WASHINGTON – The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) presented U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) of North Dakota with the prestigious Golden Spike Award yesterday (April 30) for his strong support of passenger trains and transit, both locally and across the U.S.

Although Cramer has only been in office since January 2013, he’s already played an outsized role in keeping America’s trains on track. The North Dakota native, along with other members of the state’s delegation, shined a spotlight on the oil-by-rail freight train congestion that was causing serious delays to Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which serves as a critical transportation connection to tens of thousands of North Dakotans. The congestion was also causing delays in the shipping of agricultural products by rail, hurting a vital part of North Dakota’s economy.

“I am honored to receive such a prestigious award,” said Representative Cramer. “The Golden Spike carries a rich history in our nation and state. North Dakota is in the eye of the storm as growing demand for rail to move industrial products, commodities and the most precious cargo, people, is highlighting safety concerns like never before. I join my colleagues in insisting on transparency as industry and the government work together to ensure safety is the highest priority on the tracks.”

Cramer’s work helped lead host railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to add 5,000 crewmembers system wide. BNSF also sent 250 temporary workers, 5,000 rail cars, and 125 locomotives to North Dakota to ease congestion.

“The Empire Builder connects 8.8 million Americans who live within 25 miles of one of the stations. Given the rural profile of many of the 46 towns along the route, this train provides the only transportation alternative to highways, and can be the only way to travel during harsh winter storms. As we documented in a recent survey, the Empire Builder provides a vital connection to hospitals in larger cites, serving as a literal lifeline for passengers,” said NARP Chairman Robert Stewart. “Our members, and all of America’s passengers, thank Representative Cramer for his work to keep the trains moving across the national network.”

NARP is the only national organization speaking for the users of passenger trains and rail transit. We have worked since 1967 to expand the quality and quantity of passenger rail in the U.S. Our mission is to work towards a modern, customer-focused national passenger train network that provides a travel choice Americans want. Our work is supported by over 28,000 individual members.

Going back to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, golden spikes were used by railroads in ceremonies to mark the completion of important projects. In the 1960s, magazine publishes George Falcon, an active early member of NARP, got the idea for the Golden Spike Award from actress Debbie Reynolds, a train lover whose father worked as a conductor on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Since 1984, the NARP Board of Directors Executive Committee has approved all choices for recipients. Past recipients include Ms. Reynolds, Walt Disney, Johnny Cash, and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Ross Capon, the face of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) for 39 years on Capitol Hill, is stepping down from his role as president, and apparently will retire from the organization at year’s end.

Dr. Larry Scott will serve as NARP acting president while the organization conducts a search for a permanent successor. Capon will serve as assistant to the president for the remainder of the calendar year.

Read the complete story at Railway Age.