On March 9, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express had an exceptional group of visitors - Troop #417 of the Boy Scouts of America, Southwest Council. The troop, ages 10 to 14, had the very ambitious goal of receiving their railroading merit badges.
The eight requirements are rather extensive, no matter who is in the audience. They include identifying 10 types of railroad freight or passenger cars, explaining how modern diesel and electric locomotives develop power, explaining the mission and purpose of Operation Lifesaver, Inc., naming five safety precautions that help make trains safer for workers and passengers, learning how railroad signals operate, and purchasing tickets to ride a scenic or historic railroad.
The presentation was conducted by Stephanie Paiz, Safety Coordinator for the Rio Metro Regional Transit District, and Kevin Merlo, Manager of Mechanical for Herzog Transit Services. It included 11 Scouts and seven parents/siblings. Nine Scouts earned their merit badges (the other two will also earn the badge if they decide to join the troop). Despite the technical nature of the information, the Scouts followed along with the material and asked many questions.
Two hours of classroom instruction was followed by a train ride from Sandoval County/US 550 Rail Runner Station to Santa Fe Depot, and back again. Scoutmaster Jonathan Omholt remarked that “it was a great learning experience,” and that the scouts “enjoyed the train ride immensely.” According to Omholt, the goal of the visit was to provide the scouts with activities that made earning their badge fun and interesting rather than a college lecture, official certification, or extra homework.
The Rail Runner staff was extremely impressed with the conduct, demeanor, and positive attitude of Troop #417 and their families, and congratulates the scouts on earning their railroading merit badges.