Sunday, January 28, 2007

Bringing Back the CRANDIC

We could fail to explain what the CRANDIC is and what it means to any railfan who visited eastern Iowa during the golden age, but that would be too much fun and also would probably drive away new readers of this blog. We have correctly used it as an acronym above, but it is more likely that you will see it just as Crandic.

The Crandic is the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, a former interurban (until 1953) with a colorful past, a reasonably successful present, and, if this article has anything to say about it, a possible future as a revived electric passenger hauler. The Crandic may one day serve as a "light rail" line, the modern equivalent of a light interurban. A lot of old interurbans were light, up to some but not all of the standards of the steam railroads and able to haul some, but not all freight.

By today's standards for "steam" roads, they would all be light. This with the possible exception of the last surviving example, CSS&SB. But that has to do with steel mills and possibly with why the South Shore Line survived into the Twenty-First Century as a true-to-life heavy interurban.

As usual, we digress. Our point is that the revival of the Crandic as an electric interurban of sorts just adds to The Evidence.

The Evidence is that American cities made a big mistake by forsaking electric traction for passenger service, both intra- and intercity. Streetcar tracks should have never been pulled up or paved over and what was once electrified should have stayed electrified.

As America moves more to an energy philosophy that includes power generation with non-fossil fuels, electric traction makes more sense. (As of State of The Union 2007, Mr. Bush's energy policy still stinks. Biofuel is a boondoggle. Can anyone still pronounce nuclear correctly? I guess any country whose leader can't pronounce it shouldn't try to use it. But another digression has occurred.)

Alas, the streetcars disappeared in most cities no later than the 1950s. Interurban electric traction (like CSS&SB) disappeared earlier in most cases, and heavy electric traction (like Milwaukee Road's) except for Passenger Rail has been on the ropes for years. Infrastructure cost is part of it, but there was also a time when the so-called experts thought everything would move on rubber tires and Interstate highways. Talk about infrastructure costs!

So much for the experts.

If the Crandic returns in electric configuration, we also hope to see more streetcars and perhaps other electric interurbans. But we can't help imagining what it would be like if the wires had never come down.

©2007 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Vote for Bill Richardson

Mr. Richardson just threw his hat into the ring this morning. This guy is such a longshot for the Democrat presidential nomination that you might think even Nancy Pelosi has a better chance. So why would a conservative blogger tell anyone to vote for him?

Well, for his position on one issue: He likes Passenger Rail.

Mr. Richardson is responsible for the New Mexico Rail Runner, and for getting the Federal funding for it. Mr. Richardson believes that there is room for more mass transport, and it ain't in the skies. Finally, he is not bashful about putting public money on the line for it.

We can't say the same for any other potential presidential candidate, although Barak Obama has been almost as active in procuring federal transportation funds for Illinois. In Mr. Obama's case, he and Dick Durbin talked a good talk, but when it comes down to it, most of the money they procured will be spent on highways. And on the Republican side, forget about it. Only Rudy Giulani may come anywhere close to being sympathetic to funding for major Passenger Rail projects.

On a low note, Hillary Clinton is now also in the race. Her focus will not be on transportation. We are not even sure if she knows how to drive a car. When the subject comes up, and it will, she will listen to Democrat advisers who tell her to put the big bucks in public transit. We all know that all Democrat voters live in the inner city and can't afford a car. (For those of you who don't understand Limbaugh-like sarcasm, that was some of it.)

In the opinion of Mister Trains, there is nothing wrong with public transit. We usually keep an historic CTA car of one sort or another as a wallpaper on this computer. (A 6-year old Pentium 4 that could use some public funding.) It just isn't presently what this country needs in added quantity.

On a high note, we do not think anyone truly has a clue as to where these candidates will be standing or sitting in February 2008. The drive-by media are still treating the Republican primaries as though they don't exist. So everybody still has a chance to opt in for Passenger Rail in a big way.

Given the stakes, we should all try to impress upon our duly elected officeholders, and upon their potential successors, the importance of Passenger Rail.

© 2007 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Regional Interstate Passenger Rail

We heard of a good idea whose time has come.

The Midwest has a Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. It promotes the development of intercity Passenger Rail that crosses state lines.

What a deal. We think we should have one of these in the Southwest, and particularly in New Mexico.

We don't understand why more people in New Mexico don't get excited about the prospect of Passenger Rail service from Denver to El Paso and serving New Mexico's three metropolitan areas. (For you unwashed, that would be Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces.)

We further don't understand why more people don't get excited about Passenger Rail in the east-west corridor that would be Phoenix, Tucson, Las Cruces, El Paso and San Antonio. Granted, this is more of a stretch, as there is a long, long way between El Paso and San Antonio. And because of line abandonments and other factors, New Mexico doesn't have any real good attractive Passenger route to Dallas-Ft. Worth.

We need a Regional Initiative, and we need to get people in all the above cities and surrounding areas involved.

Anyone please let me know.

© 2007 - C. A. Turek -

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Digging Out

The first week of the year seems not to have brought any significant Passenger Rail news.

The East (and Northeast in particular) is holding its own on speculation about the revival of passenger service in even the smallest hamlet. When New Englanders can't go skiing or ice fishing, they apparently fantasize about what life would be like with good Passenger Rail service.

The Intermountain West, meanwhile, is digging out of record-breaking El Nino snowfalls. We're also fantasizing about what life would be like with good Passenger Rail service.

Oddly enough, the West is closer to this than the East.

It seems like any reasonble proposal has grown legs and is walking, crawling, and in some cases running to fruition.

We had previously scheduled a post about the Colorado group that is advocating I-25 rail corridor service between Denver and Albuquerque. Though the idea at first glance seems a long shot, it has greater chance of becoming reality than rail service to the Poconos. Here's why:

There are obvious benefits at the north end. Colorado has the cash, and the citizens have the will. Major East Slope communities including Pueblo and Colorado Springs will be served. At the south end, there is the upstart New Mexico Rail Runner, and the state owns the railroad, all the freaking way to a connection with the freakin' best-run, if not busiest, Transcon in the country.

This writer has long proposed that New Mexico look at the benefits of a further connection all the way to El Paso, TX. The old Santa Fe ran a day train in this direction that wasn't all that badly patronized. It would have been better if the old Santa Fe hadn't, like all railroads of the pre-Amtrak era, been more interested in train-offs than in train-ons.

Whether most New Mexicans like it or not, the biggest population and employment center in the state is not Albuquerque or Santa Fe, it is the strip of Interstate 10 between El Paso and Las Cruces. And Las Cruces has railroad access that goes to Arizona and Beyond.

While we spend our days wondering if the old flat-roof adobe can hold all that snow, we can fantasize about a Passenger Rail network run by Colorado and New Mexico (hey, they already own the Cumbres & Toltec!) and including as it's terminal points Denver, El Paso, and Phoenix. God or the Union Pacific forbid, maybe even Yuma and San Antonio.

We local Southwesterners certainly would be able to train-it better than we can now with the miserably late Southwest Chief and the just miserable Sunset Limited.

Just day dreamin' in the snow!

© 2007 - C. A. Turek -