Submitted by Jeff Buster on Fri, 11/23/2007 - 14:58.

CHAPTER ONE Recently, when I spoke with a conductor on the Albany-Boston Amtrak coach, he told me that he had been working on that run for the last four years and the train had NEVER arrived on time.  Consistent with his experience, we arrived an hour late.


FOUR YEARS!?  Well, right off the bat you’ve gotta find that that is intentional. 


So why? What seems to be going on?


 I am not a management consultant, I am not an efficiency expert, and I don’t’ have the inside connections of a “reporter” like Dick Feagler. 


What I can bring to the discussion is my camera – clicking away in all directions.   Here, I’ll show you some pictures.   Maybe you can make sense of what you see. 



When I got on the train at the Cleveland Lakefront station (the location of the station is one of those “you can’t get there from here” locations – good luck!) I was still a little blurry eyed in the 6:30 am darkness.


 But when I looked out the window of the train near Painseville and saw the twisted tank cars from the recent freight train derailment lined up in a muddy field next to the track with all the axels lined up in another row – I became more alert. 


So when we arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania, I observed three of these strange old rusty tower-like buildings with doors between the tracks.  They looked like they hadn’t been used in at least 60 years

While we were paused at the station to discharge and load passengers (and smokers),  I got off too and asked a station staffer what the purpose of those towers had been. 


“Those are the old baggage and passenger elevators”  he told me.  “They connect with a passageway below the tracks”.   


Well,  the train platform was no longer used as far down as where the towers were – the old canopy columns and roof framing were still in place, but the roof boards had long ago rotted away leaving random nails sprouting.

Now, when you move from the train to the station, you carry your luggage down a staircase.

    Back on the train we  highballed to Buffalo – I’d say we were doing 70MPH on that stretch.  Very smooth rails.  I was about eight cars back from the locomotive, but I could still hear the horns blasting ahead of  every grade crossing. 


Everyone along the track could hear the horns too.  I’m sure they could feel all that hurtling energy on the rails, Doppler modulating the roar of the horns and the engines with the passage of the sound source.   And though I was never able to get a photo  (but I tell you I saw it time and again)  - People stopped at the crossings, people working in their yards, or people pruning in the vineyard -  they,


look up,



It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to wave at a big chunk of anonymous metal going 70,  but they do (and to tell the truth, I waved back).


So sure, there’s a mystique to trains – but that isn’t because they are on time.  I think the human attraction to trains has a lot to do with their efficiency.  There is something succinct and purposeful about the rail road.  Rail travel  represents that maxim - the “straight line is the shortest distance between two points.  


And that  invention - the wheel  – cannot be more sublimely presented than in the rolling steel wheels on continuously welded steel rails.  


And there’s the sense of pure power, the speed, and the noise.   But do people wave at freight trains too?  Or do we just wave at passenger trains?


Chapter two – the old Buffalo Central Terminal Passenger station, coming soon.  Image below from this link



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Great travelog

I love taking trains - commuter and longer-haul. The last time I took a "train" was Geneva to Paris... I had airline tickets already but decided it would be easier, faster and more enjoyable to pay again to take the train and I was so right. But that was in Europe.

I know there are lots of deep dark stories about how America and NEO went from well railed to the polluting mess we are today, and I'll leave that for more expert sources. What disappoints me today is that developers aren't more focused on TOD here and now, and we are not seeking to optimaize the value of the limited rail we do have in town. Jackson propses to reward "Green" development... what about TOD Development?

We are planning TOD into the Star Neighborhood model, and I've been thinking about how to develop a trolley loop connecting the Red Line around University Circle and East Cleveland, up to Cleveland Heights and into Shaker, connecting with the Green and Blue Lines - .I'm more interested in rebuilding urban light rail than using it to connect remote places, although that is very desirable as well.

Happy rails... I look forward to Part 2

Disrupt IT

Trains & Time....

Having taken the train to DC back in October, to see the my son and the Solar Decathelon (in that order) I spoke at length with some of the people that we met.  It appears that the trains on the East Coast run on time, for the simple reason that Amtrak owns their own rails there. 


Elsewhere, Amtrak is running on rails that are owned by the freight train companies, and those companies give their frieght trains the right-of-way. This requires the Amtrak trains to sit on sidings until the frieght trains have passed.

Missed the train ....

again.  Gee-whiz.

Amtrak is there to make you regret they are there

 It has to be intentional.    

The rail freight lobby, the airplane lobby, and the automotive/gasoline/highway constrution lobby have to be in charge of Amtrak.  How could Amtrak be so fucked up if they weren't actually trying to be so fucked up?   

Read some of the reasonable negative comments here on the consumer affairs web site.

Meanwhile Alison Grant of  the Dirty Dealer today writes that Amtrak trains running through Cleveland, Ohio reached their destinations on time only 2.7 percent of the time.

This has to be intentional.  

Arlo, the City of New Orleans train faded away,   you need to sing another song about Cleveland's Amtrak connection..... 


People LOVE Trains

I agree that by having federal government subsidize train travel - it has been intentionally slow and inefficient - but despite all attempts to kill the passenger train- it flourishes!  Go figure :)