The ERA embarks on its first ever convention in the deep south, with visits to two of Dixie’s most magnificent cities, Atlanta and New Orleans. Atlanta is the nation’s ninth largest metropolitan area and home to 5.7 million people. It is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and home to such iconic companies as CNN, Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta Airlines. Atlanta is also one of a handful of U.S. cities with a heavy rail system. The Atlanta Metro, first opened in 1979, is operated by the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). The Metro carries 232,000 passengers per day, the nation’s eighth busiest, over a network of four lines and 48 route miles. The Atlanta Streetcar, which opened in 2014, is a 2.7-mile streetcar line connecting Downtown Atlanta with the vicinity’s most important tourist venues.
New Orleans, Louisiana is home to the picturesque 18th Century French Quarter and the 19th Century Garden District. Known for their outstanding Cajun cuisine, these two iconic neighborhoods are connected by the St. Charles Streetcar, the world’s oldest continuously operating railroad and still using traditional streetcars dating back to the 1920s. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) streetcar network features service on five lines covering over 23 miles of track, including the St. Charles Streetcar.
Both cities are packed with activities and sites for both traction enthusiasts and their significant others. Our 2017 convention features a MARTA shop tour, trips on the Atlanta Streetcar, visit to the famed Southeastern Railway Museum in suburban Atlanta, ERA’s second group trip on Amtrak scenic train, the Crescent, from Atlanta to New Orleans and a scheduled tour of all of New Orleans’ streetcar lines. So mark your calendars for July 1-5 and plan on joining us!
Note: This convention begins July 1 in Atlanta and ends on July 5 in New Orleans. The convention had to be moved from its traditional Labor Day date to avoid limited and very expensive hotel space on Labor Day weekend in Atlanta due to a large annual convention.
Download your own copy of the keynote presentation from this year’s Annual Convention banquet! Held in Atlanta on Monday, July 3, 2017, the keynote was presented by Chief Operating Officer Rich Krisak of MARTA, an avowed railfan and third time speaker at our banquets. This slideshow is a concise history of Atlanta’s past, present and future, lushly illustrated with many photographs and timelines. MARTA has made available two versions of the keynote: a PDF, as well as the original PowerPoint which includes some nifty animations on slides 19 and 35.Download PDF Download PPT
The recently renovated Crowne Plaza Atlanta - Midtown is located one block from MARTA’s Red and Gold Line Metro Station. As with all our recent Convention hotel accommodations, the hotel’s close MARTA Metro and bus access makes all the region’s tourist venues accessible:
The ERA has secured a special rate of $112.95 (single) or $125.90 (double) plus 16% sales tax and $5.00 hotel tax per room per night available for the nights of July 1, 2, 3, and 4. (plus three days before and after these dates, depending on availability). Both single king bed and double queen bed hotel rooms are available. Your room rate includes free guestroom Wi-Fi and complimentary hot buffet breakfast from 6:30 AM to 10:30 AM (earlier for July 4th departure on Amtrak). Reservation details are near the end of this page.
Marriott’s Renaissance New Orleans Pere Marquette combines contemporary luxury with old-world charm and hospitality. The Pere Marquette features a compelling lobby and bar, a 24/7 fitness center, an outdoor pool, and luxurious guest rooms. Buffet breakfast and high-speed Wi-Fi are both included in your room price. The Pere Marquette is a five-minute walk from the historic St. Charles and Canal streetcars (three of five main streetcar routes) and one block from the historic cast-iron buildings and cobble-stoned streets of the French Quarter, also known as the Vieux Carré.
If you booked before April 15, this is a change of hotels from the Marriott AC Hotel New Orleans which is still under renovation. All AC Hotel reservations have been automatically transferred to the superior Pere Marquette. You will receive your new reservation and confirmation on or about May 15.
The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans and not only features stunning 18th and 19th century architecture, but also acclaimed Cajun and southern cuisine. The most well-known of the French Quarter streets, Bourbon Street, or Rue Bourbon, is known for its drinking establishments.
New Orleans hosts some of the best chefs in the U.S. (see A Few of the Best-Known Chefs of Louisiana), such as John Besh of PBS fame. Several of Besh’s restaurants are within walking distance of our hotel. Dishes associated with New Orleans include beignets, gumbo, po-boy sandwiches, jambalaya, muffuletta sandwiches, shrimp remoulade, shrimp creole, crawfish etoufee, turtle soup, blackened redfish, red beans and rice, and grillades and grits. The beignet, which is a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar, can be found at the casual Café du Monde. Other well-known restaurants include Galatoire’s and Antoine’s. Brennan’s is a Creole restaurant known for its lavish breakfast (Breakfast at Brennan’s) and for the creation of Bananas Foster.
Most French Quarter restaurants are a 10-minute walk or less from our hotel, but don’t expect to just walk right in. Many are immensely popular and require reservations. A few, especially Brennan’s, may need to be booked up to six weeks in advance. Some restaurants require jackets and ties. So, check ahead. Due diligence will be worth your while!
The Garden District is less than a 30-minute trip on the St. Charles Streetcar. Here you can stroll or tour through one of the South’s best preserved collections of 19th century historic mansions and the famous above-ground Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Also within 30 minutes of our hotel are New Orleans’ magnificent Audubon Park and City Park, respectively on the St. Charles and Canal/City Park Streetcar lines, as well as paddle-wheel steamer trips on the Mississippi River. Our tour schedule will be packed, so to fully enjoy New Orleans’ ambiance and dining experiences, make sure to book extra days at the Pere Marquette beyond the July 5th end of the Convention!
ERA has secured a special rate of $119 per night at the Pere Marquette which includes free guestroom Wi-Fi and complimentary hot breakfast. Our special room rate is for either single or double occupancy, with either one king bed or two double beds, plus 15.75% sales tax and $1 hotel occupancy tax per room per night and is available for the nights of July 4, 5 and 6, with check-out on July 6 (plus three days after these dates, depending on availability).
Arrive early! Then join us at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta - Midtown for our opening meeting beginning at 7:30 PM. Featured speakers will be Patrick Sullivan and Matthew Tankersley, co-authors of the comprehensive 2012 publication, Historic Streetcar Systems in Georgia. This work was commissioned and funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation and traces the history, development and decline of electric traction in the state of Georgia (prior to MARTA) with specific focus on the Greater Atlanta region. A free PDF of this 268-page illustrated document can be found here.
We will leave our hotel promptly at 9:00 AM. Each participant will be provided with a pre-loaded one-day Breeze card which is tapped in any MARTA Metro station or on a MARTA bus. We will be guests of MARTA this morning, visiting one of the principal Metro Maintenance and Overhaul Shops for a guided tour and photos. Following a break for lunch, we will meet at one of the terminals of the Atlanta Streetcar. Each member will be provided with an unlimited ride pass for the afternoon. The 2.7-mile Downtown Loop, opened at the end of 2014, connects Olympic Centennial Park (surrounded by the Georgia Aquarium, Skyview and the World of Coke Museum) with Downtown Atlanta, the Sweet Auburn Market and the Martin Luther King national historic site. The line uses four Siemens S70 vehicles. Service frequency is every 10 to 15 minutes and operates from 9 AM to 11 PM on Sundays.
As no ERA activities are planned for this evening, participants can use their time to ride the streetcar line (there are plenty of dining opportunities along the line, too) or use their Breeze card to tour the balance of the 48-mile Metro system. Fried chicken lovers can enjoy the mid-priced South City Kitchen Midtown, about a 15- to 20-minute Metro ride from the hotel.
We will leave our hotel at 9:15 AM for the Southeastern Railway Museum in suburban Duluth, Georgia. The Museum was founded in the 1970s by the Atlanta Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. It is the official transportation history museum of Georgia, with over 90 pieces of rolling stock featuring railroading from the Georgia. You will be able to view and photograph a wide variety of railroad and transportation exhibits including steam and diesel locomotives, passenger cars, private cars, trolleys, maintenance-of-way equipment, historic automobiles, tractors and buses. The museum also displays historic publications and memorabilia.
ERA’s Annual Banquet will be held in a private room at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta - Midtown Hotel. An hour-long informal reception and cash bar will begin at 5:30 PM, and dinner will follow promptly at 6:00 PM. A MARTA representative will discuss the organization’s rich past, present and future transit plans for the greater Atlanta region and invite questions from guests. This banquet is earlier than usual to allow participants enough time to rest up for our early departure on Amtrak the following morning.
Early start! We have arranged for an early breakfast buffet at 5:30 AM followed by the drive to Amtrak’s Peachtree station in Northwest Atlanta at 6:30 AM in our chartered buses. We’ve budgeted extra time to allow for a leisurely check-in of our group. For maximum room in our chartered train car(s), we strongly urge checking of all large pieces of luggage to the baggage car.
We will travel between Atlanta and New Orleans on the world famous Amtrak Crescent. Train no. 19 departs Atlanta at 8:38 AM and arrives at the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal at 7:32 PM. Sites of note along the route include the Chattahoochee River just outside of Atlanta, Cheaha Mountain in Alabama, the Italian Renaissance-style Hattiesburg, Mississippi train station and the 6.2-mile trestle we will ride on across Lake Ponchartrain, a 630-square-mile brackish estuary with an average depth of 12 to 14 feet.
ERA members will be seated together in two adjacent train cars. Members may enjoy meals in the dining car (with on-board reservations) or snacks and sandwiches in the café car. In New Orleans, chartered buses will transport us from the Union Passenger Terminal to the Pere Marquette. Your ERA booking includes Amtrak train fare, all bus transfers and all tips. On-board meals and snacks are at your own expense. Make sure to read the Logistics section on instructions for traveling by Amtrak.
We will leave the Pere Marquette at 8:30 AM and walk one block to the St. Charles Streetcar. Each participant will be provided an all-day pass to ride all bus and streetcar lines of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority. We will break into several groups and take regular service on the historic St. Charles Streetcar to NORTA’s Carrollton Barn and Shops at the end of the line. We will tour the shops and marvel at their artisans’ ability to maintain the historic 1920s fleet as well build the replica cars serving the other lines. We will then travel the entire streetcar network in one or more chartered streetcars, possibly a combination of both the 1923 and 1924 Perley Thomas cars and the replica cars. In addition to the St. Charles line, opened in 1835, we will also cover the Riverfront Line (1988), the re-built Canal Street line (2004) with two branches, and the Loyola-Rampart Street line (2013-2016). The charter will include photo and rest stops enroute as well as a box lunch and drink. Time will be allowed to travel on your own in the afternoon with your day pass.
ERA is in the process of securing an evening speaker at the Pere Marquette to discuss streetcar developments in New Orleans. More details will be provided in the final itinerary.
Note: Scheduled event times are subject to change in the final itinerary or during the trip without prior notice. Daily trip itineraries may be changed without prior notice to ensure on-time return at the end of each day. Announcements will be made throughout each day to update guests on essential information during all ERA events. Providing your phone number (and email address) on your registration form is critical. If you have questions regarding the itinerary or accommodations, please use our contact form. All inquiries will receive a prompt reply.
The number of seats available for the Amtrak group trip is limited to 70 persons. If and when we sell out, no more seats are available for the group ticket, and there will be no exceptions. You will then need to purchase a ticket on your own through Amtrak and arrange for transportation to and from the train stations, or travel on the ERA buses at an extra charge. Alternatives include Greyhound (11 hours), driving (7 hours) or flying (Delta has frequent 1.5-hour flights).
As with airline travel, Amtrak requires each passenger to carry government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license or passport. Don’t forget to take this with you!
Carry-on Baggage: Identification must be securely attached to each item. Carry-on baggage is limited to two pieces of luggage per passenger. No item of carry-on baggage may exceed the following limits:
Checked Baggage: A maximum of four checked items are allowed per passenger as shown below:
Union Passenger Terminal is only 0.8 miles from hotel and can be reached two ways other than by taxi:
You may make reservations with ERA’s special discounted rate by one of two methods:
The cut-off date for the Crowne Plaza Atlanta - Midtown Hotel reservations is June 1, 2017 OR when our room block has been fully booked, whichever occurs earlier. Reservations booked after June 1, 2017 will be accepted at the special lower convention rate at the hotel’s discretion based on availability.
The Crowne Plaza Atlanta - Midtown will honor the discounted room rates for check-in up to three days prior to July 1 on a space available basis.
Cancelling a reservation 24 hours or more prior to arrival will result in no charge. Cancelling your reservation 23 hours or less on day of arrival, or failing to show, will result in an automatic charge of one night per room to your credit card. Taxes may apply. Failing to call or show before check-out time after the first night of a reservation will result in cancellation of the remainder of your reservation.
Please reserve online or by phone. The Crowne Plaza Atlanta - Midtown does not accept reservations by mail.
The Pere Marquette’s special ERA rate is $119 plus 14% tax and $1 per night hotel occupancy tax and 1.75% New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau Assessment. This rate includes a complimentary hot buffet breakfast for up to two guests in a room. The Pere Marquette is a Marriott hotel and reservations by Marriott Rewards members will earn points. There are two ways to book your reservation:
The Pere Marquette will honor discounted room rates for check-out up to three days post July 6 on a space available basis (last night would be July 8, check-out July 9).
Guest will forfeit one night’s room and tax if reservation is not cancelled within 72 hours prior to arrival (check-in is 3 PM).