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Originally published November 7, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 7, 2007 at 8:16 PM

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Amtrak turning train into rolling billboard

Perennially cash-strapped Amtrak has found a new way to generate revenue — by turning an entire train into a moving billboard. A train used on...

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Perennially cash-strapped Amtrak has found a new way to generate revenue — by turning an entire train into a moving billboard.

A train used on the Acela Express, the railroad's premium Boston-Washington, D.C., service, will be wrapped in an advertisement for the History Channel's "1968 with Tom Brokaw," a two-hour special scheduled to air Dec. 9.

It's the first time an entire Amtrak train has been wrapped and the first time the technique has been used at all on the Acela, said Cliff Black, a spokesman for the railroad. He declined to say how much the History Channel was paying for the privilege.

The wrapped train, which will run up and down the northeast corridor from Nov. 12 to Dec. 9, will feature recognizable images from 1968 — including the faces of Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Dylan, Richard Nixon, Robert F. Kennedy, Arlo Guthrie and Goldie Hawn — said Steve Feder, president of Corporate Image Media, which helps Amtrak market advertising opportunities.

The vinyl wrap will appear on both sides of the train's two locomotives and six cars. It will be visible from the outside but won't impede the view out the windows, Amtrak said Tuesday. Posters advertising Brokaw's program will also appear inside the wrapped train.

Wrapped buses and subway cars have become a popular advertising platform in recent years, and Amtrak has done it with individual rail cars and locomotives. In one creative application, the railroad dressed a locomotive as a Toyota Tundra truck, making it look as if the pickup was towing the train.

Feder said Amtrak has proceeded somewhat cautiously when it comes to train wraps because it won't accept just any advertiser. The History Channel is something that would appeal to the business traveler that the Acela service is aimed at, he noted.

But Amtrak has more to worry about that in its reputation with travelers. The federally subsidized company must also take care not anger anyone on Capitol Hill with such deals.

"The History Channel has a stellar reputation for its programming," Black said. "We think this is a good fit, politically and commercially."

Black noted that Congress has encouraged Amtrak to be creative about generating revenue and thus should be pleased with the deal.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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