I wanted to take the train from Savannah, Georgia, to Austin, Texas. Figured it'd be a long trip, so wanted a roomette or whatever they call it for Mrs Fert and me.
There's no direct route, by train, from Savannah to Austin. One must go to Washington, DC, then to Chicago, then down to Texas. I forget the exact route, but there were parts you (understandably) had to change trains. But there was one link where you didn't have available the roomette, just seats. And a link where you needed to schlep your bags from one train to another. And I think it would only take seventeen years or something like that from Georgia to Texas (perhaps I exaggerate just a tad there).
So, I *would* take the train, it's just that it don't go where I'm going in a reasonable, comfortable, convenient manner.
I shared an apt. with a guy in grad school at Ohio State early '50s. His obsession was collecting and analyzing passenger train schedules, and figuring out how to get from one place to another most efficiently. I mean he had a roomful of those schedules. Back then you could get to long haul places in a straighter line and fewer train changes than you can with airlines today. Of course, it did take forever. I once rode coach Indianapolis to San Antonio in 18 or so hours as I recall. But only two RR, the NYC and the AT&SF, with a short layover and train change in St. Louis.
Nice tales, G.
I've always loved trains. When I was a kid my mother bought a house on 4th Street in Springfield, Ill. while I was in the hospital with polio. When they brought me into the new house, my room was on the second-floor front - and 3rd Street, a block away across an open right-of-way, was the Illinois Central. I listened to the City of New Orleans go by every day. Sixth Street, two blocks in the other direction, was Route 66 as it came through town.
In 1956 my mother and I took the IC up to Chicago and transferred to the Burlington Zephyr, which we rode straight across the plains to Denver, and thence through the Rockies, the desert, and the Sierras into Sacramento, and ultimately to Oakland where we were met (no bands, though) by the California branch who'd come out here in the '20s in a Model T.
In the '60s there were a lot of trips from Illinois to Texas for college, marriage and other ill-advised endeavors. In 1970 I went back and forth from Ft. Worth to Winfield, Kansas to try and start a guitar company and instead lose everything.
In 1974, following numerous nightmares, several soap operas and a couple of Country-Western songs, I did it again from Chicago with literally all I owned on my back. And I still miss trains, a most civilized means of locomotion.
I loved taking trains in the old days. The overnight sleeper from Boston to DC was the preferred way to visit my wife's family.
Once coming into Union Station in DC in the morning, in our sleeper compartment, we were repacking to exit the train. The door was open and my wife responded to my question about if or where the prescriptions were packed, "The drugs are in the bottom of the small bag" she said...as a porter passing by the open door paused and then hurried away.
Love trains, can't seem to get anywhere anymore on one.
What a trip. I had no idea that the Zephyrs dated back that far. In the 1960s, when I was just a child, my mother took us kids on a train trip from California to Minnesota. The first leg, SF to Denver (I think) was on the California Zephyr. We did not have a sleeper berth, but the seats were comfortable enough to be bearable, and the view from up top was wonderful. I don't remember what line we tok for the second leg, from Denver to the Twin Cities, but I remember how uncomfortable and much older the cars were, and there was no comparable view.
But I hear that Jerry Brown promises a new resurgence of passenger rail travel with his Bullet Train to Nowhere boondoggle. What could possibly go wrong?
I took a Zephyr once. Also rode trains from Atlanta to Seattle, and have "trained" up and down the West Coast a couple of times. It's grueling travel, and I'll wager the old timers had tougher butts than most of us.
Both my dad and my dad-in-law rode the rails from anywhere you can name to everywhere else, in WW II. It was an odyssey, that's no doubt.
Except in a handful of extremely high density places, it is a mistake to use trains to move people. The costs per passenger mile are stunning, because every bit of the infrastructure and train is heavy. If you care about carbon dioxide (I don't), then trains have the highest CO2 emissions per passenger mile of any ground transport, again because of weight. Light rail diminishes the problems. Trolleys are a 19th Century horror show.
For modest distances (daily commute), buses are cheapest both in dollars per passenger mile and CO2 emmissions. Passenger cars are a close second.
The Euopean use of trains is extremely wrong. Most of their freight goes by truck, which clogs their highways.
Just about everything the Europeans do is wrong.
Go to the antiplanner blog for numerous posts and actual data. He also spends a lot of time exposing city planner lies.
Zephyr. An apt name, for the amount of disturbance that will be felt when the Browndoggle sort of just disappears.
Trains are no longer about transporting the public. They are now vehicles for transporting the public's money to political cronies.
The California Republic is dead. It has been transformed into an organized crime syndicate. The new Dons keep some citizens around so they can be plundered.
The scope and audacity of the Browndoggle just boggles. The Big Dig? Pikers! Dangle a shiny pebble in front of the Califidiocracy: ooh look, a 21Cen LA-SF Bullet Train. The Democrats were wise to the scam. The Demonrats and a few morons vote for $10B in bonds. The Initiative is structured to plunder billions more from Federal coffers. You stupid flyover chumps, we're gonna rape you some more, so bend over and just think of America, cuz you deserve what's gonna happen to you.
With the bonds sold, the money just flies out of Sacraspendo to every Democrat interest group and constituency across the state. Billions just vanish. The objective is not to get a train built, but to get that money out to all the vassals, minions, courtiers while nobody is watching and before it runs out.
Mr. Senator Feinstein, his company gets big contracts. The engineers working for politically-favored and obeisant companies get to work. The speed decreases, trip times stretch, the construction schedules doubles and triples, the projected cost increases more than tenfold, the ridership projections endlessly decrease. A few desultory tracks are laid in the remotest part of the Central Valley, in order to fool the Feds into coughing up more $$$. See, we're making progress. Pay up! Like the Feds need any convincing.
Don't you see the con yet, mark? The objective of the Browndoggle is to steal $$$ billions and lock down California forever as a Democratic Party stronghold. No train will ever run you stupid maroons!, but tens of billions of dollars will have been transferred from the new serfs to the new kakistocracy.
Welcome to the California Feudal Empire. Now shut up and work. And if you try to fight us, well, we have lots of illegal gangs under our control, and they'll just kill you. Ask those peaceful White Supremacists down in Sacramento. The cops stood by and let our Antifa work them over, pour encourager les autres.
Trains! Infested by Federal goons (The King's Men!) that shake each passenger down and confiscate all their cash. Governments love trains: they're so efficient for moving people to the camps.
The closest experience to the Zephyr I've had was the Amtrak (yes, I know...) AutoTrain from Virginia to Florida. This was between overseas jobs, and I was pulling my reserve duty at MacDill that year, so I thought it might be fun to take the train down instead of flying or driving. It's a direct shot from Lorton (outside of DC) to Sanford (near Orlando), so that part was fine, and the food and sleeper car were not great, but ok. They also didn't trash my car. But it was quite costly, more than an airline ticket or mileage, so I ended up eating part of the cost, even though I drove back. Haven't taken a long-distance train in the US since.
Echo Oldfert. If the train is going where you want to pretty much exactly, it's enjoyable and efficient. If you are going Boston to Cleveland, great. If you are aiming for Cincinnati instead, you are switching to a bus or a car rental and things just got more complicated. I've taken two long-distance trips over the past five years just to relive the experiences of my youth. I might do it again.
Wonderful post, thank you. But what a sad sight of the train today, an almost empty car, and a lonely woman, not enjoying the sights zipping by, just… lost in the screen of her phone.