Denver RTD, photo by C. Hamilton
Denver RTD, photo by C. Hamilton

2021 Train Treks

Despite the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, the first set of Train Treks covered many areas of Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana in the summer of 2021.

These meetings were conducted in-person and, where possible, shared electronically via Zoom.

Regional Events

As the centerpiece of the 2021 Train Treks, Dan Bilka, Patrick Carnahan and Charlie Hamilton participated in the 30th Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) Summit in Big Sky, Montana.

Charlie moderated PNWER’s first-ever Rail Forum; Patrick gave two presentations during the Forum alongside colleagues Dan Bilka, Elaine Clegg, David Strohmaier, Anna Zivarts, and Abe Zumwalt; and AAWA Government Affairs Director Luis Moscoso led a closing discussion with state representative Andrew Barkis of Washington and state senator Chris Gorsek of Oregon.

2021 East-West Train Trek

From August 12 - 21, 2021, Patrick and Charlie led a series of meetings across Washington and Idaho, in the communities of Edmonds, Everett, Leavenworth, Wenatchee, Yakima, Toppenish, Richland, Walla Walla, Spokane, Cheney, Ritzville, and Ellensburg, Washington; and Lewiston, Idaho.

Funding for this series was provided by All Aboard Washington, with additional support provided by AAWA donors.

2021 Colorado-Wyoming-Montana Train Trek


Image: Example of a “Train Trek” route taken by founder Dan Bilka in August, 2021.

From August 12 - 21, 2021, Dan Bilka conducted a number of meetings across Wyoming, in the communities of Cheyenne, Wheatland, Douglas, Thermopolis, Greybull, Evanston, Rawlins, and Laramie, with stop-overs and information requests with Worland, Wyoming.

This series was funded by Dan Bilka as an individual. No additional funding was received.

2021 South Dakota Train Trek

From June 28 - July 8, 2021, Dan Bilka conducted volunteer community outreach across South Dakota, in the communities of Salem, Mitchell, Plankinton, Chamberlain, Kennebec, Presho, Murdo, Kadoka, and Hot Springs.

This series was funded by Dan Bilka as an individual. No additional funding was received.

2021 Wyoming - South Dakota Train Trek

From August 26 - 30, 2021, Dan Bilka conducted in-person outreach across Wyoming and South Dakota, in the communities of Sheridan, Gillette, Moorcroft, Sundance and Lusk, Wyoming and Spearfish and Sturgis, South Dakota.

This series was funded by Dan Bilka as an individual. No additional funding was received.


Attendance and Participation

The Train Trek meetings were successful in attracting attendees (both via Zoom and in-person) who were actively or formerly involved in rail advocacy, who were unfamiliar with our work, or who wished to join a coalition in support of rail.

Improved Engagement with Local and Regional Coalition Partners

We worked together with partners like the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, the Rail Passengers Association, and Disability Rights Washington to spread the word about the opportunities that exist for advancing our cause.

Shared Work, Mission, and Vision

We succeeded in sharing our work, mission, and vision with local leaders in the communities we visited. We have significantly increased our visibility and contacts in central and eastern Washington, and have made several important connections with officials at the 2021 PNWER Summit. We have already received invitations to continue spreading our message in other locations during the months to come.

Identified New Potential Collaborators and Allies

We have a number of new local, state, regional, and international contacts who are interested in working with us to improve rail service across the Northwest.

Clarified Potential Legislative Priorities

Through discussions with state and local leaders during the Train Trek events, we have clarified how AANW can advance its mission, vision, and objectives during the next legislative sessions.

Improved Visibility

The Train Trek and PNWER events have significantly raised AANW’s visibility with elected leaders, local community leaders, the press and the public. While we would like to have had more participation in some of these events, on the whole, they successfully furthered AANW’s goals.

Upcoming Improvements

Fundraising is Key

The 2021 Train Treks were conducted to refine the Train Trek concept, with very little funding. AANW needs to aggressively and significantly expand its fundraising, sponsorship and grant writing efforts to maintain an acceptable level of financial stability and continue its current level of work.

Event Coordination and Logistics

It is imperative to have local co-sponsors, such as service clubs, economic development organizations, business groups, student organizations, local governments, or local activist groups focusing on the economy, the environment or equity.

Local coordinators from co-sponsors can arrange venues, publicity, and logistics. Advance planning is needed to ensure the availability of optimal, affordable venues.

Press Visibility

Co-sponsors who can represent AANW to the press in relevant geographic areas, and earlier timelines for event planning, is needed.



We were able to put together an itinerary and budget for the 2021 Train Trek quickly, but we needed more time to find and contact local coordinators, venues, officials and press. The short lead times, and the uncertainties surrounding the current health situation, had a significant impact on the participation we were able to receive in some locations. For future such events, we will need considerably more planning time.


We were able to recoup approximately 80% of the AAWA Train Trek expenses (not counting Patrick and Charlie’s time). However, such events as the Train Trek should not be undertaken without advance sponsorships and/or corporate donations covering a significant portion of the budgeted costs.


We appreciate the help we received in planning and executing the Trek and PNWER events, especially from the members of the Event Planning Committee. In the future, a larger group of volunteers will be helpful, both before and during events.