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Artic Circle or Mason-Dixon Line?

I was on the road again today, or perhaps I should say ‘rail’. The US northeast is still very much in the deep freeze as one can see from this photo I took somewhere before Baltimore.

Photo: Copyright Dale Amon, all rights reserved.

The AMTRAK Acela train seemed to require more resets than a Microsoft Operating system. We were stopped a half hour on a siding while they attempted to ‘reset the air’; and later for problems in the lead locomotive. My ‘express’ train trip took nearly five hours from Penn Station NYC to Union Station DC and wrecked my plans for meeting up with some aerospace types in town. I will not complain too loudly though. The trains have normal AC power available for your laptops, you have enough legroom and arm room to actually type… and you can use your mobile phone.

As opportunity arises – I am now on another gig and my meter is running – I will catch up on a few photo stories left over from Manhattan.

12 comments to Artic Circle or Mason-Dixon Line?

  • Jake

    Amtrak should be abolished. America is too big for trains.

    If Amtrak gave every would-be ticket buyer a free airline ticket instead, they would cut their losses in half.

  • Dale Amon

    In normal circumstances the train from NY to DC is within 15 minutes total trip time of flying and is far more comfortable, less hassle, you can transact business while you travel. I doubt I’ll ever take a flight on that corridor again. Getting to and negotiating airports, airport security, seats that have you packed in like farmed chickens, no cell phone use, no power for laptops (except on some airlines and if you have special power adaptors, and probably not in cattle class at all)… as much as I love flying, I would take the train for business up to any distance that only costs me an extra hour or two. I’m talking total, door to door time, not takeoff to landing time.

    So yes, there is a market niche for trains, and the war on terror has made it even larger.

  • Duncan

    Fair enough Dale, but I beleive Amtrak survives only by goverment bail outs… I don’t doubt there’s a market.. but smarter more innovative folk are needed.

  • Kristopher

    I blame federal subsidies and state control.

    Just imagine what the cruise line industry would be like if the US federal government tried to “save” it in the 1960’s by creating “Amboat”.

  • Nomennovum

    If it stays this cold in the Northeast much longer, the best way to get from New York to D.C. wil be via ice boat.

  • Forget it, Nome, sled dogs is the wave of the future.

  • Doug Collins

    I took a Union Pacific train (“the Zephyr”, I think) from Chicago to Rock Springs, Wyoming in 1965, just a year or two before the Feds ‘saved’ the passenger railroad industry. Admittedly I was an impressionable college student, but that was one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever taken. Service was excellent, food -to my untrained palate- seemed excellent also. An evening spent in the dome car riding through an incredibly violent thunderstrorm in Iowa was something else to remember.

    I made another long trip on Amtrack a few years later. My recollection is one of tortuously uncomfortable seats, body odor, cardboard food cooked in grease and a stiking lack of dome cars. There were also very inconvenient connections (24+ hour layovers).

    (I would add that there was a more sloppy, disheveled air to my fellow passengers than in 1965, but in fairness, I have to admit to that being the case on the private airlines too. I can’t blame that on the State – people have become slobs on their own.)

    The excuse for the government takeover was that the profit driven private railroads would cut service to small towns on unprofitable routes. As it has turned out, Amtrak has enforced fairness by cutting service on ALL the routes.

  • John Thacker

    Amtrak actually makes money on the NY to DC routes. Not hard to see why; high population density. But the politicians who control Amtrak insist on running lots of money-losing single trains where there’s no demand for it due to the low population density.

  • Tim Haas

    Congress will always vote for subsidies for Amtrak, because it’s how so many of its East Coast members get to their day jobs.

  • I wonder how many of your “resets” were in fact to let freight trains (Goods trains to those of the Limey persuasion) go by. Amtrack owns the passenger trains, but not the tracks themselves, which they pay the freight lines to use. Although they claim not to, the general assumption is that the freight people routinely shunt passenger trains aside to carry on their own business.

  • Euan Gray

    Although they claim not to, the general assumption is that the freight people routinely shunt passenger trains aside to carry on their own business.

    In Britain, freight trains yield to passenger trains, even on our insanely part-privatised network. It seems it has always been thus, & this also explains some of the restrictions on rail freight over here – the train has to be able to fit in all of the passing loops along its planned route in order to wait for passenger trains to go through. Longer trains can run, but usually at night or as (expensive) express freight.


  • Usathome

    Airlines and roads/car travel are much more highly subsidized than Amtrak. This is Amtrak’s big complaint, that it is being moved to a for-profit operation while airlines get massive subsidies in the way of government subsidies to aerospace research (which gets transferred to commercial), the special deals cities give to airports, et cetera.