But what was supposed to be a joyous morning turned into tragedy as the first Amtrak Cascades train to traverse the route derailed, killing several people.
Amtrak president and co-chief executive Richard Anderson said: "On behalf of everyone at Amtrak, we are deeply saddened by all that has happened today".
The train with 70 passengers was on a bridge over the Interstate-5 highway in Pierce County, south of Seattle, when it came off the tracks.
The service was supposed to be rated for a maximum speed of 79 miles per hour for the section where it derailed in DuPont, according to passenger Chris Karnes.
"All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill", said Karnes, adding that several cars had gone off the tracks and passengers kicked out the windows to escape.
"The next thing we know, we're being slammed into the front of our seats, windows are breaking, we stop, and there's water gushing out of the train".
"I knew right away that this was a major accident, that there was probably going to be some pretty, pretty graphic fatalities and injuries, so I prepared myself for the worst going in - and I hoped for the best - and there was both", he said.
A passenger identified as Alex told the local KOMO News TV channel that the train had attracted rail buffs excited over the new service. All but one of its cars and engines jumped the tracks, and at least one fell to the roadway below.
He said he and Hoverson climbed inside the trains and moved wreckage out of the way to find passengers who might be stuck inside.
Local officials had anxious about trains going at higher speeds through the curves in the area.
The train was reportedly travelling at more than 80 miles per hour when it derailed. "Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens" Anderson said.
The derailment occurred on the first day Amtrak trains began using the new inland route between the Washington cities of Tacoma and Olympia, part of a 154 million euro ($181 million) project to cut travel time.
An Amtrak train derailed south of Seattle on Monday, and authorities reported "injuries and casualties".
At the time, analysts said positive train control technology could have prevented the accident.