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Heartland Flyer

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Heartland Flyer
The Heartland Flyer at Norman, Oklahoma, in June 2021
Service typeInter-city rail
LocaleOklahoma and Texas
First serviceJune 14, 1999 (1999-06-14)
Current operator(s)Amtrak
Annual ridership72,379 (FY23) Increase 14.8%[a][1]
TerminiOklahoma City, Oklahoma
Fort Worth, Texas
Distance travelled206 miles (332 km)
Average journey time4 hours[2]
Service frequencyDaily
Train number(s)821, 822
On-board services
Class(es)Coach class
Disabled accessTrain lower level, all stations
Catering facilitiesCafé (snack coach)
Baggage facilitiesOverhead racks
Rolling stockGE Genesis
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Operating speed52 mph (84 km/h) (avg.)
79 mph (127 km/h) (top)
Track owner(s)BNSF

The Heartland Flyer is a daily passenger train that follows a 206-mile (332 km) route between Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Fort Worth, Texas. It is operated by Amtrak and jointly funded by the states of Oklahoma and Texas.[3]

The train's daily round-trip begins in Oklahoma City in the morning and reaches Fort Worth in the early afternoon. It leaves Fort Worth during the afternoon rush for an evening return to Oklahoma City. Future plans call for the train's northern terminus to be extended from Oklahoma City to Newton, Kansas with increased frequency along the original route by 2029.


Route of the Heartland Flyer


The rail corridor utilized by the Heartland Flyer was built in 1887 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (shortened to the "Santa Fe") to join its Texas-based Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe subsidiary to the main Santa Fe network. The railroad consisted of two segments: one built south from Arkansas City, Kansas, and one built north from Fort Worth, Texas; the two segments met in modern-day Purcell, Oklahoma.[4] The Land Rush of 1889 followed shortly after, causing many of the railroad stations in Oklahoma to become the centerpieces of permanent settlements; Oklahoma City is a notable example.[5]

The corridor saw use by the Santa Fe for both freight (particularly the movement of cattle)[4] and for passenger rail. Of the passenger routes that used the corridor, the most notable was the Texas Chief, which traveled from Chicago to Galveston.[5]

In 1971, following the Rail Passenger Service Act, the Texas Chief was transferred to the newly-formed Amtrak. The route (renamed to the Lone Star in 1974) remained in service until 1979, when budget cuts at Amtrak caused the route to close. The closure of the Lone Star ended passenger rail service in the state of Oklahoma.


In late 1998, Oklahoma and Kansas state officials began meeting in an effort to restore passenger service along the corridor.[6] Initial plans called for a train from Fort Worth to Kansas City, though this was eventually pared down to the current route for budgetary reasons.[7] On May 18, 1999, Amtrak began taking reservations for the route, tentatively named "The New Train".[8][9]

Senator Don Nickles sponsored a "Name the Train" contest, encouraging Oklahoma schoolchildren to pick a name for the new route. The winning name was submitted by Katie Moore, who christened the new train on its first run.[8][10]

The Heartland Flyer was inaugurated on June 14, 1999, with a demonstration trip from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City, which carried state officials, Amtrak board members, and mayors for the serviced cities.[8][9] Regular service began the next day, ending a 20-year absence of passenger rail in Oklahoma and North Texas. First-year ticket sales totaled 71,400 passengers, more than triple Amtrak's projection of 20,000 riders.[11]

Regular service[edit]

The route carried its 500,000th passenger in September 2007[12] and its millionth in November 2013.[13]

The state of Oklahoma initially received $23 million in federal funding for the route,[7] which expired in September 2005. In anticipation of this, on April 11, 2005, a rally was held at the Oklahoma State Capitol to demand that the state fund the train, as well as expand the service to Kansas. Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett served as a keynote speaker at the event alongside the mayors of Perry, Guthrie, and Purcell.[14] In response, state lawmakers passed House Bill 1078, which provided an annual $2 million subsidy to continue the service; however, the route was not extended.[15]

In April 2016, Amtrak began Thruway bus service between the Heartland Flyer in Oklahoma City and the Southwest Chief in Newton, Kansas, with one stop in Wichita. The schedule runs mostly overnight because the Southwest Chief running both eastbound and westbound calls on Newton in the early morning hours. Initial service was operated under contract by Village Tours of Wichita.[16][17]

On October 15, 2021, the northbound Heartland Flyer struck a car hauler north of Thackerville, Oklahoma. The train partially derailed and four passengers were injured.[18]


Amtrak Heartland Flyer stations
State/Province City Station
Oklahoma Oklahoma City Santa Fe Transit Hub
Norman Norman
Purcell Purcell
Pauls Valley Pauls Valley
Ardmore Ardmore
Texas Gainesville Gainesville
Fort Worth Fort Worth Central

Proposed expansion[edit]

Extension to Kansas[edit]

Since its inception, numerous proposal have been made to extend the Heartland Flyer northward from Oklahoma City to Kansas along the original route of the Lone Star. The extended line would serve Wichita Union Station before connecting with the Southwest Chief in Newton, Kansas. Some proposals would further extend the Heartland Flyer from Newton to Kansas City along the route of the Southwest Chief.

A 2009 study conducted by Amtrak proposed four options for the extension:

  1. Extend the current round trip to Newton as a night train
  2. Extend the current round trip to Kansas City as a night train
  3. Add a new day train from Fort Worth to Kansas City
  4. Add a new day train from Oklahoma City to Kansas City

Through coach service with the Southwest Chief was also stated as a possibility.[19] By September 2010, only the first and third options were said to remain under consideration.[20] In late 2011, the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) released the results of a study into these options. A night train to Newton had an estimated start-up cost of $87.5 million and an annual subsidy of $4.4 million, while a day train to Kansas City had an estimated start-up cost of $245.5 million and an annual subsidy of $10 million.[21] On June 9, 2017, Amtrak ran an inspection train between Oklahoma City and Kansas City in order to explore the Heartland Flyer extension to Newton.[22]

In June 2021, Amtrak included the extension to Newton in its 15-year expansion vision. The plan also includes two additional round trips between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth.[23] In November 2021, President Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which could fund the plan.[24][25] The extension was endorsed by the Oklahoma City Council in April 2022,[26] and by Dodge City in October 2022.[27] The governors of Oklahoma and Kansas supported the use of state funding for the plan.[28]

In June 2023, Oklahoma and Kansas state officials began seeking federal approval and funding to extend the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Newton.[29] In November 2023, KDOT said the service would start in 2029 if approved, but could begin sooner were the project to be fast tracked.[30]

In December 2023, the Federal Railroad Administration accepted an application by KDOT to enter the Oklahoma City–Wichita–Newton extension into its Corridor Identification and Development Program. The program grants $500,000 toward service planning and prioritizes the extension for future federal funding.[31] It could include stops in Edmond, Guthrie, Perry, and Ponca City.[32]

Other proposals[edit]

During the 1990s, a reroute of the Texas Eagle was considered that would have removed Austin and San Antonio in favor of the former Texas & Pacific route via Abilene and Midland/Odessa to Sierra Blanca. To compensate for the loss, the Heartland Flyer would have been extended south to San Antonio, connecting with the Sunset Limited.[33] This reroute was ultimately rejected.

In 2020, Amtrak reported it was working to add a new stop in Thackerville, Oklahoma with access to the WinStar World Casino operated by the Chickasaw Nation.[22]

Rolling stock[edit]

Heartland Flyer at Ardmore, Oklahoma, 2007

The Heartland Flyer uses equipment from Amtrak's national fleet, typically two General Electric Genesis locomotives and two or three Superliner railcars. One of the Superliner cars is a snack coach with seating on the upper level of the car and a small Café area on the lower level. Previously, the Heartland Flyer used a combination of Hi-Level and Superliner railcars.

For many years, the train was powered by only one locomotive with a Non-Powered Control Unit (NPCU) on the opposite end of the train to facilitate bi-directional travel. In 2009, the NPCU was replaced with a standard Genesis P42DC, giving the train locomotive power on both ends. The train returned to having an NPCU in 2015 until an accident in 2017[34] took one NPCU out of operation so the train alternated between both configurations. It later returned to having locomotive power on both ends.

From April 2010 to April 2011, Amtrak and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation carried out a research project to run the train on a biodiesel blend known as B20 (20% pure biofuel and 80% diesel).[35][36]

In 2022, Amtrak announced plans to replace its aging fleet of locomotives and railcars over the next ten years. Under the plan, the rolling stock utilized by the Heartland Flyer will be replaced between 2027 and 2032, though the exact trainset has not yet been determined.[37]

Big Game Train[edit]

From the route's inception in 1999, additional cars have been added during the week of the Red River Rivalry football game to accommodate fan travel to and from Dallas, where the game is held.[8] Dubbed the "Big Game Train", this layout originally consisted of one additional coach,[38] but has since been increased to as many as three coaches plus a Sightseer lounge. This configuration has been used every year, with the exception of 2020, when the train was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


  1. ^ "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2023 Ridership" (PDF). Amtrak. November 27, 2023. Retrieved November 30, 2023.
  2. ^ "Amtrak Timetable Results". www.amtrak.com. Retrieved December 20, 2021.
  3. ^ "Information Release 07-016" (PDF) (Press release). Oklahoma Department of Transportation. March 21, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 26, 2007. Retrieved August 12, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Purcell, OK (PUR)". The Great American Stations. Amtrak. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Oklahoma City, OK (OKC)". The Great American Stations. Amtrak. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  6. ^ Jenkins, Ron (November 19, 1998). "Lawmakers Eager To Hear Amtrak Call 'All Aboard!'". The Oklahoman. Gannett. p. 6. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  7. ^ a b Greiner, John (March 2, 1999). "Route Talks Delay Amtrak Service Plans". The Oklahoman. Gannett. pp. 1–2. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  8. ^ a b c d "History". Heartland Flyer. Amtrak.
  9. ^ a b Greiner, John (May 21, 1999). "Amtrak Selling Tickets for Trip To Fort Worth". The Oklahoman. Gannett. Retrieved October 30, 2023.
  10. ^ Gordon Dickson (June 18, 2019). "Amtrak's Heartland Flyer runs from Fort Worth to OKC. How did the train get its name?". Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
  11. ^ Cooper, Aaron (June 14, 2000). "Amtrak, ODOT celebrate 1-year anniversary of Heartland Flyer". Associated Press. Retrieved April 28, 2008.
  12. ^ "Ridership up on Heartland Flyer". Associated Press. November 9, 2007. Retrieved April 28, 2008.
  13. ^ "Amtrak recognizes OSU student as millionth passenger on Heartland Flyer". The Oklahoman. November 15, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2013.
  14. ^ Talley, Tim (April 11, 2005). "Rail passengers rally for Heartland Flyer". Associated Press.
  15. ^ Price, Marie (May 25, 2005). "Beefed-up state agency budgets sent to governor". Tulsa World. p. A10.
  16. ^ Daniel, McCoy (April 18, 2016). "To train by bus: Amtrak announces thruway bus connections for Wichita". Wichita Business Journal. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  17. ^ "Wichita Returns to the Amtrak Map". Amtrak Media. April 18, 2016. Archived from the original on August 13, 2017. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  18. ^ Griffin, David (October 16, 2021). "Heartland Flyer Passenger Describes Moments Before And After Crash In Love County". News on 6. Retrieved July 11, 2022."Heartland Flyer involved in collision with semi-truck in southern Oklahoma". KOCO-TV. October 16, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2022."Heartland Flyer train collides with truck in Love County". KTEN. October 16, 2021. Retrieved July 11, 2022."Four injured when Amtrak train hits auto carrier, derails". Trains Magazine. October 18, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2022.
  19. ^ Bob Johnston (August 2010). "Kansas weighs new train choices". Trains. Kalmbach Publishing.
  20. ^ Vantuono, William (September 3, 2010). "Kansas weighs two Amtrak route options". Railway Age. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  21. ^ "Kansas DOT releases passenger-rail service development plan". Progressive Railroading. December 5, 2011. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  22. ^ a b "Amtrak Fact Sheet Fiscal Year 2019 State of Oklahoma" (PDF). amtrak.com. Amtrak. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  23. ^ "Heartland Flyer Extension". storymaps.arcgis.com. Amtrak Connect Us. September 17, 2021. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  24. ^ Loging, Shawn (November 8, 2021). "Infrastructure bill elevates Amtrak discussion in Wichita". kwch.com. Retrieved May 19, 2022.
  25. ^ Francis-Smith, Janice (March 4, 2022). "Transportation plan has eyes on Oklahoma's future". The Journal Record. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  26. ^ McNutt, Kathryn (April 14, 2022). "OKC endorses expanded Amtrak rail service". The Journal Record. Retrieved May 19, 2022."Amtrak Train Collides With Semi Car Hauler in Oklahoma". youtube.com. Storyful. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  27. ^ "Regulations.gov". www.regulations.gov. Retrieved October 31, 2022.
  28. ^ "Stitt pitches state projects to U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg". Tulsa World, April 3, 2023. Retrieved April 3, 2023.
  29. ^ "Tulsa not included in proposed OKC-to-Kansas passenger rail expansion". Carmen Forman, Tulsa World, June 12, 2023. Retrieved June 12, 2023.
  30. ^ "KDOT gives update on potential Amtrak expansion into Wichita". www.kake.com. Retrieved November 16, 2023.
  31. ^ "FY22 Corridor Identification and Development Program Selections" (PDF). railroads.dot.gov. Federal Railroad Administration. December 2023. p. 12. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  32. ^ "Amtrak's Heartland Flyer could soon add several new Oklahoma stops". www.koco.com. Retrieved January 15, 2024.
  33. ^ "Fort Worth-Los Angeles Proposed Schedule Change Updated October 27, 1999". Texas Association of Rail Passengers. October 27, 1999. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007.
  34. ^ "Amtrak train hits van in Davis; one dead". KTEN. Lockwood Broadcast Group. June 16, 2017. Retrieved August 3, 2022.
  35. ^ "Heartland Flyer". Amtrak History & Archives. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
  36. ^ "Amtrak's Beef-Powered Train". Time. November 11, 2010. Retrieved October 3, 2014.
  37. ^ "Historic Opportunities | Amtrak's FY 2022-2027 Service and Asset Line Plans" (PDF). Amtrak. p. 133.
  38. ^ "All Aboard for the Big Game: Amtrak Football Specials — Amtrak: History of America's Railroad". history.amtrak.com. Retrieved November 12, 2020.


  1. ^ Amtrak's Fiscal Year (FY) runs from October 1 of the prior year to September 30 of the named year.

External links[edit]

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