Sunday, December 31, 2006


As some readers of this blog know and others are about to learn, we are based in Albuquerque, NM. That wouldn't mean much, except that we have just been through the worst snowstorm to hit Albuquerque in about 50 years. (Records from 1959 were broken.)

In 1959, Albuquerque was served (well) by the Santa Fe and its generally reliable passenger schedule. Some of the great trains called at Albuquerque, and there were doodlebugs to El Paso, Amarillo and Santa Fe, with connections to the still operating Colorado narrow gauge system. History does not record how late the trains ran then, and it probably won't record how late they are running today.

But we will bet that they were not as late as Amtrak.

We don't exactly understand why Amtrak trains get as late as they get in snow. (As we write this, the eastbound California Zephyr, which is having to travel through the same snowstorm now in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, is running over 8 hours late. Amtrak's Web site is reporting a "service disruption" for the Southwest Chief through Albuquerque, so who knows!) The basic technology is the same as 1959: Diesel electric locomotives pulling stainless steel passenger cars which are self-sufficient for some functions and which depend on the locomotive for others. Even the high-level concept was already in operation.

Part of it, we are sure, has to do with the freight railroads and with the record volumes of rail freight being carried. Not only will the freight railroads tend to give money-making freight priority, but they will have to have more maintenance windows as the freights wear out the track faster than ever.

Another part of it, we are also sure, is the management of Amtrak and the general attitude that it no longer matters if anything is on schedule. The attitude that things are just too complex and it is all right if we get off schedule so long as we have a reasonable excuse, like snow.

In 1959, railroaders of all seniorities were, we are just as sure, called on the carpet for any delay at all.

Given the history of railroading in this country, and the history of railroads getting the passengers and mail through in all kinds of weather, Passenger Rail should be the transportation mode of choice in bad weather. It's not, but it should be.

Times change and commerce suffers if the free flow of goods is impeded. Commerce and something more abstract suffers, however, when the free flow of American travel is impeded. This nation was built on the free flow of goods and people, and something happens to the American psyche when goods become more important than people.

We hope that, in the New Year, the new congress finds a way to enable Amtrak or some form of national Passenger Rail to become what Passenger Rail should be.

May God bless us all with a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

© 2006 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, December 24, 2006

End of Year Report

Several thoughts - not the least of which is we have reached nearly the end of another year and the situation with Amtrak has not really improved.

As always, there are signs of imminent change and signs of imminent disaster. And you wouldn't be able to tell which sign Mister Trains thinks points which way.

Yesterday's TV news brought a video bite of a delayed air passenger in Denver who thought, with flights grounded, that there may be some way to get from Denver to Albuquerque by rail. There should be, but there isn't, and probably won't be for at least a decade. (If it happens sooner than that, we will gladly eat our words.)

The potential rail traveler looking for a train is a bad thing - because the public doesn't know where Amtrak goes - but it is a good sign. That an air passenger would even think of the train tells us that air passengers are becoming fed up with the hassle. If Amtrak put on more routes and lost the "don't take a chance running in the storm" mentality, it would have more riders pretty fast.

The January issue of Trains carried an article about new Amtrak president Alex Kummant. Can Amtrak's new president keep the trains rolling? Anyone who's interested should read it thoroughly and between the lines.

This is a bad sign. Why? Because after reading this article, we don't think he can keep the trains rolling?

Bless him for taking on a thankless job. But Mr. Kummant is too wrapped up in doublespeak and the "committee" way of doing a job. From the direct quotes in the article, we can tell that his version of action is "talking about action." And he doesn't think Passenger Rail is viable in anything but a corridor context. Furthermore, he doesn't think that any drastic forms of initiative can be done quickly. Just how long does he think he will last at this job? As we have reported before, Amtrak presidents come and go with alarming frequency. At least Mr. Kummant is humble enough to acknowledge the employees and the historical problems that Amtrak has faced.

We prefer optimism. So we hope and pray that, at this time next year, we will buy a ticket to travel from Denver to Albuquerque without leaving the ground or using an Interstate. We also hope and pray that Mr. Kummant enjoys his next job.

© 2006 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tree-Huggin' Railroadin'

Those with some interest in the establishment of new Passenger Rail routes, and those with some concern that NIMBY's and BANANA's can put a stop to just about any project, should read the recent article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel entitled Crowds Flock To Rail Symposium by Genevieve Bookwalter, Sentinel staff writer.

Out there on the leading edge of trying to get Passenger Rail service on a 32-mile Union Pacific line, these people have the community both involved and interested. How did they do it? It appears that they are willing to look beyond conventional commuter service and think of alternates that satisfy the environmentalist in all of us. People interested in just getting automobiles off the highways are there. So are those who want to see alternate fuels used in order to reduce our dependency on oil and cut down on the environmental degradation of oil exploration.

There are also those who would finance the proposal, at least in part, from other than taxes and surcharges.

There was one classic NIMBY, a resident of 30 years who complains about the windows shaking when trains go by. Where has he been for 30 years? Living next to the tracks. The tracks were there before he was and, with some luck, the rest of the crowd will have passenger service long after he is gone.

But despite the NIMBY, this is the way Passenger Rail is going to have to get done in the foreseeable future.

© 2006 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Line Abandonments

At this time, we are going to abandon one project and revise our approach to this website. We have recently taken up new responsibilities that will restrict our abilities to produce a blog on a weekday. We are therefore going to change our blog back to once a week and revert to posting on Saturday or Sunday, whichever works. We will probably forward date all the blogs to the next Sunday, and we will “extra” the blog if possible with new information.

The project we are going to abandon is looking up the record on our congressmen. The research we have done so far indicates that our representatives are only interested when it comes to money, and they will be for or against Amtrak and Passenger Rail, whether they know anything at all about trains, based on if the funding involved appears to be politically popular or unpopular.

Popularity contests are no way to fund a railroad.

Oh, for the days of private investment and public stock offerings for Passenger Rail.

Maybe, they are right around the corner.

©2006 – C. A. Turek -

Monday, December 04, 2006

Las Vegas Has No Train Station

This will be a short post.

For one thing, Blogger Beta isn't working properly and we cannot format the text. For another, we got back from Vegas on Thursday afternoon and haven't had a chance to write or do research.

The hotel, The Gold Coast, was about a block from the railroad. There were plenty of Union Pacific trains working the line. No Amtrak, however.

Las Vegas, one of the premier tourist destinations of the country, has no train station. Bus stations it has got, airports also. But no train station and no Amtrak service except via Thruway bus.

As we said previouly. Pity.

©2006 - C. A. Turek -