Wayback Whensday: The RT Convention Love Train

As we gear up for 2014’s RT Booklovers Convention in the magical city of New Orleans, we thought we’d do a little dance down memory lane, and bring you the highlights from RT's past — both the RT convention and Romantic Times. So grab some popcorn and sit back and enjoy!

To kick off our Wayback Whenesday series, we’re taking a look at the historic and iconic Love Train. The Love Train was a unique Amtrak experience in 1983 that brought romance readers and authors from the West Coast all the way to New York City for the second annual RT Booklovers Convention. We got a hold of RT Founder Kathryn Falk to talk about this historic, iconic event.

A map of the Love Train's route, from the Spring #9 issue of Romantic Times, 1983

“I met a woman in California who told me she didn’t like to fly, and somehow the train was mentioned, and then we came up with the idea for the Love Train,” Kathryn told us. Soon after, together with Amtrak, Kathryn mapped out a route that would stop in multiple cities across the country, ensuring a wide range of attendees could hop on. Those joining the party were instructed to wear pink so they could be easily identified at the stops.

Starting in Los Angeles, the Love Train drew a large and enthusiastic crowd. “At the train station, hundreds of women were dressed in pink, waiting for us. It was quite extraordinary,” Kathryn remembers.

Readers were not the only ones to board the Love Train, many authors joined in the festivities as well. Popular authors like Janet Dailey, Jude Deveraux, Alice Morgan and Elsie Washington all climbed aboard, often sharing writing tips with the many aspiring writers on the train.

A preview of the authors on board the Love Train, from the Spring #9 issue of Romantic Times

Another notable figure who helped the Love Train succeed was English mega author Barbara Cartland, who once held the Guinness World Record as the most prolific author. Barbara was a major supporter of the Love Train, and helped garner attention for the venture from the British Press. When the train finally arrived in New York, Kathryn declared, “We made it!” Barbara responded, “Oh, my dear, I knew you would.”

Barbara Cartland and Kathryn Falk meeting after the Love Train arrived in New York City

The media had a field day. Reporters and journalists followed the train’s journey, hopping on to interview passengers, then hopping off at the next stop to wire in their stories. “As the train moved, the stories moved,” Kathryn said. “Television stations would say, ‘The Love Train is coming!’ and they would wait up all night to cover it.”

The Love Train even made it onto the big screen. Director George Paul Csicsery captured it on film for the movie, Where the Heart Roams. The film helped shine an even larger spotlight on the world of romance novels, helping to bring much-deserved respect to the women who read and wrote in the genre.

Though the media frenzy and big-time authors were wonderful, what Kathryn loved most about the Love Train was the sense of camaraderie — a feeling that the RT convention still maintains to this day. “Everyone was so enthusiastic,” she remembers. “We were starting a business, a movement for women who read and wrote romances. It was quite exciting.”

Are you excited for the 2014 RT Convention in New Orleans? Stay up to date with the latest info at rtconvention.com and by following the RT Convention Twitter account, @RT_Convention.