Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

November 18, 2013

Train honor a family affair

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — The chill in the air Friday morning wasn’t that bad for a Pauls Valley man as he waited at the local train depot platform for his grandson, honored with a very big Amtrak milestone.

Local resident Wayne R. Jackson felt plenty of excitement while awaiting 18-year-old Rooke Jackson, who was arriving as the one millionth passenger on the Heartland Flyer since the return of the train service in 1999.

The teenage Jackson, a freshman at Oklahoma State University, was accompanied by his father Wayne J. Jackson of Oklahoma City.

Rooke and his dad were soon joined by the elder Jackson as the three generations shared some hugs and photos before continuing their special ride to commemorate the milestone for the Heartland Flyer’s daily service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas.

Smiles were the norm for the local man as he spoke about his grandson’s honor.

“It’s crazy,” Jackson said about his grandson’s selection as the Flyer’s one millionth passenger.

“I might be more excited about this than he is,” he said. “It’s pretty unusual to be picked to be the one millionth anything.”

Although excited for his grandson’s honor, Jackson said it kind of makes sense considering the teen has had a true love of trains since he was a young boy.

“He’s a real train enthusiast,” said the PV resident. “He rides the train lot, maybe 150 times or so in his life. He comes here a lot and sometimes he rides it down to Fort Worth.

“It started when he was about that big,” he said, while motioning his hand to show how young Rooke was when trains caught his attention.

“When he was a boy his favorite Halloween costume was being a train conductor.”

Getting only a few moments on the train platform in PV, Rooke stepped out to welcome his grandfather to the festivities and offer a few thoughts on being passenger number one million for the Heartland Flyer.

“It’s always been a part of me,” Rooke said about trains.

“I’m just excited to be a part of this.”

One representative of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said the honor on Friday for the one millionth passenger does represent how ridership for the train service has picked up in recent years.

“The Heartland Flyer started in 1999 and each year ridership goes up,” said Cole Hackett of ODOT media relations. “It’s definitely increased, especially the last few years.

“This family has ridden the Heartland Flyer around 100 times, so it looks like they ride the train quite a bit.”