The federally subsidized railroad service Amtrak is offering up to 24 writers the chance to take a 2-5 day trip aboard a train for free. It's all part what is being called the "#AmtrakResidency program."

"Amtrak is excited to announce the official launch of the #AmtrakResidency program," reads the program description.

"#AmtrakResidency was designed to allow creative professionals who are passionate about train travel and writing to work on their craft in an inspiring environment. Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability."

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.

Residencies will be anywhere from 2-5 days, with exceptions for special projects.

There is no cost to apply for the #AmtrakResidency program.

As the Congressional Budget Office notes, the federal government gave Amtrak more than $1.5 billion last year. "Lawmakers appropriated more than $1.5 billion in 2013 to subsidize intercity passenger rail services provided by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation—or Amtrak—including $1.0 billion in grants for capital expenses and debt service, $0.5 billion in grants for operating subsidies, and $0.1 billion for disaster mitigation and repair work after Hurricane Sandy," writes the CBO.

"All told, the government covers almost all of Amtrak’s capital costs as well as more than 10 percent of its operating costs. In 1970, when the Congress established Amtrak, it anticipated subsidizing the railroad for only a short time, until it became self-supporting. Since then, however, the federal subsidies to Amtrak have totaled about $45 billion."

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