The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, dealing as AMTRAK (reporting marks AMTK, AMTZ), is a passenger railroad service that offers medium and long-distance intercity transportation in the United States and nine cities in Canada. Founded in 1971, AMTK began as a quasi-public corporation to operate U.S. passenger rail services. While it is managed as a for-profit organization, AMTK receives state and federal subsidies. Amtrak is headquartered in Washington, D.C, and serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states and three provinces in Canada; and operates more than 300 trains daily over 21,400 miles (34,000 km) of track. Approximately 623 miles of this track are owned by Amtrak, as it operates an additional 132 miles of track. Trains are allowed to run as fast as 150mph (240 km/h) on some track sections (


The name Amtrak was formed from the combination of two words, America and track; the track is a sensational spelling of track. At its inception, Amtrak received no rail tracks or right-of-way. Although Amtrak pruned almost half of the passenger rail network, all of its routes were continuations of previous services. Amtrak continued only 184 of the 366 trains which operated previously (Cook, 1971). On the continued routes, schedules remain the same with only a few minor changes from the Official Guide of the Railways and under the same names.


As required by law, Amtrak operates a national route system. Amtrak is present in 46 of the 48 contiguous states (the states missing are Wyoming and South Dakota). Amtrak’s services can be categorized into three; short-haul service on the Northeast Corridor, state-supported short-haul service outside the Northeast Corridor, and medium- and long-haul service known within Amtrak as the National Network. For a large portion of its operations, Amtrak receives federal funding. Some of these operations include the northeast corridor and the National Network routes. Amtrak collaborates with other transportation companies in 18 states to run other short and medium-haul routes outside the Northeast Corridor in addition to its federally funded routes. Amtrak, in addition to its inter-city services, operates commuter services for three state agencies, including MARC in Maryland, Shore Line East in Connecticut, and Metrolink in California.


In 1972, Amtrak’s first full year of operation, Amtrak carried almost 15 million passengers. Ridership has seen steady growth since then, with a record 31.7 million passengers in the year 2017, which was double the figure of its first year. Additionally, through its various commuter services, Amtrak serves up to 61 million passengers annually in a joint effort with state and regional authorities in California (through Amtrak California and Metrolink), Connecticut (through Shore Line East), and Maryland (through MARC). In some cases, Amtrak will share trackage rights with independent commuter services. Examples include California (through Caltrain), and Illinois (through Metra).


  • “ – Amtrak’s Track”. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  • Cook, Louise (May 1, 1971). “Many famous trains roll into history”. Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. p. 1.

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