Friday, August 02, 2013

No Worse and No Better

[This link] is to a Fox News article that reports the horrible time recently had by some Amtrak passengers on a disabled train.  The reason I'm blogging it is that I've had similar experiences.  What makes this remarkable to me is not that I had the bad experience, but that I had it so long ago, and nothing has changed.  I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that a lack of power and of light on board a mid-winter train is just as horrifying as on board one in the middle of a summer heat wave.

This happened to me well over a decade ago, and I can't say that I was uncomfortable as this Fox article depicts, but I've known the media to exaggerate - Tell me it isn't so! - and I think Fox would have described it in similar terms.  What I can't understand it that the organization that supposedly provides the most energy-efficient form of transportation to our nation hasn't gotten it right yet.  Yes, attitudes and habits in the railroad industry are hard to change, but the freight railroads have generally, over the past decade, been successful in changing them.  What (pick a place) has Amtrak's head been in all these years.  People want to ride the train!  Please, oh, please don't give them a reason not to!

Then I think about a train trip I took in the early 1960s.  The Baltimore & Ohio still ran passenger trains back then, although they probably didn't want to.  They did everything short of substitute cattle cars - What are those, Geezer? - to discourage ridership so that the feds would let them abandon passenger trains.  My trip was in early spring: cold cars, failed water systems, leaky windows, etc. ad infinitum.  The whole attitude of the crew was, "So what?" and at that time was only a few years short of causing Amtrak to happen.  (Some congressman laid an egg and the sun hatched it.)

What I'm getting at is this:  Is there a real or hidden agenda in Amtrak that just wants people to stay away so the feds can put it out of its misery?  I sincerely hope not, but that's not what it looks like from here.

© 2013 - C. A. Turek - mistertrains@gmail.com
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