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Amtrak back on track in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Amtrak passenger trains have returned to the rails in Oklahoma, ending a 20-year absence caused by federal budget cuts.

"All aboard the Heartland Flyer!" 11-year-old Katie Moore announced on Monday as the train made its first stops throughout the state. She earned a place on the inaugural trip from Fort Worth, Texas, to Oklahoma City by winning a contest to name the train.Service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth will allow travelers to connect with trains serving Chicago, San Antonio, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Florida. Some hope the train service will eventually expand north to Tulsa and link to Kansas.

Daily service between Oklahoma City and Tulsa was to begin Tuesday.

A long lobbying effort by the state led to a deal in which Oklahoma leases the track from Burlington Northern Santa Fe while Amtrak operates the trains. Eleven other states have similar ventures, and only five states remain with no Amtrak service -- Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Wyoming and South Dakota.

For several hours Monday, Oklahoma looked transformed to the glory days of train travel as thousands gathered at old depots to celebrate Amtrak's return.

In the south-central Oklahoma town of Ardmore, more than 600 flag-waving residents cheered Monday's arrival of the Flyer. A high school band played "Oklahoma!" as the train came to a stop outside the old Frisco depot.

Pauline Anderson Foster, 90, said she plans to be among those who will use the service.