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Pittsfield gets ready to welcome first passengers on summer weekend train from New York

The first train of the Berkshire Flyer, a new summer weekend passenger service, arrives in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Friday from New York City.

The idea behind the four-hour trip is to encourage more tourists to visit the Berkshires.

AMTRAK is operating the service, which extends an existing train line from Albany to Pittsfield. It can hold about 300 passengers and is funded with $370,000 of state money.

Eddie Sporn, a consultant with Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, has the unusual title of Berkshire Flyer "ambassador." He will greet each train every Friday.

"To make sure everybody gets off the train and gets to where they need to go — whether they're getting picked up, whether they are getting into a van, into an Uber," Sporn said.

Passengers will also be greeted by a new 19-foot wide mural, commissioned by the city of Pittsfield with funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Pittsfield artist Jesse Tobin McCauley carefully brushed peppermint green paint inside a row of triangles that represent the Berkshire mountains. Her mural will be one of the first things people will see when they get off the train.

The mural includes ten bright colors and shapes that are in some way inspired by the Berkshire Flyer logo. Tobin McCauley pointed out elements of her design.

“These orange and the yellow -- those to me seem like they were windows on the train. And then wheels,” she said. “And that's kind of water; waves, lakes, mountains, sunshine.”

When finished, the mural will also include the words, "WELCOME TO PITTSFIELD."

The train service will have five cars, including one business class coach.

Coach class tickets are selling for $55 to Pittsfield and $77 to return to New York. Business class tickets are priced at $152 each way. According to Amtrak’s website, all business class tickets to Pittsfield on the Berkshire Flyer’s first trip have sold out.

As passengers get ready to board the train back to New York on Sundays, Sporn will try to get passenger feedback.

“Ask them how their experience was and what they would like to see to better, improve -- various things like that,” he said.

Sporn said a long-term goal is to operate the train year-round.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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