Category Archives: Amtrak

Train nostalgia

Train nostalgia from O’Toole. The Great Northern’s Empire Builder‘s lounge and observation car:

“In addition to beverages, cigars, and cigarettes, the menu offers a few toiletries such as a comb or toothpaste. It also has valet-service prices for pressing clothes: $1 for a two-piece suit; $1.25 for a three-piece; etc. (multiply by 10 to approximate today’s dollars)…”

Cigars and cigarettes are verboten today on Government (Amtrak) Railroad.

Via Streamliner Memories

UPDATE:  You had to wear a suit, notice, and you had to have the coin. Passenger trains were for the upperclass, even the elite. Lower classes couldn’t afford the fare of a long-distance train like the Empire Builder. A first class sleeper, a private room, cost hundreds of dollars a day and night.

Why US passenger trains suck

Primarily, according to James McCommons’ Waiting on a Train, because the highways aren’t clogged enough yet to make politicians realize they can’t build their way out of the traffic jams and put real money into trains the way they do highways and short-hop jet travel.

At least that’s my interpretation of what he reported in his good 2009 examination of the politics of America’s passenger trains—which mainly are run late and haphazardly by Amtrak. Although there are a few regional commuters like the Heartland Flyer from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City.

Neither a fan nor a foamer, I have taken the train when it pleased me to do so (or when it pleased my parents, as when my mother who had no car took infant me home on trains full of soldiers in 1945, and my father did when I was fifteen and he didn’t want to drive) and I have fundamentally enjoyed the experience.

Even when the coaches and sleepers were old and/or dirty and the vistas less than scenic. I would just like having the option to take the train. A train that’s pretty much on time and comfortable. It’s one thing the Europeans do right.

Studying the rails

Barbara Ellen and I are studying this Amtrak route map to decide what to tell the travel agent about how we want to get to Trinidad, Colorado, in February. Objective: See snow. Romp in snow. Snap pictures of snow. Also get stoned.

Looks like we get there fastest by going north to Oklahoma City, taking an Amtrak-provided Greyhound bus to Newton, Kansas, and thence by train to Trinidad. But the times must be calculated, since only one or two trains leave an Amtrak station daily. Probably only one from little 19,000 pop. Newton.

UPDATE:  We’ve bought tickets do it all: go north, west, south, and east. From Austin to Austin. Over seven days. With overnights in Trinidad, Albuquerque and El Paso. Most of the way in private sleeper compartments called “bedrooms” with an enclosed toilet, sink and shower. And a big picture window. Starting Feb. 9. Have to book early to get the compartments which are in high demand and low supply on any given train. More as we get closer.