past decade. In his work as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, he played a key role in the passage of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) of 2008—the first Amtrak authorization passed by Congress since 1997. PRIIA created a number of important programs, including creating a federal grant program for states to support infrastructure upgrades for passenger trains and establishing the Next Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee.
Senator Inouye has also been an invaluable advocate for the Honolulu Rail Transit Project, scheduled to open in 2015. The rail line will help Honolulu deal with a growing population and economy; the service will accommodate 116,300 weekday passenger trips and save an estimated 40,000 car trips per day by the year 2030.
2011- Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
Washington, DC—The National Association of Railroad Passengers presented its Golden Spike Award to Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) May 3 at the Association’s annual Capitol Hill reception. Rep. Slaughter is a long-time supporter of passenger trains in general and Amtrak in particular.
NARP President and CEO Ross B. Capon said, “Through her leadership over many years, and this year in founding the Bi-cameral High Speed and Intercity Rail Caucus, Congresswoman Slaughter has shown the steadfast political courage it will take to create a modern passenger rail system, bringing the many benefits of trains to Americans across the nation.” The Caucus, which she co-chairs, is made up of Senate and House high-speed rail advocates from across the country.
In her home state of New York, Slaughter has worked tirelessly to bring high-speed rail to the Empire Corridor, with special emphasis on the Buffalo-Albany segment. She understands that by connecting Upstate New York to the Northeast Corridor and to Canada, the Empire State will take advantage of one of the largest trade corridors in the world. She envisions high-speed rail to be the next Erie Canal for Upstate New York and has organized her colleagues into the Upstate Congressional Caucus to advocate in one voice for increased funding.
2011 - Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Washington, DC—The National Association of Railroad Passengers yesterday presented Golden Spike Awards to Maine’s two U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. The two Republicans were honored for their work in support of passenger train service generally and of Amtrak’s highly successful Downeaster, which has run between Boston, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine, since 2001.
“Both Snowe and Collins have exerted every effort to establish, improve and extend Downeaster, which serves as a vital transportation link and economic development generator for the many communities it connects,” said NARP Chairman Bob Stewart of the senators. They have served over 16 and 14 years in the Senate, respectively. NARP President Ross Capon and Council Member Wayne Davis assisted in the presentation; Davis also is chairman of TrainRiders/Northeast.
2009 - Rep. John Mica (R-FL)
Washington, DC—The National Association of Railroad Passengers will present the George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Representative John Mica (R-FL) during the Association’s Annual Congressional Reception tomorrow evening in Washington, DC.
Rep. Mica has made it “a personal mission to see that the United States has world class high-speed trains…” according to the text on the award plaque. As Republican Leader on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Mica played a key role leading to the October, 2008, enactment of the Rail Safety/Amtrak reauthorization.
His strong support for the development of Central Florida Commuter Rail, also called SunRail, illustrates the breadth of his support for rail. Quoting the plaque text again, “His passion for expanding the roles of all forms of rail-transit, passenger and freight-has been crucial in laying the groundwork for that expansion.”
2009 - Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)
Washington, DC—The National Association of Railroad Passengers will present the George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) tomorrow morning.
Senator Reid has been a long-time supporter of passenger trains in general and Amtrak in particular.
NARP President and CEO Ross B. Capon said, “As Majority Leader, Senator Reid played a key role leading to the October, 2008, enactment of the Rail Safety/Amtrak reauthorization. This year, his work was critical to inclusion of a strong passenger train component in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.”
2008 - Rep. John Olver (D-MA)
Washington D.C., April 30, 2008—The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) announced today that U.S. Representative John Olver (D-MA) is a recipient of the 2008 George Falcon Golden Spike Award. The award honors individuals for their contributions to the advancement of passenger rail.
Olver is chairman of, and former ranking member on, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.
“He has consistently been an articulate voice in favor of a balanced transportation system in which passenger trains play a growing role,” said NARP Executive Director Ross Capon.
Chairman Olver said, “I am honored to receive this award. First as the Ranking Member of the transportation appropriations subcommittee, and now as the Chairman, I have looked for ways to ensure that intercity passenger rail plays an integral part of our nation’s transportation policy. Our population has reached record levels, and the challenges created by this growth – congested highways and airspace, increased travel delays, and environmental degradation – are clear. It should also be clear that we cannot build our way out of these mobility problems with new roads and airports alone. Intercity passenger rail must be part of the solution.”
Chairman Olver’s work has been particularly appreciated by NARP, which last June introduced a vision for a grid-and-gateway network of interconnected transportation options that would encourage and link state corridor projects such as those championed by Congressman Olver. This vision was broadly endorsed by a federal blue-ribbon commission, which additionally recommended funding and legislative options that would help implement this network.
2008 - Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR)
Washington D.C., April 30, 2008—The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) announced today that U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) is a recipient of the 2008 George Falcon Golden Spike Award. The award honors individuals for their contributions to the advancement of passenger rail.
Senator Smith has been a strong supporter of passenger train development, both intercity and commuter. He played a key role in advancing the Westside Express Service Commuter Rail Project-—diesel powered trains that will connect with and extend the reach of the Portland MAX light rail system in Washington County. Oregon. The senator also has worked to bring parties together in an effort to save freight train service on Oregon’s threatened Coos Bay line.
Last June, NARP introduced a vision for a grid-and-gateway network of interconnected transportation options that would encourage and link state corridor projects such as those that have blossomed in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. NARP’s vision was broadly endorsed by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, which additionally recommended funding and legislative options that would help implement this network.
Restoration of service between Portland, Eastern Oregon points, and Boise/Salt Lake City/the East is in both the NARP vision and the Commission’s “2030 intercity passenger rail network” (page 4-23 of the Commission’s December, 2007, report, Transportation for Tomorrow.
2007 - Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT)
Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) announced today that U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg (R-MT) is a recipient of the George Falcon Golden Spike Award, which honors individuals for their contributions to the advancement of passenger rail.
Rep. Rehberg was honored for his sustained leadership in funding intercity passenger rail. He chairs the Congressional Rail Caucus and was instrumental in securing funding for Amtrak in the last appropriations bill, fighting off amendments that would have crippled the railroad, or eliminated long distance trains.
“Even in his earliest days as a freshman member of Congress, Representative Rehberg spoke out clearly and forcefully against efforts to bankrupt and shut down Amtrak, steadfastly supporting both Montana’s Empire Builder and the entire national network,” said NARP Executive Director Ross Capon. “Every railroad passenger in Montana – and in America – each day reaps the benefits of Congressman Rehberg’s hard work.”
“Rail service is vital to Montana, where rural communities need affordable transportation and where many people have no access to airports or bus service,” said Rehberg. “However, this service is often overlooked. It’s important our western voice is heard on rail-related issues. As Montana’s lone Congressman, I’m proud to lead the charge in ensuring the needs of Montana’s, and our nation’s, rail lines are met. I look forward to continuing to work with NARP to ensure financial stability for America’s rail system.”
Rehberg also noted Amtrak accounts for over $3.2 million in wages for the Montana economy, while direct spending by Amtrak travelers in Montana is estimated at more than $5.3 million annually.
2007 - Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) announced today that U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) is a recipient of the George Falcon Golden Spike Award. The award honors individuals for their contributions to the advancement of passenger rail.
Senator Durbin has worked diligently to ensure adequate funding and operational support for commuter and intercity passenger rail, utilizing his own enthusiasm as well as his leadership and committee roles in the House and later the Senate to secure funding for Amtrak, expand state-supported service through Illinois, and protect long-distance trains during transportation funding debates.
“Since he came to Congress more than two decades ago, Senator Durbin has been among the strongest supporters of intercity passenger rail and of rail safety. His leadership made possible the expansion of Amtrak service in Illinois last year, leading to a near-doubling of ridership on those lines,” said NARP Executive Director Ross Capon.
“Rail expansion is moving in the right direction while creating jobs, promoting travel and spurring economic development,” said Durbin. “The state’s commitment to fund Amtrak is a wise investment into our transportation future. I am honored to receive this award and proud to have played a part in creating this partnership that has helped boost service to Illinois residents.”
2006 - Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL)
Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers this year presented its George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Corrine Brown. When the opponents of our national rail passenger network put forward their strongest challenge, Rep. Brown’s eloquence in defending our national rail passenger network was invaluable. Her role in helping Congress respond in a positive, fact-based manner to the public’s desire for a national rail passenger system is greatly appreciated.
2006 - Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH)
Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers this year presented its George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Representative Steve LaTourette. Chairman LaTourette’s work to defend and improve our national rail passenger network has been invaluable. His leadership in helping Congress respond positively to the public’s desire for a national rail passenger system under difficult circumstances is greatly appreciated.
2006 - Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV)
Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers this year presented its George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Senator Byrd. It's been more than three decades since Senator Byrd began defending and advocating for the national rail passenger network. His work has been critical to preserving the system in general, and service to West Virginia, northern Kentucky and southern Ohio in particular. We are grateful to him for remaining a steadfast supporter over these many years.
2006 - Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)
Washington, D.C.—The National Association of Railroad Passengers this year presented its George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Senator Lott for being an outspoken defender of our national rail passenger network. His tireless work for practical reforms to improve that network’s viability and to expand service has been invaluable.
2004 - Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R.-N.Y.)
For work over many years for high speed rail development and for our national rail passenger system
2004 - Sen. Tom Carper (D.-Del.)
For work to include rail titles in surface transportation legislation and in general to keep nationwide rail service.
2003 - Rep. C. W. Bill Young (R.-Fla.)
The National Association of Railroad Passengers will present its George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Rep. C. W. Bill Young (R.-Fla.) tonight. The award will be presented at the Association's annual Washington reception, in the Starlight Room in Union Station. The reception is from 6:00 to 8:00 pm and Representative Young is expected to receive the award at about 6:30.
The award is presented in appreciation for Representative Young's "key role" as House Appropriations Chairman "in preventing an Amtrak shutdown last summer and in providing a reasonable funding level for the current fiscal year." The wording on the plaque continues, "His leadership in a challenging political environment has helped preserve for Americans transportation choices that are more important than ever, and a network that can serve as a foundation for the truly balanced transportation system that so many Americans want."
2003 - Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.)
The National Association of Railroad Passengers will present its George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) tonight. The award will be presented at the Association's annual Washington reception, in the Starlight Room in Union Station. The reception is from 6:00 to 8:00 pm and Senator Murray is expected to receive the award at about 6:30.
The award is presented in appreciation for Senator Murray's "hard work" last summer as Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee "to prevent a shutdown of Amtrak or of its individual routes." The wording on the plaque also notes her work this year, as Ranking Member of the same subcommittee, "to provide a reasonable funding level for the current Fiscal year."
NARP President Alan M. Yorker said, "The Association appreciates Senator Murray's perseverance during the difficult situations of the past year. Additionally, Senator Murray's strong support for mass transit helps move this country towards a balanced transportation system that gives its citizens, wherever they may live, the travel choices they want and need."
2002 - Doras Briggs
The National Association of Railroad Passengers today honors its long-time board member Doras Briggs for her untiring efforts to expand citizen efforts to support our national rail passenger network, and for her efforts spearheading the creation of the California station host program.
The Association's George Falcon Golden Spike Award will be presented to Ms. Briggs at about 6:20 pm today (Friday) at a reception at the California State Railroad Museum (roundhouse) in Sacramento. The reception is held in conjunction with the association's national board meeting Friday-Saturday in Emeryville.
2002 - Rep. Jack Quinn (R-NY)
The National Association of Railroad Passengers will present its George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Rep. Jack Quinn (R.-N.Y.) tonight. The award will be presented at the Association's annual Washington reception, in the Starlight Room in Union Station. The reception is from 6:00 to 8:00 pm and Representative Quinn is expected to receive the award at about 6:30 pm.
The award is presented "in appreciation for his strong efforts to maintain and improve America's National Intercity Passenger Rail Network." The wording on the plaque continues, "As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Rep. Quinn begins hearings by saying he is a strong Amtrak supporter. He has worked in support of an authorization with adequate funding to continue Amtrak's nationwide network, and played a key role in securing federal funds for a modern station for downtown Buffalo. His characteristic talent for getting people to work together to solve problems is invaluable."
NARP President Alan M. Yorker said, "The Association appreciates Chairman Quinn's strong efforts to maintain and improve a nationwide passenger rail system in the United States. Often reminding listeners, 'you get what you pay for,' he has acknowledged a major impediment -- inadequate funding of passenger rail, compared to competing modes. Chairman Quinn has pledged not to allow passenger rail in this country to disintegrate."
2002 - Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.)
The National Association of Railroad Passengers will present the George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D.-S.C.). Debbie Hersman of his staff will accept the invitation on his behalf shortly after 6:00 p.m. this evening at the Association's annual Washington reception in the Starlight Room at Union Station. The reception runs from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.
The text on the award calls Senator Hollings "a leading advocate for saving and upgrading our national intercity passenger rail network and for developing high speed rail corridors." The plaque continues, noting that, even after the events of September 11, 2001, obstacles to balanced transportation policy continue, which makes the Senator's "role as advocate extremely important."
NARP President Alan M. Yorker said, "Ernest Hollings' position as Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee makes his support of passenger rail even more important. Chairman Hollings' support goes far beyond mere promises to consider a constituent's position in making voting decisions, but extends to writing and pursuing vital passenger rail legislation, and forcefully making the case for passenger rail on the Senate floor. We are pleased to support the Chairman's pending bill, S.1991, the National Defense Rail Act, because it goes the farthest toward improving and expanding nationwide passenger rail service."
2001 - John R. Martin
The National Association of Railroad Passengers today will present its first annual John R. Martin Passenger Rail Advocacy Award to Leif Erik Lange of Elk Grove, Cal. The award, established in honor of the Association's late president, will be given at the Association's annual Washington reception, at the Columbus Club in Union Station, this evening at about 6:30 pm.
Lange is a former board member and vice president of the association. The award recognizes his "over 20 years of dedicated commitment to, and work for, the improvement and expansion of rail passenger service." He also has been a board member of the Train Riders' Association of California, a rail planner at the California Department of Transportation, and a staff member of the California Assembly Transportation Committee.
The plaque continues, "Mr. Lange's professional and personal efforts were critical to the significant growth in California passenger train service-both intercity and commuter rail-that occurred over the past two decades. His work helped lay the foundation for further growth in the years to come." Lange's involvement included writing rail-friendly bills that were passed by the Legislature, and helping the effort to pass ballot issues that provided billions for passenger rail in California.
2000 - Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D.-N.J.)
Washington--The National Association of Railroad Passengers tomorrow will present the George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ). The award will be presented at the Association's annual Washington reception, at the Columbus Club in Union Station, on Thursday, April 27, at about 6:30 pm.
This is the first time that the Golden Spike has gone to the same person twice: Lautenberg also received it in 1988. The plaque which will be presented to him tomorrow honors "a long, distinguished career of successfully and significantly increasing federal funding for passenger rail." The plaque continues, "He has also been a consistent leader in seeing that both New Jersey and the entire nation received a much stronger passenger rail system than would have been possible without his efforts."
NARP President John R. Martin, who will present the award, said, "The nation is the better for Frank Lautenberg's 18 years of service as a U.S. senator from New Jersey, and in particular for his persistence and his hard work on behalf of passenger rail. As it becomes increasingly obvious that roads and airports cannot by themselves meet our transportation needs, the value of the senator's work on passenger rail likewise will become more obvious to more people. We are pleased to honor a stalwart ally in the fight for better passenger rail."
NARP is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization that works for more and better passenger train service in the U.S.
2000 - Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH)
Washington -- The National Association of Railroad Passengers tomorrow will present the George Falcon Golden Spike Award to Senator George Voinovich (R-OH). The award will be presented at the Association's annual Washington reception, at the Columbus Club in Union Station, on Thursday, April 27, at about 6:30 pm.
Senator Voinovich will be honored because, quoting the plaque, he "has worked hard to secure for states the right to invest their federal transportation funds on intercity passenger rail projects. We appreciate his persistence in getting S.1144 adopted in committee and in working for passage of the bill."
NARP President John R. Martin, who will present the award, said, "Senator Voinovich deserves praise for his hard work to secure for states a right they should have been granted years ago. Three times in the past nine years, the Senate has voted to give states this right and the House has blocked final enactment. This is an idea whose time has come. We appreciate the persistence of Senator Voinovich and remain hopeful that success in the Senate this year will result in enactment, and thus mark an important step forward in the quest for balanced transportation."
1976 - Barron Hilton Sr.
For his services to American Travelers
1974 - Johnny Cash
For promoting train travel through his songs