Vol. 2, Issue 9, March 2, 2004
Education for the Otiose
The Sleaze

Archeologists Find Amtrak Not Extinct After All

In the most surprising find since the re-emergence of the coelacanth fish in the early 20th century, a team of archeologists from the University of New Mexico has stumbled upon evidence that Amtrak is not extinct, as was widely presumed, but is in fact alive and well.

"We were following some old tracks which a graduate student discovered in 2001," said Gordon Wiley, professor of archeology at UNM. "We started a dig intended to reconstruct a map of commonly used Amtrak routes in the Southwest. It's an ongoing collaborative project between a consortium of universities. We were most surprised when a genuine train came barrelling down the tracks."

Amtrak is an American train company created in 1971 in an effort to revitalize the long-flagging railroad industry, which had been pushed to the brink of oblivion by competition from growing airlines and an increasingly sophisticated roadway system. Although Amtrak made some headlines, its performance remained lackluster and it continued to dwindle through the end of the decade. There has not been a confirmed sighting of an Amtrak train since 1983.

"We are pleased to learn that this great piece of American history has survived, and pledge that we will do what we can to preserve its habitat," said Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. "Of course, with times being what they are, it would really be a much better idea if the private sector took charge of this endeavor."

Unlike the freight trains which still traverse the nation, Amtrak trains are outfitted to carry passengers and bear distinct red and blue markings which, it is hypothesized, are a defensive mechanism of some sort. There has long been considerable speculation as to the nature of the Amtrak people's society; archeological evidence has suggested that train employees, commonly referred to as Amtrakians, enjoyed a surfeit of benefits and a reasonably sedentary lifestyle.

"The most complete Amtrak train previously known is the one discovered in the La Brea tar pits," said Wiley. "The evidence found in that specimen offered many tantalizing hints about the lost Amtrakian tribes; we are ecstatic to have found a living example of this culture."

Apparently, the Amtrak train sighted was nearly empty, and the inhabitants did not appear very friendly.

"The leader, or "conductor," made motions to me which seemed to indicate that he felt I was invading his territory," said Charlene Stiles, a graduate student who participated in the dig. "I moved slowly away from the tracks in order to demonstrate my intentions, but he still didn't seem pleased to see me."

By following the tracks, Wiley and his team were able to determine that the train's home territory is concealed near Albuquerque. A team of anthropologists is being assembled to approach and evaluate the Amtrak habitat, but scholars caution that it may take time to establish whether this enclave is just one of several surviving Amtrak centers or whether it is an anomalous holdout of an otherwise extinct culture.

"There will always be a place in America for historical icons such as Amtrak," said Mineta. "Maybe we can set up a reservation or something. I'll talk with the BIA."


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