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New Plan Revives Farm Train Hopes

September 17, 1985|ROBERT HILBURN

Merle Haggard's whistle-stop campaign train to help financially troubled farmers may have gotten off the track, but organizers vow it will still roll--eventually.

Dwight Halderman, who oversaw guest accommodations for the California-to-Illinois journey that was to have begun Monday in Bakersfield, said over the weekend that "everyone is feeling shell-shocked" after working virtually around the clock.

Amtrak required $606,000 before it would allow the chartered train to leave the depot, but the only money Haggard could count on by late Friday was the $350,000 he had pledged. Last-minute efforts to get hefty pledges from private citizens failed.

By Monday, however, the mood had lifted considerably as organizers spoke optimistically of a new train ride from Bakersfield to Washington, D.C., where Haggard would hold a gala benefit concert.

"We are greatly encouraged," media and publicity director Rod Hunter said. "My feeling is that money won't eventually be a problem--as long as we have time to put it together." He said that corporations and private citizens had been calling to inquire about how they could help.

A hot line (1-800-FOR FARM) has been set up to provide information and accept donations.

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