cedarjet
Posts: 8101
Joined: Mon May 24, 1999 1:12 am

Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:06 am

Question: why don't Americans like trains? Someone pointed out elsewhere that the US is too reliant on air travel (America has hundreds of 100m or less sectors which you'd never see jets flying in Europe - Detroit to Flint MI, Miami to Orlando etc). So why not build some fast trains? The land is mostly incredibly flat, the fastest train in the world (and I can't believe this doesn't appeal) could be American (cue Star Spangled Banner). Any thoughts?
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
 
Guest

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:07 am

Amtrak de-rails too much?
 
chepos
Posts: 5932
Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2000 9:40 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:16 am

There is nothing like flying.
Chepos
Fly the Flag!!!!
 
Mark_D.
Posts: 1360
Joined: Wed Aug 01, 2001 9:55 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:20 am


Not nearly the kind of marketable cachet that the car, and air service have enjoyed, and been fed, by lobby and interest groups WWII onwards. Particularly while passenger rail travel is seen as kind of a 'socialist' enterprise, in many quarters.
 
FlagshipAZ
Posts: 3192
Joined: Sun Jan 28, 2001 12:40 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:23 am

Amtrak is our only choice for train travel in the US. Unlike airlines, where we have many choices of carriers to choose from. People hear too many negative things about Amtrak, rather than the positive side of the company. Given current events, I would like to see Santa Fe & Union Pacific get back into the passenger aspect of train travel again. Only time will tell. Just my two cents worth. Regards.
"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." --Ben Franklin
 
cedarjet
Posts: 8101
Joined: Mon May 24, 1999 1:12 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:31 am

SOCIALIST! HAHA! That's BRILLIANT! I read this book by a guy who worked for the British Labour Party in the 80s and he met a party supporter who was so obsessed with being PC/Socialist Worker/god knows, who thought SMILING was right-wing.

And now trains. Keep it coming.
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
 
Guest

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:36 am

Absolutely this counrtry needs to promote high speed rail travel. There should be a network of high speed trains radiating out from Chicago to places like Minneapolis, Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, Indiannapolis, Cleveland, Cincinatti. There should be high speed rail up and down the west coast from San Diego to L.A. to Las Vegas to Phoenix to San Francisco and Scaramento and from Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. Other areas in the country would benfit as well, like Florida and Texas.

The answer as to why trains in the US are not like they are in Europe or asia is quite simply explained in two words: politics and lobbying. Especially by the airlines.....

Europe has done it, there is no reason why we can't either except for this countries own resistance.

I for one have been a member of NARP: National Association of Railroad Passengers, and fully support a more balanced transportation system in this country.
 
DELTA777
Posts: 637
Joined: Tue Mar 07, 2000 6:34 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:40 am

Americans like fast things, we like to get things done simply and efficiently. taking AmTrak from NYC, BOS, or PHL to SAN, LAX, or DEN would take ALOT longer than flying.(And would be more expensive) and Amtrak still isn`t as safe as airlines. there was another AmTrak derainment a couple weeks ago in Texas.

D E L T A 7 7 7
 
EIPremier
Posts: 1462
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2000 8:17 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:47 am

For the most part, it is simply that America is too spread out. Train travel in America is impractical for those with tight schedules on all but the shortest routes. And, even there, most trains are not fast enough to make them competitive with driving. I agree that short distance rail travel has great potential to grow in the coming years, but the necessary infrastructure does not yet exist.

And, it's not just that the trains are slow. Amtrak's on-time performance makes even the US commerical airlines look good. And food on the trains is at best marginally better than in-flight fare.

Furthermore, I feel that Americans resent the fact that they are forced to support passenger rail travel with their tax dollars. They are forced to pump dollars into the system, yet they receive a very marginal product in return.
 
thomasphoto60
Posts: 3686
Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2000 1:04 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:49 am

Well, here in Texas there are those (myself included) who are strong advocates of a TVG or Bullet type service between Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. This was given some various consideration in the late 80s by the state, so much so that an official study was done on the possibilites of such a service as well as the French rail authorities being brought in for advice as well as making a number of proposals for helping to setup such a service. However this did not set too well with ol'Herb and WN and after their concerns were voiced in Austin, any prospect of a high speed rail service quickly disappeared by the early 90s.

Don't get me wrong, I love Soutwest, but I also love rail travel and I would hope that one day that it would return as a serious alternative to commuter air travel. I have not been on a train in this country since the late 60s and that was a Southern Pacific trip to Dallas.

Thomas
"Show me the Braniffs"
 
VirginA340
Posts: 2556
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 12:35 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:49 am

Atleast in train wrecks there are people ho survive. In the plane forget about it. Atleast the probablitly of pax survival on a train is high. Right now Amtrak is doing a gret job with the acela service NYC-boston and NYC-Washington DC. I hope to see the Acela run down to Flordia. Rumor has it that Acela will run to Chicago. It's too bad we no longer see trains like the Zepher or the Super Cheif like the way it was. Obersvation and domecars like what VIA has. I can't beleive amtrak got rid of them for those ugly superliners. I hope to see the railroads comeback int oaction. I'd love to see the Zepher and the Super Chief run again
"FUIMUS"
 
EIPremier
Posts: 1462
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2000 8:17 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:54 am

Amtrak still isn`t as safe as airlines. there was another AmTrak derailment a couple weeks ago in Texas

Amtrak certainly has worse accident rate than the airlines, but it's also important to remember that a "train wreck" and "airplane crash" are not necessarily comparable events.

For example, the Amtrak Zephyr, headed between Chicago and Emeryville (Oakland) on 9/12, derailied after it rear ended a freight train. But, even though several cars left the tracks and caught fire, nobody was killed or seriously injured.

Obviously, there have been some pretty catastrophic train wrecks in recent years, but still, the chances of surviving a train crash, bus crash or auto accident are considerably higher than that of surviving an airplane accident.
 
Guest

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:55 am

El Premier:

Do you know WHY Amtrak's on time performance is so dismal? The are forced to run at the mercy of the freight rairoads!!! In the NE corridor, where Amtrak owns their own tracks, it is not a problem! But that is what is wrong; the government should own and maintain the railroads just like the government owns and maintains the federal interstate highway system, and airports are government owned. In addition, air travel would not dissappear. It would still be used for cross-country trips and be there for people who need that speed. The "America is too spread out" excuse doesn't hold much water when you consider ALL of Europe benefits from rail travel. It's still not as big as the US mabye but how much of Europe's area would cover the United States? ALOT.
 
EIPremier
Posts: 1462
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2000 8:17 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:56 am

I'd love to see the Zepher and the Super Chief run again

They are still in service!

 
Guest

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:57 am

El Premier and VirginA340 got it right in their assesment of "Train accidents" vs. "Plan accidents". The two are not EVEN comparable. Trains are MUCH MUCH SAFER.
 
Guest

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 9:58 am

El Premier and VirginA340 got it right in their assesment of "Train accidents" vs. "Plane accidents". The two are not EVEN comparable. Trains are MUCH MUCH SAFER.
 
EIPremier
Posts: 1462
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2000 8:17 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 10:00 am

Do you know WHY Amtrak's on time performance is so dismal? The are forced to run at the mercy of the freight rairoads!!!

Yes, you are absolutely correct. The freight companies own the right of way in almost all regions of the country. This limits track speed to about 79 mph (90 mph in cab signaled areas), and it also kills Amtrak's on-time performance (having to wait for freight trains etc...)

But, still 2500 miles from coast-to-coast is too far for the train to be competitive with business travellers. Train travel in the US should be emphasized for short corridors and we should reserve air travel for the longer routes.
 
Guest

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 10:00 am

Well, the Southwest Chief is a sorry replacement for what the Super Chief was, but I know what you mean.

By the way it is spelled "Zephyr" not "Zepher"
 
Guest

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 10:03 am

El Premier:

Yes that is what I said, air travel for coast to coast travel. However, there is no reason why there couldn't be a high speed overnight service from NYC to Chicago or Chicago to Denver.
 
cedarjet
Posts: 8101
Joined: Mon May 24, 1999 1:12 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 10:19 am

Is rail that much slower? You could easily get 250mph between NY and Chicago or the midwest. That's only half as fast as an airliner and there's no hour-long check-in, no taxiway queues, no holding patterns. From Central London to Central Paris, the train is much faster than flying, door-to-door (even with all that water in the way). And about a quarter as stressful. I think on many routes the time would be comparable. From the Empire State Bldg or the NJ suburbs to the Sears Tower or a suburb of Chicago, I bet a train like the TGV in France between two central stations would be quicker than taxis and a JFK-ORD flight on a weekday morning.
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
 
User avatar
yyz717
Posts: 15689
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2001 12:26 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 10:26 am

EIPriemer hit it on the head. US population density is just a little too thin to support a rail network en masse. Probably only viable really in the BOS/WAS/NYC corridor.

Critical distance is about 300mi.....beyond that, air travel is always quicker when you factor in airline check-in, security, avg delays. etc.

I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
 
transswede
Posts: 969
Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2001 9:30 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 10:31 am

The reason trains are so unpopular here in the US is the lack of dedicated high-speed rail lines. Current "fast" Amtrak trains run on existing tracks that are not designed for high speed.

I love flying myself, but I also love travelling on high-speed trains. (or trains in general) There's just something special about train travel...
 
serge
Posts: 1903
Joined: Thu Sep 27, 2001 2:01 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 10:43 am

Destination San Francisco for example

My reasons:

Amtrak costs $359. It takes two days.

Numerous airlines cost $238 and take mere hours. Plus theres nothing like flying!

Now what would you choose?  Big grin
 
EIPremier
Posts: 1462
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2000 8:17 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 10:47 am

You could easily get 250mph between NY and Chicago or the midwest.

You make it sound so easy. What you must realize is that there are generally huge physical obstacles in the way of building a direct rail line over long distances. The only economically viable way to build rail lines is to build them around existing geographic features and man-made structures. And this slows down the speed at which trains can travel, so it is therefore necessary to route the lines through major cities along the route, allowing for the ability to pick-up/drop-off supplies/crew and pick-up/drop-off passengers.

Not only is building the track expensive, but it also costs money to electrify the lines, and to ensure for the grade separations in urban areas (among other things).

In the end, it doesn't make much economic sense. Airplanes can cover the distance in less time, and you don't have to build rails on which to carry them.

High-speed rail travel is practical for short-distances, but the cost simply become prohibitive on longer routes, such as New York to Chicago.
 
wingman
Posts: 2765
Joined: Thu May 27, 1999 4:25 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 11:44 am

Yep, this train situation in the US is absurd. The problem is two-fold, the massive quantity of funding required to lay new tracks up and down the Eastern/Western seaboards and of course the opposition from the airlines.

Money aside (and that's a damn big aside), if we brought in the French or the Japanese and managed to replicate their technology here, only the plane freaks would be flying the seaboard connections. At 180mph, you'd crush the time required for plane travel between Boston/NY/DC and SFO/LAX, or at least be comparable. Even with a 15-30 penalty taking the train, where would you rather be, in a truly spacious cabin taking in the scenery with full telecom connectivity and a bar car, or wedged between two annoying lardasses on a UA Shuttle or SW flight. No contest.

Unfortunately, I don't have a spare $15B to make this happen. It's too bad because I've been on both the Bullet trains and the TGV and even being one of those plane freaks I mentioned earlier, those rides surpassed any plane trip I've ever had in my life. Doing 180mph at ground level is totally fu*king cool. I can't think of a better way to describe it.
 
MAH4546
Posts: 24521
Joined: Wed Jan 24, 2001 1:44 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 11:53 am

If everything goes as planned, America's first real high-speed rail system (the AmTrak Acela is NOT high-speed rail, just high-speed looking) will connect Miami and Tampa via Orlando. It was approved by voters last fall to break ground by 2003. We'll see what happens (Miami-Orlando, is BTW, the #1 commuter route in the United States, Miami-Tampa is #2; by commuter I mean planes thats seat 50 or less). As for American's not liking trains, your right, but some coridors do get some business. Washington-NYC-Boston, San Diego-Los Angeles, and Miami-Orlando, for example.
a.
 
CPDC10-30
Posts: 4681
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2000 4:30 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 11:59 am

Its not that Americans don't linke trains, they don't like investing in the rail infrastructure due to a number of lobbies, mainly the airlines and auto manufacturers.
 
lehpron
Posts: 6846
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2001 3:42 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 12:06 pm

The thing I have noticed about trains is that they cannot "abort flight" or make and "emergency landing" situation because they are limited to the tracks they run on.

Trains need to be fast and more cleaner than airplanes, and like others have said, the marketing needs to be there - there needs to be interest. Our Amtrak diesels (sp?) can't cruise past 120/150mph, we'd need ICE's and TGV's and Japanesse Maglev's to draw attention.

Then there are the accidents, there may be few, but they shine. Trains cannot make a "near miss" manuver, their huge-as-hell momentum prevents them from slowing down in time.

These are technical reasons, trains aren't on peoples' mind, and statistically air travel is still the safest form of travel. I'd support Maglev's in the US, I heard there are projects either researched or underway in California and Florida.
The meaning of life is curiosity; we were put on this planet to explore opportunities.
 
cba
Posts: 4228
Joined: Sat Jul 15, 2000 2:02 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 12:14 pm

Problem is, all of the tracks in the USA are ancient. The use of high speed trains requires new tracks to be built. There is nothing wrong with state controlled trains either. Look at France. The trains are controlled by SNCF, a state owned company. They are fast, 250mph+ to be exact, and always on time.
 
j_hallgren
Posts: 1427
Joined: Sun Jun 04, 2000 11:48 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 12:15 pm

Too many people who want to go to too many places at too many times = planes!
Even now, if I wanted to get from BOS-TPA, i would have multiple choices at various times of day and get there in a few hours...By train? I recall it was either once or at most twice in a day and about 2 days travel...Now for short distances, maybe...
COBOL - Not a dead language yet!
 
transswede
Posts: 969
Joined: Fri Sep 21, 2001 9:30 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 12:15 pm

Lehpron - Accidents will be much rarer on proper high-speed rail lines, where there are *NO* crossings, and better quality rails. (Of course, having no crossings makes building the track very expensive)

Anyone who has ever been on a true high-speed rail line becomes a convert. I tried germany's ICE once, and cruising along the ground at 140-180 mph with absolutely no sound or vibration is just ... amazing. It really felt like maglev.
 
mirrodie
Posts: 6789
Joined: Wed Apr 19, 2000 3:33 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 12:59 pm

As one of the few train and plane lovers here, many of you hit the nail on the head.

-The rails themselves are archaic (even the USA's busiest RR, the Long Island, uses track coded for 1964).

-Most rails run freight as priority.

-we are light years behind Europe's system.

And it doesn't look like the railroads here will ever see the heyday they once did in passenger service.
Forum moderator 2001-2010; He's a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless st
 
DCA-ROCguy
Posts: 3890
Joined: Fri Apr 21, 2000 5:03 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 1:49 pm

Haven't had time to read all the discussion but here's my two cents.

Trains aren't popular in the US for several reasons: 1) they take too long for vast American distances; and 2) they don't go where many of us want to go; 3) they cost about the same or more than air travel and take far longer.

Case in point. From Washington DC, I can fly US Airways nonstop to my hometown, Rochester, New York, in 50 minutes. From leaving my DC house to pulling up at my parents' Rochester home, the entire process takes 2.5 hours.

If I were to take Amtrak, I'd have a three hour ride to New York, then a transfer at Grand Central, and a seven-hour ride to Rochester. With stop, stop, stop, stop along the way on both legs. The entire process would take me hundreds of miles out of my way, and would shoot a whole day of nearly 12 hours. For the same or more than I would pay to fly a plane! Forget it.

And in case anyone wants to argue that trains are safer in these terror-afflicted times, just remember that train rails aren't fenced in and couldn't possibly be patrolled. It would be very easy to damage tracks and derail a passenger train.

Trains are financially and operationally practical in the US *only* on dense, short routes like the DC-NY-Boston Metroliner. They could not, and should not, replace air travel on most routes.

Jim
Need a new airline paint scheme? Better call Saul! (Bass that is)
 
railmatt
Posts: 197
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 1999 12:48 pm

Did You Know...

Sun Oct 07, 2001 2:26 pm

Did you know that when the Texas TGV proposal was active, officials had made a handshake agreement with American Airlines to code share train/plane passengers from Austin, San Antonio, and Houston to AA flights at a proposed DFW high speed rail station?

American currently code shares with French rail carrier SNCF's high speed TGV and Thalys trains at Paris CDG to Lille, Nice, and Marseille.

Air travel makes sense for long distance travel or maybe in "thin" short corridors. Our government ought to spend some of the dollars it is spending for some runways and highways on modern high speed rail infrastructure and allow airlines like Virgin or other companies to operate profitable high speed trains over it.

Call your Senator and ask him/her to support Senator Harry Reid's (Nevada) economic stimulus high speed rail plan!

From a plane and train fan!
 
penguinflies
Posts: 932
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2000 12:00 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 2:46 pm

What do people call the $70 billion Congress just passed/passing for anyone to study high speed rail alternatives?

We can spend $70 billion dollars, but we can't fix our REILS on 30L at CPS.

And we can't move our control tower out of it's mobile-home trailer they have been occupying since 1978. (That's right, 250,000 landings a year accomplished in positive controlled airspace from a MOBILE-HOME TRAILER!)

Thank you FAA
 
gsoflyer
Posts: 822
Joined: Sat May 12, 2001 12:31 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 2:48 pm

As a formal Amtrak employee, I can add to this.

First, Amtrak gets bad press. When people think Amtrak, they think train wrecks. Why? Because the only, and I mean ONLY, thing you ever hear about Amtrak nationwide is when there is an accident. You never hear about increased ridership, or new service, or faster service.

As for the severity of derailments, that's a different story. Granted, there have been some issues that are the fault of the railroads in general, like when trains rear-end each other. But quite a few through the years have been caused by motorist or vandals leaving equipment on the tracks or vandalizing the tracks.

Another problem is that almost all of the Nations rail system is private. Amtrak has contracts with freight railroads to get the "right of way" on freight tracks. Yes, Amtrak IS supposed to get the right of way, but freight lines will put their intermodal service ahead of Amtrak 90% of the time. The only reason Amtrak is allowed on their tracks to begin with is because Amtrak is subsidized by the government. Otherwise, Amtrak really can cut into the freight railroad's bottom line.

So far, there are only a few areas where passenger service is really being pushed. California, Washginton State, North Carolina, Virginia, and the Northeast are all making their efforts. And as soon as the Charlotte-Greensboro-Raleigh-Richmond-DC corridor is finished and upgraded for high speed, you'll see a great increase in rail traffic.

But as for freight railroads restarting passenger service, it'll never happen. Like I said, passenger service has to be priced fairly low to compete with flying, especially with the time you lose traveling by train. It's just a big money looser for the freights, which is why the states and federal gvts picked it up. Also, why would the freight litter their tracks with passenger trains when they could run more profitable trains?

The passenger rail system in this country is realyl degrading, but depending on how the southeast handles their part, considering that is the only realy area expanding service, you may see some improvements in it.

Acela is a great advancement for Amtrak, but the NE tracks need to be upgraded for higher speeds than it can go. And the rest of the country has a 79 mph speed limit because of the curviness of the tracks.
 
LV
Posts: 1546
Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2001 6:02 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Sun Oct 07, 2001 5:34 pm

Wow Questioning, glad to see I am not the only NARRP member around here. I love trains in planes equally so I would like to see an equal balance of the two on a personal level. On an economically level that only makes sense also!
 
AerLingus
Posts: 2280
Joined: Wed Mar 08, 2000 9:22 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 12:37 am

California is the most densly populated state in the US, with about 30 million. Most of the population is centred around SF/Oakland/San Jose and Greater Los Angeles.

For a while, an organisation called the California High Speed Rail Authority has been lobbying for a bullet train comparable to those of Europe and Japan. These trains would make the trip between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about 2 hours.

Here's what the network would look like:


http://cahighspeedrail.ca.gov
Get your patchouli stink outta my store!
 
jessman
Posts: 1457
Joined: Sun Jul 08, 2001 1:11 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 6:21 am

Other reasons Americans don't like trains.
(1) Americans rely on their cars for most travel, having to stop at a railroad crossing is an inconvienience most people would rather do without. Especially since they would rather drive to their destination within 180 miles, where high speed rail has its greatest support.
(2) There are small dedicated pockets of NIMBYS in America that are opposed to building ANYTHING new. Especially when it is loud, like a train system.
Me personally, I would love to see high speed rail connected to the major hub airports in the USA, linking them to nearby metropolitan areas, like CVG, DAY, CMH, SDF, LEX, EVV. Such a system could theoretically relieve air congestion by eliminating the need for commuter/turboprop passenger aircraft while the larger jets would continue to run to faraway destinations. If the trains were built to connect existing airports one could connect flight to train and vice-versa, and rental cars would be right there already.
 
airplanetire
Posts: 1783
Joined: Sun May 13, 2001 11:59 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 6:36 am

I'm an American and I like train travel. I traveled a little in Europe on the highspeed trains two summers ago and it was fun. The US is not totally flat. Florida is and coastal areas on the east coast are. Then come the Appalachian mountains which are anything but flat. The central US is very flat, but then there are the Rocky Mountains which are pretty rugged. The western US is not flat either. So the flatness thing might be an issue for trains. If highspeed trains had been established earlier, they might be here, but it's too late now in the minds of many people I'm sure. Everyone uses cars or planes, so probably would not want to do something new (kinda dumb, huh? it's true though). The biggest issue though is probably distance. It can take 5 hours to fly from coast to coast and a train would take over twice as long, even a 200mph. Trains would be great for shorter distances in the US though.
 
VirginA340
Posts: 2556
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 12:35 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 8:41 am

El Primier; apparently you haven't seen the Super Cheif and Zephyer durng the 50s and 60s. When Amtrak wasn't around. i'm talikng about observation and domecars in which they give views no superliner will ever give. I'm talking about service you'll never see. Look at them when the Sante Fe and the Wester Pac was doing pax service and your eyes will pop out on how good railroads were compared to now. The NE Corridor is doing well but Florida serive can definalty use the highspeed rail. This can be also done for cross country. Just look at Europe and Japan and look on how good that is. We are ages behind them.
"FUIMUS"
 
gsoflyer
Posts: 822
Joined: Sat May 12, 2001 12:31 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 10:24 am

You won't see high speed rail in Florida soon. And expanding Amtrak service is only in California and North Carolina at the moment. As NC is adding service from Charlotte-Wilmington, Raleigh-Wilmington, and Raleigh-Greensboro-Asheville. This will connect all the major population area of NC by rail. Now they need to advertise and get people on the trains. The trains are great, comofortable, and very smooth. And we have dome cars that used to run on the Zepher here.
 
EIPremier
Posts: 1462
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2000 8:17 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 11:28 am

Apparently you haven't seen the Super Cheif and Zephyer durng the 50s and 60s

Personally, I'm glad the "Super Chief" name is no longer used, as there is nothing "super" about Amtrak's current offerings with the "Southwest Chief." My mom road the Super Chief when she was eight years old the whole way between Chicago and Los Angeles, and she still remembers the experience vividly.

But, yeah, the Super Chief was quite an experience. I remember a famous quote from one


Actually, I have had the pleasure in sitting in a number of the cars originally used on the California Zephyr (I mean the Zephyr of the late 40s--mid 60s). Obviously, they were not in service at the time I saw them, but they were on view to the public. I took some photos of them which I don't feel like finding right now, but for now, these pics will do.





I took the Zephyr between Reno and Oakland about two years ago (obviously, with Superliner equipment), and I must admit, it wasn't real great. The Reno train station was totally derelict, and the train was over two hours late. As far as the train itself, the coach seating was very spacious and comfortable, and the train had the standard "Sightseer Lounge" (which I admit is no substitute for a dome car). The dining car service was pretty horrid, but the staff were generally friendly.

However, the Coast Starlight between Seattle and Los Angeles is much better. It's still Stupidliner equipment, but they have a separate lounge car for sleeping car passengers, which is actually rather elegant. And, the dining car is very good...I've taken the train three times and I've never had a bad meal.

There are actual dome cars running on the Alaska Railroad. I took the train between Seward and Anchorage this summer, and it was absolutely incredible in terms of scenery, especially when enjoyed from the dome car. I would highly recommend this journey to any railfan.

Also, I've heard that the "American Orient Express" rail excursions are quite a treat, although almost certainly hideously expensive.
 
Gregg
Posts: 313
Joined: Sun Jun 18, 2000 12:49 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 12:11 pm

Many reasons why trains are not succesful in the US. I believe the main reason, for transportation that has the speed of driving, we'd rather drive. Amtrak runing on feight rales, is a slow as driving.

It is too bad,Anyone who has been in devloped Asia, or Europe, would realize how quickly a re-designed train system works.
 
EIPremier
Posts: 1462
Joined: Wed Sep 27, 2000 8:17 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 12:47 pm

But, yeah, the Super Chief was quite an experience. I remember a famous quote from one

I must have accidently deleted that part.

Anyway, there was this lady sitting in the dining car and the waiter came to take her order. She asked if the trout was fresh, and the waiter responded "You want to know if the trout is fresh???...I'll show you how fresh the trout is"
(turns to the chef) Hey, take the trout out of the water and kill it for this lady's dinner."

Apparently he was offended by the mere suggestion that anything served in the dining car would not be of the highest quality. I think this really exemplifies the standard of service on the US trains back in the glory days. These days, dining on Amtrak is a very rushed affair where people are processed in and out as quickly as possible. Service is perfunctory at best, and the food is at best what would be found in any major chain restaurant.

 
mirrodie
Posts: 6789
Joined: Wed Apr 19, 2000 3:33 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 1:02 pm

I love planes and trains.

Our local road, the LIRR, just retired its old diesel fleet. There goes the last of the heydays of railroading.

The last herald train, the Cannonball, last ran in 2000.

If the US were to use trains in the same fashion that the LIRR is used, we wouldn't need airlines.(Heaven forbid!)

I recall reading some years ago that Ford had some part in why trains aren't a major thrust in passenger movement across the US. Anyone recall reading about that?
Forum moderator 2001-2010; He's a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless st
 
VirginA340
Posts: 2556
Joined: Sun Jul 17, 2005 12:35 pm

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 1:15 pm

The LIRR is on the decline. Their equpment is way too beat up. I'm a bigger fan of Metro Morth. But sadly they're retireing their FL-9s next year. Those things lasted from New York Central-New Haven right to Metro North. They really took good care of those 9s but they need to be repainted. Too bad Amtrak ain't more like VIA. Amtrak shouldn't have gotten rid of those domecars and Obervations. DAMN THEM!!!

As far as the American Orient Express goes. It's not bad but it's way too expensive. It has no dome cars which really pisses me off. I'd rather ide the Alaskan or VIA railroads.

Personally Those stupidliners suck! The viewliners ain't jack compared to the Dome obs or even the full lenght domes you'd see once in a blue moon back in the 60s.
"FUIMUS"
 
airlinelover
Posts: 5287
Joined: Thu Jun 07, 2001 8:03 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 5:43 pm

Trains, (IMHO) are just boring.. I prefer getting to my destination SOONER, and SAFER, than SLOWER, and on frikkin RAILS.. Just makes my stomach turn..

Chris
Lets do some sexy math. We add you, subtract your clothes, divide your legs and multiply
 
cedarjet
Posts: 8101
Joined: Mon May 24, 1999 1:12 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 7:02 pm

Someone above said about terrain and, of all things, level-crossings interfering with beloved cars. Europe is many things, but it sure ain't flat. Trains go through tunnels.

Dunno about the continent but in the UK we don't really have level-crossings except very occasionally on sleepy back lanes in the countryside; railway lines go over or under roads, not across them. I've lived here since 84 and I've only ever seen one level-crossing.
fly Saha Air 707s daily from Tehran's downtown Mehrabad to Mashhad, Kish Island and Ahwaz
 
Hepkat
Posts: 2134
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2000 8:22 am

RE: Why Don't Americans Like Trains?

Mon Oct 08, 2001 7:50 pm

This summer I interrailed through Sandinavia, and boy, I'm now a big fan of the railroad. Americans would be astounded by Norway's Signature trains, something for which we have NO comparison in the U.S. Talk about comfort! You'd think you're travelling business class, even in coach! The seats are very comfortable, with headsets connection for music/television. The dining car looks better than most restaurants I've ever seen. It's beautiful inside and out. Also, the Danish trains are also in a class by themselves. Power connections, headset connections, comfortable seats, business like decor, wow! Notice I saved the X2000 for last! It was by far the best experience.

Anyway, back to the topic. Such a system will never happen in the U.S. for a number of reasons. Number one, we've already had our day in the sun as far as railroad travel's concerned. After which, the car became popular, and the federal interstate highways were being built. Millions, if not billions were spent building the nation's highway system. It's now the best and simplest in the world. While we were busy building highways, Europe was busy laying down tracks. Furthermore, they did to their tracks what we did to our highways, they federalized them.

As it is now, driving in Europe would be a nightmare for Americans. The highways are too narrow, with just mostly two lanes, you can't turn on the cruise control (you're supposed to drive only in the right lane), and the signs are different in every country (there is no common system). But, this is not a problem for Europeans as their governments have poured most of their dollars into maintaining those tracks. Fewer people drive.

Both continents have taken different paths in the last few decades as far as mass transportation's concerned.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: 76er, ANZ346, Baidu [Spider], CHCalfonzo, Google [Bot], Google Adsense [Bot], mafaky, MrBren, oslmgm, qf789, reltney, steman, terrificturk, TP777, XAM2175 and 245 guests