The Amtrak train -- normally called "The Crescent" but today dubbed "The Train of Hope" -- arrived at Newark Pen[n] Station just before 1 p.m., carrying 27 pallets of diapers, canned goods, cleaning products, blankets, batteries flashlights and everything else volunteers in Slidell, many of them victims of Hurricane Katrina, could think of.Some things have changed. Slidell is the first of a number of unstaffed flag-stop stations for Amtrak's Southern Crescent, thus the good people of Slidell had to schlep their shipment to New Orleans for loading on the baggage car. The tariff stipulates that "items heavier than 50 lbs (23 kg) must be on a pallet." The goods could be delivered to Newark Penn or to New York Penn, but express shipments cannot originate at New York Penn. Odd. The baggage rooms and freight elevators of the original station are still in place, well out of the view of the dashing commuters.
"We got the idea at about midnight last Thursday," said Kim Bergeron, the director of cultural and public affairs for Slidell, a city of about 30,000 located 34 miles northeast of New Orleans.
People from Slidell enlisted the cooperation of Amtrak, and mayors of several metro New Jersey cities organized their constituents to off-load and distribute the goods.
The news report suggested 20 arrived Newark on time or a little ahead of schedule. Well done.