When the Kelso Flyer left the train station in Barstow and passed wild canyons, towering sand dunes and rocky mountain ranges on its journey into the heart of the East Mojave, it carried people packed with expectations.
The train picked up speed leaving the station, and riders pressed their faces to the glass. Some were looking to see something spectacular in the undisturbed desert, while others sought affirmation that there’s an untapped market for rail trips here.
For the one-time trip earlier this month from Los Angeles to Kelso, a historic rail stop in the Mojave National Preserve, Amtrak loaned a locomotive and two cars, and train buffs provided four vintage cars to carry people on the first passenger trip into the East Mojave since 1997. Promoters hoped the train, with its load of public officials, media and train fans, would build interest — and financial support — for their idea to offer regular, one-day tourist trips to Kelso.
“We did it; we pulled it off,” said Carol Randall, one of the trip’s organizers, clutching a handrail above her head as the train jostled, picking up speed across the flat land.