The National Park Service and the South Coast Railroad Museum, in cooperation with Amtrak, are offering an exciting opportunity for local volunteers to travel, interpret and explore West Coast rails.

“Trails & Rails,” a nationwide educational program aboard Amtrak trains developed by the National Park Service, has a West Coast version on the Los Angeles-to-Seattle Coast Starlight train. It is coordinated by the South Coast Railroad Museum and carried out by the museum’s volunteers. The Goleta museum has conducted educational programs aboard Amtrak trains since the 1980s.

The Trails & Rails guides offer a unique travel experience to Coast Starlight passengers, presenting informative talks and public-address announcements about the natural, cultural and historical significance of the route, and points of interest and things to do in the area. Two versions of the program are offered: Some volunteers make their presentations during a one-day Santa Barbara-to-San Luis Obispo round-trip; some guide teams make a two-day trip to San Jose.

The local Trails & Rails program is being expanded in 2013 during the summer months to include additional overnight trips to San Jose.

A special all-day orientation and training session will be held Saturday, May 18 for people interested in joining this volunteer program. Trails & Rails volunteers do not need to be historians or naturalists.

The program sponsors are looking for dedicated and entertaining volunteers with an enthusiasm for public speaking, travel and human interaction. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, in good health and available to make an average of at least two one-day or two-day trips per month during the eight-month period that the program is offered.

Uniforms, program materials, travel, meals and overnight lodging are all provided. New volunteers must attend the all-day training. Registration is required. Click here to register online.

For more information about the Trails & Rails program aboard the Coast Starlight, contact Trails & Rails Coordinator, South Coast Railroad Museum, 300 N. Los Carneros Road, Goleta, CA 93117, call 805.964.3540 or email

— Gary Coombs is director of the South Coast Railroad Museum.