What Happened to Rail Travel and Railroads in America?
Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 10:45PM
Joe Perry in America, Amtrak, Editorial, Passenger Trains, Ramblings and Such

My friend is leaving today for a business/pleasure trip to Juarez, Mexico.  (I know what you’re thinking - Juarez?  You mean the toughest city in the world?  Yes, but that’s the business part of the trip and NO it is not THAT kind of business!)  He is not the most comfortable flyer so he approached me about the possibility of taking the train - which, in America, means Amtrak.

Really?  I thought “really?” about someone taking a train ride?  I guess I was surprised.  Do people still do that?  I sat down with my friend and explained the “nuances” of travelling by train on Amtrak today.  (I think we all know that, unfortunately, travelling on Amtrak these days is very Greyhound-esque.)  I encouraged him to secure a roomette so that he might have an opportunity to stretch out in style and really enjoy the trip.  He agreed to do it and I hope the recent storms here in the southwest does not mar his trip.

All of this got me thinking about the decline of railroad acceptance as a first order of passenger transport in the United States.  Once America had hundreds of “named trains” providing first-class transportation across the country.  Trains with names like El Capitan, the California Zephyr, the Super Chief, to name a few.  Today, Amtrak may or may not have services that carry those names but, today, those names certainly do not carry the “service” they once did.

I was doing some research on the subject because I thought it would make for an interesting blog post and might serve to illicit memories of some of the readers of this blog to a by-gone era when things, at least in this respect, where a lot better.   I came across this Op-Ed article from the New York Times by Paul Kennedy.  Mr Kennedy is a Dilworth Professor of History and director of International Security Studies at Yale University.  While it doesn’t necessarily reflect the service levels of trains it does follow a similar thread by discussing the lack of acceptance of passenger rail travel today by most Americans.   It also gives us Americans an idea of where the rest of the world is on the subject.  Therefore, I am passing it along and recommending that you give it a read. 

A Trainspotter’s Guide to the Future of the World
Published: January 5, 2010
America’s preference for highways and airports over modern rail transportation will make the country increasingly look so 20th-century.
Article originally appeared on railroad photography and blog by joe perry (http://www.chasingsteel.com/).
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