Crossing America By Rail?

BarstowRick Mar 22, 2019

  1. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    I was reading the following link to see what if anything positive would come out of the authors submission. The media tending to be negative on just about everything American.

    Train across America - Crossing America via Amtrak

    The particular sheen of America by Amtrak.
    By CAITY WEAVER. Photographs by: Holly Andres

    I was surprised at the honesty. Thought you might enjoy it as well.

    Now, instead of watching Amtrak pull into and leave Barstow, Ca., via
    Virtual Rails Live Train Cam.
    I want to ride that train.

    Never in all the years of my interesting life (what, am I kidding?) have I done such.

    Once on board you can track your train with this resource Amtrak Tracker.

    Never a dull moment. Now where's that prune juice? Oh sorry, that's a different thread.

    So, what's your thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
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  2. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Amtrak didn't need to happen in the first place. Railroads only signed on because it was a way out from under the thumb of the ICC.

    The ICC is dead, and Amtrak could be too.

    It could be undone the same way it was done. Don't tell me the railroads wouldn't provide passenger service. The UP voluntarily runs passenger trains every year--often with steam power.
     
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  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I keep recalling the promotional films made by many railroads, post-WWII. Their passenger trains so proudly featured. Swift, with wonderful decor inside and out. Often showing a railroad representative aboard, en route to see a potential shipper. Back when their sales people actively sought out freight, instead of cherry picking and dumping the rest to trucks.... *Sigh*
     
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  4. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    The Twentieth Century ran in sixteen hours during the steam age.

    Today that exact same trip takes twenty-five percent longer. It's back up to twenty hours. We've regressed back to 1907.

    Amtrak ought to go.
     
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  5. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    And then?

    We would certainly see much of the regional and commuter stuff still operating. Perhaps some expansions, perhaps some contractions. I cannot see any of the Class I's, let alone Class II operations investing, without massive taxpayer input via DC. Which I 'll bet those "subsidies" would likely annually exceed the cost of Amtrak.

    Also, there may be some obligations in law for passenger service. I believe there might be treaty (Federal) language to provide rail (passenger) transportation as part of the Empire Builder's route. Even if not, there are every winter communities weather isolated, except for rail. Litigation, here we come....
     
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  6. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    The UP runs excursions. Voluntarily. No one is twisting their arms.

    Amtrak was created by offering the railroads relief from the ICC if they paid, usually in equipment. Amtrak's equipment could be distributed to railroads that agree to use it for however many years.

    Of course, Amtrak owns track in eight states and D.C. And I'm sick of supporting rail service in those states, all of which are wealthier than mine. Let them buy that track.
     
  7. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

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    Wasn't it a combination of the interstate highway system (which reduced demand) plus the loss of mail carrying contracts (which made most runs (even more) unprofitable) that led to the elimination of many passenger trains?
     
  8. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Add to that more convenient airplane travel with faster jet-powered planes that gratified the expanding instant gratification corporate mind set.
     
  9. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Of course. But the ICC demanded the continued operation of some routes that neither customers, nor the railroads, nor even Amtrak cared about. Amtrak cut trains that the railroads never asked for permission to discontinue.

    Thanks to Senator Mike Mansfield, the Burlington Northern was forced to run six round trips per day between Minneapolis and Seattle early in 1971. That's simply nuts.

    The Seaboard Coast Line and the Santa Fe announced they'd happily continue operating passenger service if they could discontinue unpopular services.

    Naturally. But there are still cruise ships on the oceans. Clearly, some portion of the population can be induced not to be in a rush if a sufficiently interesting experience can be enjoyed along the way.
     
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  10. fitz

    fitz Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    All of the above contributed to the end of railroads running passenger trains. In response to BarstowRick's original post, I would encourage you to take a trip on Amtrak. I say this as a "seasoned veteran" of only two experiences, but they were both quite enjoyable. I took Amtrak from Oregon to SoCal for a granddaughter's college graduation and it was a real eye-opener, both good and bad. The scenery was mostly wonderful and not a distraction as it would be if you are driving. Going through the cities was kind of depressing seeing all the homeless camps alongside the tracks. Service can be improved greatly by tipping Amtrak employees in the cafes.
     
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  11. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

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    That and the relative pricing between the two modes of transportation.
    As that article mentions, you can spend $129 on non-stop 6-hour flight or $1,089 on a 67-hour train ride with a change of trains in Chicago.
    Of course the train trip can be done for under $300 if you're willing to ride in coach.

    The only way I'd likely make such an excursion by train is if I had the better part of a week available and sufficient points accumulated on an Amtrak credit card to pay for it.
    Then, the routing would be Acela Express from New York to Washington, Capitol Limited to Chicago, Empire Builder to Portland OR and finally Coast Starlight to LA.
     
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  12. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

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    One might have presumed that the four trains BN was already running over that route - Empire Builder, North Coast Limited, Western Star and Mainstreeter - would have sufficed.
     
  13. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    That does appear to be it, doesn't it? It has been a long time since I read that book about the railroads on the eve of Amtrak. But the BN timetable shows four.

    Which was only about three too many.

    I think I see how I misread the list. If anyone else wants to misread the list of trains that the ICC made the railroad run, and compare that to what the government was actually willing to run, here's a way to download it:

    http://r.duckduckgo.com/l/?kh=-1&ud...ger_trains_operating_on_the_eve_of_amtrak.pdf
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2019
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  14. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    On the flip side, my last ten years before retirement in 1997, I rode Amtrak Crescent exclusively between Slidell, LA and Alexandria, VA for meetings in our Washington office. I would board the Crescent in Slidell at 0800 and be in Alexandria the next morning at 0900 for a day's meetings. Then return from Washington at 6:30 that evening and be in Slidell the next afternoon at 4:30. Flight schedules between Gulfport, MS and Washington National required staying two nights in Alexandria motels. The cost differences were $1,650 for air and motels, whereas Amtrak, including sleepers, was $750. The Finance Manager said "Have a nice trip."
     
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  15. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

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    Suppose that you had traveled via the airport in New Orleans (Kenner).
    How would the schedule and cost have compared?
     
  16. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Don't know, didn't check it out. That option was less than desirable being about 1-1/2 hours from home and I-10/610 traffic had become more chaotic. Besides, I enjoy riding trains, and have since the 1940s. :cool:
     
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  17. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    But would they also operate regularly scheduled public passenger trains? Quite a different scenario...
     
  18. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Good question. I wish the government would ask it.

    It would be good advertising. It would get Amtrak off their rails. I doubt every railroad would be equally willing. But I believe they'd all be sorely tempted.
     
  19. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member

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    Here's a UP system map: https://www.up.com/cs/groups/public/documents/up_pdf_nativedocs/pdf_system_map.pdf

    Suppose that you are tasked with setting up the UP passenger train network.
    On what routes would the trains run and how frequently?
    What equipment will you use and who will pay to acquire it?
    Can you afford to run the trains at a financial loss or, if the fares are set high enough to at least break even, will a sufficient number of riders be willing to pay them?
    If they do run at a loss, will the passenger trains still be run at a high priority so that they remain on schedule, or will they end up sitting in sidings while the profitable freight trains zip past?
     
  20. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    The only reason Amtrak exists (at all) is because you and I the taxpayer are subsidizing it. Oh it's still expensive to ride as I see it. But then a $20.00 ticket from San Bernardino to Barstow seems expensive. Sure, just try to get on the train for $20.00. You'd have better luck jumping a freight train. Anyway, it's beyond my reach but I'm glad there are those who still enjoy a train trip. So keep them rolling. Maybe, I'll win the lottery? Haw, Haw, haw, haw, sob!
     

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