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Entries in America (2)



January/Febraury Issue of ArriveArrive is Amtrak’s bimonthly onboard maagzine for Amtrak patrons and travelers in northeast section of the country.  It is akin to the “InFlight” magazines on airlines.

Considering that most of us are not regular travelers, I suspect that few of you in the southwest region of the country have had  an opportunity to read a recent article that appeared in the January/February issue of Arrive.  So I thought I would pass it on here in case you’re interested.

Vice President Joe Biden graces the cover and he wrote the cover story “Why America Needs Trains” in which he discusses his association with trains and his thoughts on the value of a strong rail travel infrastructure for America.

He has self-proclaimed himself as “Mr. Amtrak” because of his volume of use of Amtrak’s service between Wilmington, Delaware and Washington D.C. throughout his tenure as a Senator.



What Happened to Rail Travel and Railroads in America?

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. 

Published: January 5, 2010
America’s preference for highways and airports over modern rail transportation will make the country increasingly look so 20th-century.