BILOXI -- Small children too young to ever have seen an Amtrak train in South Mississippi and old folks who remember riding the train to visit relatives or attend the New Orleans World's Fair cheered when the first Amtrak train in 10 years rolled down the tracks Thursday.
The train stopped briefly for speeches in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula. In other areas, people waved as it passed, showing their support to the politicians, train officials and reporters on board.
Cathy Jasinski had a seat near the tracks in Biloxi, where bands from area schools played, cheerleaders danced and the Second Liners paraded from the train to the stage.
Jasinski rode the Hummingbird train years ago and then took the Amtrak to visit family before passenger rail service ended.
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"I would ride it again absolutely," she said. "I'd go to New Orleans and back, and I've got family in Houston."
The mix of people in the crowd -- military folks from Keesler Air Force Base, casino employees, tourists and tourism officials, kids in conductor caps -- showed how many segments of the local population might ride the train to Disney, to New Orleans or beyond. The proposal is to offer passenger service from Jacksonville, Fla., to New Orleans, but prospective passengers realize it would connect them to places well beyond the Gulf Coast.
Catherine Moody of Biloxi has to go into New Orleans now to board the train for the trip to her former home in Seattle.
"You're looking a people's backyards for 3 1/2 days," she said. But the Amtrak superliners are very comfortable, she said. Despite the longer trip, she always takes a train instead of flying, and she wants to get on board in Biloxi.