Railvt is the screen name of Carl Fowler, who resides in Williston, VT. My mother was a Pullman Reservationist at Pennsylvania Station in New York from 1939 until I was born in 1947 and my father was also briefly employed by the Pennsy Passenger Reservations Bureau, before becoming a travel agent. Mother always regretted having to leave the PRR, but in those days if a female employee had a child she was "out" until the child was grown-up. By then the family had moved to Florida and this option was closed.
Although I worked full-time in the sale of rail travel from 1982 to 2010 (and continue to do so part-time in "semi-retirement") I was only once directly employed by the railroads. In high-school I was a regular train-spotter visitor to the Winter Park, Florida depot of the then Atlantic Coast Line/Seaboard Coast Line RR. After years of watching me watch the West Coast Champion, (and after the FEC strike in 1963) the City of Miami, the South Wind and the Silver Star, the Winter Park agent, W.A. "Bill" Lapinski decided to get some work out of the kid, and put me on the Railway Express payroll for the winter of 1964/65 as a part-time REA Express clerk. The fun part was being allowed to call the arrivals of the great streamliners on the PA and serve as an informal "red cap". The hard-part was loading crates of oranges as LCL/REA Express, being shipped back home by winter visitors to central Florida.
My father retired and moved the family to Florida in 1958. In 1963/64 I went to school back in New York and got to ride from Winter Park to New York five times a year and tried to use a different set of trains/routes virtually every time. With the generous "Diverse Routings" offered by the railroads in those days you could go from Winter Park to New York not only directly on the West Coast Champion, but also via Atlanta, or on the SAL north of Jacksonville and for very little more even via Cincinnati or Chattanooga.Once I had a "strip ticket" with 16 coupons to cover a wild routing!
I went to college in Denver from 1965 to 1969 and really enjoyed the "Diverse Routes" option then, venturing via New Orleans, Kansas City, Chicago on every imaginable route and once even all the way to Los Angeles and up to San Francisco enroute to Denver for only about $80 more than the direct fare.
This allowed me to experience trains as varied as the (debased) Sunset Limited, with only an Automat Car for a diner and the pitiful remnant of the Rocky Mountain Rocket a month before its demise (with only a lounge car for food-service from Denver all the way to Chicago and a menu offering a choice of ham sandwiches and nothing else), contrasted with the glorious dome diners on the City of Los Angles and the City of Portland/City of Denver and/or the "Turquoise Room" on the Super Chief.
I had repeated trips on the Denver Zephyr when it still routinely ran in the mid-1960s in two sections on weekends and at school holiday times, on the California Zephyr and in the east on the still remarkable 20th Century Limited, the never degraded Phoebe Snow, the Broadway Limited and on the B&O version of the Capital Limited. Although all 1960s services were fading from their best post-war state in the mid-1950s, the quality of service (and the variety of equipment decor) was a marvel that alas will not come again.
I also had (too many) last run trips, including the final Rio Grande Prospector and Yampa Valley Mail trains (I bought the last ticket ever sold in Craig, CO seconds before the final train left), on the last eastbound Santa Fe Chief, and on the final Erie-Lackawanna Lake Cities, to name a few of too many sad runs.
With the family's love for rail I early got the train travel bug and have ridden trains worldwide for well over 350,000 miles. My clients support of my tour company generously enabled me to experience trains from Zimbabwe and South Africa to Churchill, China, Norway and Alaska. For this I will be eternally grateful. I still want to "collect" India, the Trans-Siberian and Thailand to Singapore, but I was so lucky to run a business that enabled me not only to ride trains virtually everywhere, but to share that with so many thousands of wonderful tour participants.
I was beyond lucky in the job I've held since 1982. I got to do what I most loved--sell rail travel and lead train trips and obviously because our tours sold well someone else largely paid for it! I've tried to return the kindness of so many loyal clients by working very hard at the tour escorting function and by sharing my knowledge of rail (and non-rail) history and geography with our tour participants. As a child I was painfully shy, but to my own surprise I was never afraid to talk to new people on trains and in a very real sense rail travel changed my life. You never know!
I created Rail Travel Center Tours in 1982. Today the business name has changed to Rail Travel Adventures. I was the Vice President/General Manager of Rail Travel Center and am the President today of Rail Travel Adventures. RTC/RTA is one of only a handful of US-based rail tour operators and has run trips all over the world, including the first US operated rail tours of Vietnam, Morocco and parts of the former Eastern Bloick of ex-Soviet satelite countries.RTA remains a specialist in tours to the USA, Canada, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
In 2012 I "semi-retired", but plan to continue operating a limited number of trips each year, after taking a year to relax, enjoy my family and chase trains in 2013. The RTA website is www.railtraveladventures.com. Over its history RTC/RTA has moved over 12,000 passengers on tours by train. RTC was proud to have won Amtrak's "Golden Spike" Award for outstanding Amtrak sales performance for thirteen years. I served for several years in 1990s on Amtrak's Travel Industry Automation Advisory Committee, a recognition for RTC's success in Amtrak sales.
I was a member of theNARP Board for 18 years, with 8 on its Executive Committee. I am currently the Vermont member of the NARP Council, the successor to the former Board structure. In 1989 I testified before the Transport Committee of the Canadian House of Commons, in addition to my US efforts in passenger rail advocacy.
I also do rail passenger service consulting and independent rail tour design for other companies through CHF Rail Consulting LLC. I am a member of the Vermont Rail Advisory Council, which advises the state of Vermont's Agency of Transportation on its two Amtrak services, the VERMONTER and the ETHAN ALLEN EXPRESS. In 1994 my open letter to the newspapers in Vermont and to the Congressional Delegation/Legislature, advocating a day-train called the VERMONTER, helped to convince then Vermont Governor Dean and previously reluctant Vermont Agency of Transportation officials to support the continuance of Amtrak service in Vermont when the MONTREALER overnight service was discontinued. The schedule pattern I proposed then and the service model suggested remains to this day. This is the accomplishment I am most proud of in my career.
I am a member of NARP, the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts, the Champlain Valley, DC and Intermountain Chapters of the NRHS, the Swiss Railways Society and the B&O and Colorado Railroad Museums. I collect railroad books and memorabilia, particularly public timetables, dining car menus and passenger service promotional materials.