Amtrak is the national passenger rail system, created in 1970 by the United States Congress to assume the responsibility for operating passenger trains and relieving the private freight railroads of the cost of their money-losing operation. A quasi-governmental agency created under the working name of "Railpax", it assumed control of the slimmed-down national passenger rail network on May 1, 1971 as "Amtrak". It is chartered as the National Rail Passenger Corporation, however.
Amtrak operates over more than 22,000 route miles and serves over 500 stations in 46 states.
Clemson, South Carolina, located on the Southern Railway mainline between Washington, D.C. and Atlanta, Georgia, continued to be served by the privately-operated "Southern Crescent" passenger route for eight years after Amtrak was created, however, as W. Graham Claytor, Jr., the president of the Southern, did not judge the infant Amtrak capable of maintaining the Southern's level of service. At the time of Amtrak's founding, the Southern was absorbing annual losses for their passenger service of $2.7 million, which the company was willing to subsidize out of freight profits.
By 1978, though, the losses had risen to $8.3 million annually and with an aging fleet of rolling stock, most cars dating to the late 1940's and 1950's, the company finally decided to hand over the train route to Amtrak. "Train-off" hearings were held in affected communities in 1978, and on January 31, 1979 the last runs of the private "Southern Crescent" departed from Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, Louisiana, passing each other in the early morning hours of February 1st near Salisbury, North Carolina. Amtrak assumed operation of the route the following day. Renamed simply the "Crescent", the train continues to offer daily service to Atlanta and Washington, D.C. A few former Southern Railway dining cars continue to operate in the Amtrak fleet in 2012.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, service to New Orleans was suspended with the train terminating in Meridian, Mississippi, but operation into the Crescent City resumed on October 9, 2005. The present day Crescent runs on Norfolk Southern trackage from New Orleans to Alexandria, CSX trackage from Alexandria to Washington, and Amtrak trackage from Washington to New York.
Reservation and train on-time information can be obtained by dialing 1-800-USA-RAIL. Listen for "Hi, I'm Julie. Let's get started." The southbound Crescent in the morning is Train 19, scheduled to arrive at Clemson at 5:39 a.m., and the northbound Crescent in the late evening is Train 20, scheduled at Clemson at 10:16 p.m., as of the timetable effective November 7, 2011. Stations served by trains 19/20:
New Orleans, LA
High Point, NC
New York, NY