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Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-23-2006, 10:30 PM   #1
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Rebuild the american railroads!

It would put a huge number of americans to work at good jobs and it would make it so we could get out of our cars!

We have railroads that make the old soviets rails look better than the mess we have here in america today!
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 12:00 AM   #2
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Right now our freight RR are operating at capacity.*

Major issues as I see: 1. Condition of the road bed, 2. technology to use the system safely at high capacity, 3. workplace cultures that chew up and spit out operations staff at all levels.

The recent changes that permitted earlier retirement of employees subject to the RR Retirement Act resulted in flight of stunning proportions.* There are few seasoned train operation staff left.

Do American railroads need rebuilding, absolutely.* In so many ways.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 12:04 AM   #3
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Quote:
Originally Posted by newguy888
It would put a huge number of americans to work at good jobs and it would make it so we could get out of our cars!

We have railroads that make the old soviets rails look better than the mess we have here in america today!
I would support a small fuel tax to fund this. I'm sure railroads are a lot cheaper than semi trucks for transportation of goods and a whole heck of a lot more efficient. Additionally, I would like the ability to take a train to work, or to travel across the state to see my folks during the winter months. * *

As an aside, I think Amtrak could be a lot more successful (at least here in WA) if they revised their schedule just a bit. Traffic on I-5 is horrible during rush hour, and if they changed their train schedule to allow people to commute to work via train, i'm sure it would catch on.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 12:14 AM   #4
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat
Right now our freight RR are operating at capacity.*

Major issues as I see: 1. Condition of the road bed, 2. technology to use the system safely at high capacity, 3. workplace cultures that chew up and spit out operations staff at all levels.

The recent changes that permitted earlier retirement of employees subject to the RR Retirement Act resulted in flight of stunning proportions.* There are few seasoned train operation staff left.

Do American railroads need rebuilding, absolutely.* In so many ways.
About 7 years ago, Amtrak purchased a few new "Talgo" trains which are supposedly capable of fairly high speeds. Over thanksgiving break I was excited to take this new train down from Bellingham to see my parents...... we left the station and went along at about 60mph. I asked one of the staff why the train wasn't going any faster.... the reason? The tracks were in poor condition. Later on that trip we had an encounter with a pickup truck (some hunters decided that the RR tracks were a good place to park their truck), and the trip took even longer to complete....

America does need to wake up and renovate this critical infrastructure.... in a world of increasingly expensive energy, rail is the only feasible method of transporting large amounts of goods... I saw a statistic somewhere that said that semi trucks took about 10X more energy than rail to transport a quantity of goods.... and air freight 10X more energy than semi. I don't know if it's true, but it makes sense.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 12:35 AM   #5
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Recent story from inside one of our major RR:* Conference call with Prez and Regional Operaing VPs.* Prez reaming out one for a train delay as the result of an accident.* VP told him the police would not release the train until all the body was removed.* Prez didn't care, told the VP to order the crew to get underway immediately.* These VPs work 16 hours a day, 12 days straight with 2 days off in 2 weeks.*

I've taken the Talgo several times and love it, but until BN upgrades the roadbed it won't be all that it can be.* The RRs failed to maintain tracks prior to mergers (leaving that task to the consolidated operation), now work is underway with little elbow room.* I have noticed contractors at work but I venture it will take 20 years.*

Not only are the trains running long, it looks to me that they are running heavy.* Container cars are replacing box cars.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 09:31 AM   #6
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

We have taken the Amtrak all over the US.* Their schedules are always at the mercy of freight trains, so often they do not run on time.* The Coast Starlight is especially bad.* Bad track and delays waiting for freight trains.*

I have met a number of foreigners on Amtrak and they all are surprised at how late our trains run.*

Amtrak also has been mucking around with amenities.* I think the goal of current management is to cause it to fail.*
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 09:46 AM   #7
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

I would love to travel by train, but in most of the country the service is either non-existent or crippled with chronic lateness.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
I have met a number of foreigners on Amtrak and they all are surprised at how late our trains run.
Years ago I took the whole family on a train trip between two major cities (about 200 miles). We got up at 4 A.M. to be at the station on time, arrived to find no Amtrak staff at the counter, a lobby full of people sleeping while they waited for yesterday's train, and empty tracks. We left five hours late and were told how lucky we were as other travellers talked about how common it was for 15 hour delays. That was our last American train trip.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 10:43 AM   #8
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

I'm all for train travel, but my uneducated guess is that the lack of a train mindset by most Americans, and the chicken-and-egg problem of repairing the system/getting ridership, will doom us to driving or flying.

Is it still true that Amtrak tickets are usually as expensive at plane tickets?

I'll never forget an overnight trip through Sweden on a train.* Small bunk, best night of sleep I've ever had.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 10:47 AM   #9
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

I've had the experience of traveling in Europe (primarily France) on their "superior" rail system, and have a few comments on the topic.

Yes, there is a way to make "trains work" for the US, but I doubt it will ever happen. *For example, getting on a "main line" train (such as the TGV from Paris <CDG airport> to Lyon, in the south) one is struck with the "absence of cars" while on the trip. *Why? *Because France (like a lot of "Euro countries") still adhere to the "city central" idea of population. *Yes, you do see villes, and indivudial homes, but not as frequent as in the US.

Additionally, the French (among others) use primarily "city cars" (e.g. "small") due to fuel expense, parking availability, and not needing a large vehicle for long trips (that's why they have trains!).

As far as schedules, I've never been in a train that was not on time, nor sat at the station more than a few minutes (you only bring what you can carry - not like a mini-van!!!)

That being the case, and the "movement" to place the car as the primary vehicle of mass transportation back in the '50's (the Eisenhower road system) more or less defeted the idea in the US to have a true public transportaion system (you do pay for your vehicle, don't you?)

Anyway, that my comment on the subject...

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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 12:17 PM   #10
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

What we don't have is a publicly owned and maintained interstate rail road bed. If we did, and charged the operating companies a weight-mile tax for maintenance, there would be the possibility of change. For urban areas inter-city rail that doesn't share freight tracks is the only current solution to reliability.

As it is the best we can do is patronize Amtrak whenever possible. And yes, the Coast Starlight in usually on schedule (or close to it) for the first 250 miles.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 12:48 PM   #11
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Cities often impose speed limits for trains travelling through their jurisdictions, too. I am afraid that trains in America are an idea whose time has past.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 01:06 PM   #12
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha
We have taken the Amtrak all over the US. Their schedules are always at the mercy of freight trains, so often they do not run on time. The Coast Starlight is especially bad. Bad track and delays waiting for freight trains.
Oh, so true. I take the train to/from various sites to start/end bike rides. In June
I took Amtrak from Los Angeles to Bellingham (to connect to the Alaska Marine Ferry
for a non-cycling trip). We must have stopped a half-dozen times, always for freight
trains. We arrived 7 hours late (no problem, I always leave a BIG time cushion when
I travel by train). On the plus side, on one of our stops in the Cascades a young bear
wandered up and down the train, providing me with a nice video.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 01:10 PM   #13
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

I've had a thing for trains since childhood...taking the Long Island RailRoad into Manhattan...riding the El (Brooklyn elevated subway) with my grandfather...taking the subway from Penn Station to Columbia University when my boyfriend was there...and Amtrak to Boston when another boyfriend was there. Not to mention relying on BART in the Bay Area, the T in the Boston area, and the Metro in DC.

A few of my favorite movies feature or include train travel...North by Northwest, Out of Africa, Some Like It Hot, Gandhi, Casablanca. A few others have interesting train scenes even if they aren't exactly great movies: From Russia with Love, Murder on the Orient Express, Continental Divide, Dr Zhivago.

=astro, train romantic
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 01:28 PM   #14
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
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Is it still true that Amtrak tickets are usually as expensive at plane tickets?
Riding coach is cheap. You get a seat and a pillow and that is that.

It is much more expensive to ride first class with a sleeper. This is one place where we have allows splurged and got the deluxe sleeper, with it's own bathroom and comfortable seating and sleeping.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 01:44 PM   #15
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat
Right now our freight RR are operating at capacity.*

Major issues as I see: 1. Condition of the road bed, 2. technology to use the system safely at high capacity, 3. workplace cultures that chew up and spit out operations staff at all levels.

The recent changes that permitted earlier retirement of employees subject to the RR Retirement Act resulted in flight of stunning proportions.* There are few seasoned train operation staff left.

Do American railroads need rebuilding, absolutely.* In so many ways.
Brat, I have been watching the frustration of the coal companies trying to get enough rail capacity to meet demand. Is it even possible for the railroads to significantly increase capacity, or are they constrained by NIMBYs, lack of space, yard capacity, etc.?
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 02:34 PM   #16
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

What I hear from the conversation mentioned earlier (other than attitude): a problem for RRs is available suitable roadbed, any accident impacts already tight schedules all across the country.* Because I am seeing track construction crews from time to time I think they are working on that, but it is akin to increasing capacity on an interstate.* Just by observation I can see pinch points through urban areas.

There is also a problem with rolling stock, cars.* The type of car needed is impacted by the type of freight hauled - which is seasonal and depends on the freight owner's distribution system.* Intermodal units have decreased the demand for box cars.* I have seen box cars parked on sidings with ever-expanding graffiti murals.

Most of the big roads are operating just long haul, they sold off the right-of-ways to short lines that serve local customers.* I don't think yard capacity is a serious constraint for coal customers, but I suspect it is an issue where they interface with freight to and from Mexico.

Then there are different margins on different types of freight, and the cost of diesel impacts them too.* It's not easy to operate a railroad, and their employee relations style doesn’t help.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 04:26 PM   #17
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Quote:
Originally Posted by astromeria
I've had a thing for trains since childhood...taking the Long Island RailRoad into Manhattan...riding the El (Brooklyn elevated subway) with my grandfather...taking the subway from Penn Station to Columbia University when my boyfriend was there...and Amtrak to Boston when another boyfriend was there. Not to mention relying on BART in the Bay Area, the T in the Boston area, and the Metro in DC.

A few of my favorite movies feature or include train travel...North by Northwest, Out of Africa, Some Like It Hot, Gandhi, Casablanca. A few others have interesting train scenes even if they aren't exactly great movies: From Russia with Love, Murder on the Orient Express, Continental Divide, Dr Zhivago.

=astro, train romantic
I love trains too. How about the train station scene in Anna Karenina?

There was a steep grade on the old L&N that ran above the Ohio River. The trains needed multiple engines, and still slowed way down. Some of the older kids would hop on and ride into Cinti. They were still using steam locomotives, I remember seeing the flames in the fire box

My first rain trip was age 6, took the Pennsy from Cincinnati to NYC with our whole extended family, maybe 20 of us on the trip. One of my memories of that was my mother being in a funk after we got underway, when she ordered a martini and found out that we had just crossed into Pennsylvania, it was Sunday, and she was SOL due to Sunday Blue Laws.

Also remember running around on the train shooting at my cousins (and being shot at) with squirt guns. Pretty different from the car sickness and “Are we there yet” of car trips.

Later I moved to the east and rode the New Haven RR into NYC. Pretty awful that, but it beat driving. At least I could go to sleep without crashing. I also have fond memories of the New Haven bringing me a weekend woman from time to time.

Ha
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-24-2006, 07:01 PM   #18
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

Quote:
taking the Long Island RailRoad into Manhattan
Me too. I commuted into Manhatten from Huntington for a summer job when in high school. 3 hours of commuting each day. That was tough.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-25-2006, 12:03 AM   #19
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

My grandfather worked 32 years for the post office sorting mail on trains. Most of that was in the midwest. I remember meeting him at small RR stations in OK and southern Kansas back in the 50s. His grandfather and several of his uncles had been RR workers. I took Amtrak from Orlando to Savannah last year. It was a nice experience. We were about an hour late all along the route. Price was lots cheaper than flying. The biggest problem I see with Amtrak is not enough routes and trains to fit easily with most travel plans. I sure would like to see some of the cargo that is clogging the interstate hiways with semis go on the train instead.
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!
Old 09-25-2006, 12:40 AM   #20
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Re: Rebuild the american railroads!

I grew up a fraction of a mile from what was/is probably the busiest rail corridor in the country. Crossed all the tracks all the time. Watched the Zephyrs rip through on the express tracks. Watched the freights rumble by, waved at the Eng. & Fireman, at the guys in the caboose. Wondered about some of the far-off places on the sides of boxcars. Looked for hobos in any car coming by with the doors open. Watched the rail maintenance crews with their little gas powered putt-putts. In cold weather, watched them come out and set up all the bowling-ball like smudge pots with their oily flames around every switch, and there were a lot of switches. Looked in wonder as an automated switch machine worked, thinking "I'll bet that would crush your foot like a walnut if you put it in there!" Figured out how to read the overhead bridge block signal lights. Rode commuter trains sometimes with a relative to go somewhere locally.

The commuter trains still run there, and have expanded, since they were profitable. The Zephyrs are gone. Freights still rumble by, but with many restrictions so as not to block road crossings during certain hours of the day.

After all that, and liking trains... the consumer has spoken. Like the stage coach, like the canal boat, like the trolley car, like many of the bus lines, they passed from the scene due to increased efficiency, and the wishes of the consumer. I'd pull the plug on Amtrack, and be done with it. Don't prop it up.

Now, around here, when I see a train go by, it almost always is a container train. Probably bringing more good plastic stuff from China.
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