Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Gadfly » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:56 am

Or were they being realistic that passenger rail was completely impractical and should be abandoned? (quote)

There is always this faction that laments the demise of passenger service by the railroads not on practical grounds, but on the unrealistic expectation that people "need" something whether they use it or not. IOW, these people, in particular, the wild-eyed train buffs, want the railroads to run empty trains so they can stand out there and take pictures of choo choos and "varnish", so they can just THRILL at the sight.

Tell me, all you advocates of socialistic and robotic control of everybody's lives, if you had a store, paid taxes, rent, payroll and ALL overhead and it was not meeting expectations OR expenses, would you keep it open just 'cause? Could YOU afford to do that? Of course not!!! And neither could the railroads! They don't have an unlimited supply of money. They are NOT on the government dole. They are NOT semi-private companies, but PRIVATE companies subject to more rigid regulation. They PAY taxes, they have payroll, they have overhead, and, unlike the airlines and truck/auto industries, THEY must maintain their OWN right of way and PAY taxes on THAT while the others' infrastructure are subsidized........and HEAVILY. It is an unfair advantage. If the people don't come, the railroads didn't make money. Strip away all the whining, the moaning about the need for passenger rail, it WAS simply that the railroads were losing money on passenger.

One of the last private passenger trains in the US was the Southern Crescent that continued on until 1979. It was losing (I believe it was) about 2 million a year! I was THERE selling tickets as a Southern clerk in Charlotte, NC. I was there when Amtrak took it over. The Crescent was a source of pride to us and it was a class operation to the very end. Most of the time, those big Green and Gold E-8's were shiny, the porters and conductors were polite, and when they set their boarding stool down, they would come down the steps with two white towels in hand, wiping the hand rails. Southern was one of the few railroads at the time that was cash-rich and able to absorb this annual "hit" to its bottom line, and it continued to run the Crescent because Amtrak was not accustomed to running into such a stubborn and independent bunch. They tried to tell Southern they would run passenger trains on their busiest, most lucrative freight routes when they took the Crescent, and what Mr. Crane and others at Southern told them to DO with their trains, is not printable here! :) That was the inside dope WE got as employees. Amtrak was not used to a bunch of Rebels telling them to go to #### and to go do unmentionable things to themselves. LMAO!!! So the Crescent remained until '79. It lost money every year. I know, I read the stockholders reports and the articles in "Ties" Magazine. To Southern's credit, they lost millions on the passenger department and STILL managed to pay dividends to its investors---which included us employees who were in Southern's VERY good stock purchase plan. Southern was a very shrewd railroad, admired and envied by many other railroads. If passenger trains could have made money, I guarantee the Southern Crescent would've remained because the company (and the employees) were very proud of it. (Some of the nicest meals I ever ate were aboard the Crescent's dining car, elegant to the end. The following is the true answer to it all.



IF you WANT it, then don't just STAND there: RIDE it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Desertdweller » Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:22 pm

If anyone is interested, here is my perspective, based on being an occasional rail passenger for 40+ years and a railroad employee for 26 years.

It is my opinion that both the nation and probably the railroads themselves would be better off today if the railroads kept their passenger services as private operations.

We had the answer in hand prior to 1967: subsidies to railroads for carriage of mail. No single act killed the passenger train more than the cancellation of the mail contracts.

The railroads lost their passenger trains, their greatest PR assets. The public lost their efficient mail system, replaced by centralized mail sorting and distribution centers.

The importance to private companies of making a profit could be met by continuing and increasing the subsidies. The Federal Government could have at least given the mail business to it's stepchild, AMTRAK.

Private railroads are in business to make money for their owners. It matters little to them how the money is generated, or who is paying. Passenger train profits spend just as easily as freight train profits.

From the public's standpoint, the worst loss was no doubt the demise of the passenger service network. The network that had existed prior to 1971 was replaced by a hub-and-spoke arrangement, familiar to the airline industry-types running AMTRAK. This operating plan works reasonably well for 600 mph aircraft, but not 60 mph trains.

This may be hard to appreciate for those in the NEC, but a rail system that depends on changing trains in Chicago discourages most people from riding. Who, except hard-core railfans, would want to ride 400 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago in order to change trains to ride another thousand miles to Denver?

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Gadfly » Sun Aug 21, 2011 12:14 pm

Desertdweller wrote:If anyone is interested, here is my perspective, based on being an occasional rail passenger for 40+ years and a railroad employee for 26 years.

It is my opinion that both the nation and probably the railroads themselves would be better off today if the railroads kept their passenger services as private operations.

We had the answer in hand prior to 1967: subsidies to railroads for carriage of mail. No single act killed the passenger train more than the cancellation of the mail contracts.

The railroads lost their passenger trains, their greatest PR assets. The public lost their efficient mail system, replaced by centralized mail sorting and distribution centers.

The importance to private companies of making a profit could be met by continuing and increasing the subsidies. The Federal Government could have at least given the mail business to it's stepchild, AMTRAK.

Private railroads are in business to make money for their owners. It matters little to them how the money is generated, or who is paying. Passenger train profits spend just as easily as freight train profits.

From the public's standpoint, the worst loss was no doubt the demise of the passenger service network. The network that had existed prior to 1971 was replaced by a hub-and-spoke arrangement, familiar to the airline industry-types running AMTRAK. This operating plan works reasonably well for 600 mph aircraft, but not 60 mph trains.

This may be hard to appreciate for those in the NEC, but a rail system that depends on changing trains in Chicago discourages most people from riding. Who, except hard-core railfans, would want to ride 400 miles from Minneapolis to Chicago in order to change trains to ride another thousand miles to Denver?

Les



First of all, the end days of passenger were an enormous drain on the carriers' finances. They were also faced with the fact that their fleets would have to be upgraded as the equipment was nearing the end, if not already outdated and worn, of their service lives. This would pose a staggering hit to their finances as some of them were already on shaky ground! Many of the railroad CEO's DID like their passenger services, and regarded them with a sense of pride. Southern Pacific, Sante Fe, Union Pacific, Southern, to name a few, jealously guarded the reputations of their crack trains and maintained the quality of service to the bitter end. But, they were relieved when the then ICC allowed them to join Amtrak after a period of time when they were running enormous deficits in the passenger department AND running mostly empty trains.

You cannot FORCE a profit from an unprofitable business. This is the equivilent of the same folks (mostly railbuffs) that would, if they had their way, force the use of steam as motive power. I am also convinced that such people, if placed in positions of power within the railroads, would cause the demise of many roads thru unrealistic "dreams" and schemes longing for the days of yore. Passenger rail except for the densely populated areas of the Northeast is DEAD and, without some true transportation crisis (fuel, air, auto transport) is not going to come back! It is just as dead as Abraham Lincoln, no disrespect intended, and is most likely to STAY dead. Yet the socialist-minded among us, of which there are too many, would have the government subsidize something that cannot, on its own, sustain itself thru its own efforts, and the rail buffs would be perfectly happy to see this so long as they can stand out there drooling and snapping pictures! Never mind that SOMEBODY is losing their shirt, or the poor taxpayer is having to PAY out the wazoo for a useless train that is not even
35% filled (if that much), wasting fuel to go from Denver to Chicago when an airplane can do it much faster.

Most people know this is true and, when its all said and done, that is what this really about: the dreams and lament of a few railfans wishing for past glory. With these somewhat cruel statements, I, too, wish for the days of the passenger train when I could board in my hometown (well, I still can) and go anywhere. I, too, am (was) a railroader who worked with such trains. Yes, some aspects of it were fun, and I now have a lot of memories of the Southern Crescent pulling into town with my friend, George Ambrose as engineer. I remember bitter cold nights out there in rain, snow, biting winds loading baggage or taking orders out to George. But reality is reality, harsh or not, and it AIN'T comin' back.


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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Ken W2KB » Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:22 pm

With respect to the mail contracts, note that the US Postal Service is substantially reducing its facilities as it faces the economic reality that e-mail and FTP have replaced a large portion of first class mail and even much advertising. Simply put, competition from other carriers for packages, etc. has severely eroded the USPS business. Had RPO service survived to this day, it simply could not compete with air for longer distances in an era when customers demand fast delivery, and with the flexibility of trucks for shorter distances. The freight railroads do a large business in handling less time sensitive UPS and other competitor's longer distance shipments based on the large volume of containers and trailers I see on trains regularly.
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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:41 pm

With hindsight, the only reason the railroads should have kept their passenger trains is that Today they would very simply be "out".

But when an industry hardly in the robust financial health it enjoys today has an "aphrodisiac" of having the $300M that was leaving the cookie jar each year by operating passenger trains waved in front of you, might your behaviour kind of be like an accused that the cops are beating a confession out of?

Retrospectively, from the industry's perspective, they made a bad bet signing up with Amtrak. Somehow, had the industry known that Staggers Dereg was less than ten years away (under which they could and would have cut all remaining passenger trains other than those operated under contract with a public agency - commuters and quite likely the Northeast Corridor) and that any suggestions made that Amtrak will fold in about five years were "hollow', the industry would have collectively said to the NRPC Incorporators "thanks but no thanks' and would have soldiered on through the five year "moratorium" under the Act (bet you some of the 'weaks' - the Rock Islands and my Milwaukees of this world - would have had them off during the moratorium period.
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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Desertdweller » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:00 am

Ken,

The reason why mail travels by air these days is to get it to regional sorting centers. The mail service is superimposed on the airline network. In the pre-1967 era, with operating RPO's, the mail was sorted and transported at the same time. Mail was picked up at points where trains did not even stop. Mail that was not sorted aboard trains was sorted at post offices. Obviously, e-mail was not a factor in the 1960's.

The rise of companies like UPS and FedEx was linked to the demise of REA. The loss of mail contracts led to the loss of trains, which in turn led to the loss of REA. A great deal of the revenue brought in by passenger trains came not only from mail contracts, but also from REA business. If you look at the accommodation trains of the 1960's, they were almost completely composed of mail and express cars.

As far as the public demanding faster service than RPO's could provide, there was a time when a letter mailed in a city on a rail corridor in the morning would be delivered in the afternoon of the same day. Now it takes a week to get a package shipped only a thousand miles. You can make statements about "what the public demands", but you know as well as me that the public will settle for what it can get.

Gilbert and Gad,

In relation to the Staggers Act, the railroads would have kept their trains if they were making money off them. Mail contracts could have kept them running. This is demonstrated by the massive train-offs following the cancellation of the mail contracts. Don't forget that Railway Express was owned by the railroads, too.
The railroads took a hit when this business was lost.

You are right, I think, when you said that rail service would be maintained in the NEC. This would be a purely political consideration. Why is it alright to subsidize passenger trains in the NEC, but wrong to subsidize them in the rest of the country?

Funny you should mention the Rock Island and the Milwaukee Road. I worked for both of them. The Rock Island did not join AMTRAK because it could not afford to. Most railroads that joined AMTRAK were able to buy their way in by contributing passenger equipment in lieu of cash payment. Rock Island's passenger equipment was so worn out that AMTRAK didn't want it. Also, by the time of AMTRAK's startup, the Rock was down to only two intercity passenger trains. These would not have effected much savings if they were dropped, compared to the buy-in cost. So they chose to keep running them.

As for the Milwaukee, you should have added them to your list of railroads who really cared about keeping the standards of their trains up. I feel they did a better job than SP did at the end. On the Milwaukee, we considered AMTRAK to be a customer who deserved as good a treatment as any of our other customers. In those days we provided crews and station services to AMTRAK. AMTRAK wanted me to work for them back then, but the "old heads" on the Milwaukee warned me that the Milwaukee "had been around for a hundred years" while AMTRAK was "a flash in the pan" that could vanish with the stroke of a pen. A few years later, the Milwaukee was dead.

I propose that if the US Mail had remained on the rails (the way it was pre-1967) the passenger trains would have remained in private hands. Costs of operating the passenger trains should have been underwritten by mail contracts. This would not have been a Federal handout. The public would have received valuable service for their money.

If money spent on subsidizing passenger trains is money thrown away to appease old reprobates like myself who would (and have on occasion) rather travel cross-country by rail than fly, how do you feel about the money spent subsidizing the trains' competition? Private airlines use taxpayer built and maintained airports. Air traffic is controlled by a taxpayer supported traffic control system. At least railroads hire their own dispatchers.

Do you favor a Federal Highway System supported by user fees? Maybe a couple more tax dollars per gallon of gas, or toll plazas on Federal Highways? If you don't like those ideas, then you are judging passenger rail by a double standard.

Railroad companies love to spend OPM (Other Peoples' Money). Anything is for sale if the price is right.

You imply that passenger services in the NEC is making a profit, or is at least self-sustaining. I think you should check the figures on that one. The NEC is feeding at the public trough more than the long-distance services. Where else in this country does AMTRAK own its own railroad? Most of us who are lucky enough to be within a reasonable distance from a passenger station have only one train a day. Consider how many trains use the NEC. That is where the real money is being spent.

I also question your 35% passenger loading on long-distance trains. It leads me to wonder if you have actually ridden any. Long-distance AMTRAK trains I have ridden have run well over 50% occupancy. Even under private ownership, the California Zephyr in its last year was running 90% occupancy (I know, I rode it).

Gad,

You seem to imply I am a socialist. That strikes me as ironic, as I am a conservative Tea Party member. You lament that the government should not subsidize something that cannot sustain itself on its own efforts, yet you have no problem with subsidized transportation schemes, as long as they consist of highways, airports, or the NEC. Doesn't it strike you as being a bit inconsistent?

Well, I've offered a solution here that is not going to happen. Mail contracts will not go back to the railroads. Both the railroads and the USPS now lack the infrastructure to support such as system. If AMTRAK is to continue, it will be on the backs of people who mostly cannot use their services even if they wanted to. Outside of the hothouse environment of the NEC (yes, I worked there too) most people never see a passenger train. My little town lost its passenger train with the coming of AMTRAK, and the nearest AMTRAK station is a two-hour drive. The existing trains call between three and five am.

What I do see coming is a national passenger rail system made of regional passenger rail systems joined together by short interstate links. Consider the RailRunner passenger rail system in New Mexico. This system now links Santa Fe with Albuquerque on dedicated right-of-way. Someday this system way well extend through sparsely-populated areas in the Rio Grande Valley north to Raton, and south through Rincon (near the new spaceport, another private venture) and on to Las Cruces. This is a BNSF main line that goes on to El Paso, Texas.

North of New Mexico, in Colorado, a heavy commuter rail system is already underway that will link Longmont and extend down the Front Range to Denver. An extension over the Joint Line to Pueblo is expected. Rights over the UP (ex-D&RGW) would take it to Trinidad, a few miles from Raton via the pass.

If systems like these can work in low-density population states like New Mexico and Colorado, I think they can work in most states. I may not live long enough to see this, but I think some of you will.

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:13 am

Mr. Desert, as I noted at an earlier posting, the mechanics under which NEC service would have continued would have been a simple change in the language of the 3R (RRR '73 - Conrail enabling legislation) from "no passengers" (for CR account) to "and passenger'. Your point regarding 'well they got theirs, we want ours' is the whole reason that in order to have Federally funded intercity trains, the national system (i.e. Amtrak) was the only way it would ever find its way for "closet railfan" Nixon to sign.

No question whatever, "our" MILW did a good job for Amtrak and often had the best on-time performance of any contracting road, however holding an entry level non-agreement position on A-Day with "The Road', did give me occasion to be "on the Eighth Floor" (Executive offices @ CUS); any sentiment I "picked up" was simply 'they'll (AMTK) be gone in five years; just as well".

Now regarding your thoughts on 'The Rock'; likely they didn't have the $$$ to join and their carbon steel cars were simply rotting "out of sight out of mind" under their shiny stainless steel sheathing. Amtrak's car selection consultants wisely "looked under the eaves" at this (what did our MILW have they wanted, the Super Domes?). However, I think that Rock's own "self help" was also a factor to decline signing up. The measuring period for determining any road's entry fee was Calendar 1969 (wisely set for an accounting period closed prior to enactment of RPSA 70; after all did you need me and my colleagues "playing with the numbers"?). During that time, ROCK operated trains Omaha-Chi, Peoria-Chi, and Mpls-KC. All of those were gone prior to A-Day. The same reasoning applied to the SRY and the D&RGW, which is a way of saying "forget all that Corporate Pride mother lode".

But finally, I continue to hold that contemporary railroad managers will think with hindsight their predecessors made a bad bet signing on with Amtrak, as quite simply they would have been "out' upon implementation of Staggers, if not much sooner.

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Gadfly » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:16 am

Why is it alright to subsidize passenger trains in the NEC, but wrong to subsidize them in the rest of the country?

Uh, traffic density vs mileage. I wouldn't care if they "train-off'ed" every one of them! However, when transporting one passenger 40 miles into the city at a "certain" cost per mile, you can't convince me that it is economical to transport that same passenger 800 miles at a price he will pay while factoring the cost of fuel and other amenities, etc when he can also move the same number of miles in a few hours via air.

I'm not a bean counter, either; just a simple old railroad guy who spent his years OS'ing trains, handing up orders, setting my interlocking. (Didn't have to do much of THAT, thank goodness!) Most of my riding passenger was done years ago, either on pass or deadheading to assignments.

I agree that it is not fair to subsidize road and air while forcing the railroads to build, maintain, operate their own system, and hire their own controllers. I don't like it. It is true that, without these subsidies, air and surface transportation would have a real time surviving. With that said, the railroads did an absolutely admirable job at both freight and passenger in light of their "going it strictly alone". Unfortunately, many of them did not survive, or were swallowed whole like Jonah into other entities like BNSF, UP, CSX and NS. NS, for example, consists of two profitable companies, whom (I think) merged in response to CSX. They were, in contrast to *some* companies, very healthy companies in stand-alone mode, but it was time to do something response lest they be surrounded or swallowed themselves....which they did not want. Both companies were (and are) VERY stubborn and independent-minded corporations whose stock was VERY healthy at merger.

My thinking comes from what coporate wigs said at the time of the impending changeover to Amtrak. "We are sad to see our train(s) go, but happy to be rid of them at the same time"! Southern had already told Amtrak to go do ugly things to themselves and kept on running the Crescent into 1979. It had to do with cluttering up the "Rathole Division" with passenger trains and FUBARing SR's highly profitable freight business, and not only on THAT line, but on the whole system as well. Amtrak was used to, being flush at the time with gub'ment money and all, telling desparate railroads what they would have to do. They were perplexed when this stubborn (and cash-rich) railroad had the audacity to tell THEM to go to the blazes! The historic Crescent, possessed of a grand heritage consisting of such extinct trains as "The Pelican", Royal Palm, and the Crescent Limited shared one common thread: it was losing money. The passengers weren't coming. The mail contracts were gone, REA was bankrupt, and the writing was on the wall.

I'm just a simple old railroad man, and damn proud of it. I don't know much. I was just an old operator, a freight agent, and sometimes porter easing thru the yard on my duties-------"Crew truck to Train 137, stop your train ASAP; you've got sliding wheels 44 cars back on Sou 557207, OVER!" I sold a few tickets, too. Passenger trains are not likely to come back.
It would be nice, tho. :)

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby kinlock » Mon Aug 22, 2011 12:36 pm

Maybe we all got it wrong. The $$$ were at the headend of the train.

What if the US Postal Service had been given the Congressional mandate to operate mail trains and include passenger trains? What if the same legislation purchased REA and integrated it with Parcel Post? I know, everybody would think that was "socialism"; but even today the highway system and airline system are more perfect examples of socialism.

Yes, the system (if properly designed) would have used air for long distance; trucks and busses for short distance. There would have been no need for investor-owned FedEx and UPS. All they were are "Wall Street Sharks" smart enough to realize the US government was being "stuck on stupid". Maybe Lyndon Johnson needed a "brain trust" like FDR had (designed Social Security and a lot of good stuff).

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Desertdweller » Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:15 pm

Gilbert,

It's good to hear from a fellow Milwaukee Road alum, especially one who can comment from the HQ's perspective.

While you were toiling in upstairs CUS, I was working in Winona, LaCrosse (Camp 20), and Madison. My first-hand observation was that the employees in the field were proud of Milwaukee's passenger operations, and continued this tradition over into our dealings with AMTRAK.

What did Milwaukee Road have that AMTRAK wanted? Passenger locomotives, for one thing. E-8's and E-9's. I don't remember if AMTRAK took any of our FP-7's. I do remember we kept the FP-45's and used them on freight.

One thing that stands out about the Milwaukee Road that I remember. The railroad treated its employees with kindness and respect. In contrast with many other railroads, the railroad made a practice of hiring relatives and friends of employees. I have worked with crews where everyone was related by blood or marriage.
I was hired "off the street" after graduation from college. I suspect the person who hired me saw me regularly in church, and knew me as a regular user of passenger services.

I have to agree that, with the loss of mail contracts, the railroads would not have joined AMTRAK if they had seen the Staggers Act coming. The Staggers Act was the single most important piece of rail legislation since the idea of land grants as incentives to build. It was the watershed moment for the entire industry.

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Desertdweller » Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:50 pm

Gadfly,

What's wrong with subsidizing the NEC? I happen to feel that the 49% of us who still pay taxes should receive some value for their money. The NEC, already flush with regional transportation authorities, is using a disproportionate amount of AMTRAK money to support a rail system that is completely superior to that of the rest of the country. And yet its users complain about the money spent on providing a skeletonized long-distance system for the remainder of the country. You could characterize this as "you got yours and I want mine", but I fail to see the value to taxpayers in my state in supporting thinly-disguised commuter trains running mostly empty between, say, Springfield MA and New Haven CT.

Operational situations were also a factor in some railroads refusing to join AMTRAK. In the case of D&RGW (down to just one passenger train at the time), joining AMTRAK would have meant a passenger train running on their single track main at a time AMTRAK chose. Meanwhile, their competitor, UP, would be free to operate freights over their own double-track main without concern for passenger trains. It was a good decision for them to stay out.

I do not use AMTRAK much anymore. Only if I am going to Chicago or points beyond. The nearest big city to me is Denver. I could drive two hours to the nearest station to board the train at oh-dark-thirty for a three-hour ride to Denver, or I could drive one mile to Interstate Eighty and be in Lower Downtown Denver in three hours and twenty minutes, at any time of my choosing. I average a trip to Denver about once every other month.

It is my choice to live where I do. But most people living on the Great Plains are in the same situation or worse when it comes to passenger trains. Another place I would like to be able to take a train to is Kansas City, 500 miles one-way. But, thanks to the lame hub-and-spoke system, "you can't get there from here".

In my first ten years of railroading, I used to copy train orders and "hoop 'em up". I also ran a freight agency for seven years. The last 16 I mostly drove trains, but not passenger trains (although I did pull a few with occupied business cars). It was more fun in the old days.

Denver still sees 20 train pairs arriving/departing daily, but only in my basement.

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Desertdweller » Mon Aug 22, 2011 1:58 pm

Ken,

What you propose is basically what I proposed. But the infrastructure has changed so much by now that it could not be re-started.

At the end, the money on the passenger trains was in the head-end cars. Revenue from the head end could offset costs on passenger operations, just as revenue from first-class passengers could subsidize coach passengers.

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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Gadfly » Mon Aug 22, 2011 4:57 pm

Desertdweller wrote:Gadfly,

What's wrong with subsidizing the NEC? I happen to feel that the 49% of us who still pay taxes should receive some value for their money. The NEC, already flush with regional transportation authorities, is using a disproportionate amount of AMTRAK money to support a rail system that is completely superior to that of the rest of the country.

Operational situations were also a factor in some railroads refusing to join AMTRAK. In the case of D&RGW (down to just one passenger train at the time), joining AMTRAK would have meant a passenger train running on their single track main at a time AMTRAK chose. Meanwhile, their competitor, UP, would be free to operate freights over their own double-track main without concern for passenger trains. It was a good decision for them to stay out.

I do not use AMTRAK much anymore. Only if I am going to Chicago or points beyond. The nearest big city to me is Denver. I could drive two hours to the nearest station to board the train at oh-dark-thirty for a three-hour ride to Denver, or I could drive one mile to Interstate Eighty and be in Lower Downtown Denver in three hours and twenty minutes, at any time of my choosing. I average a trip to Denver about once every other month.

It is my choice to live where I do. But most people living on the Great Plains are in the same situation or worse when it comes to passenger trains. Another place I would like to be able to take a train to is Kansas City, 500 miles one-way. But, thanks to the lame hub-and-spoke system, "you can't get there from here".

In my first ten years of railroading, I used to copy train orders and "hoop 'em up". I also ran a freight agency for seven years. The last 16 I mostly drove trains, but not passenger trains (although I did pull a few with occupied business cars). It was more fun in the old days.

Denver still sees 20 train pairs arriving/departing daily, but only in my basement.

Les


What benefit is the NEC to ME being that I live WAY outside that sphere of influence? Why should MY tax money subsidize ANY of it, when you come right down to it? How is that fair to ME. I have two trains I *could* catch if I wanted to: the Amtrak Crescent and the Carolinian. But I never do. WHY? I let my pitiful pass expire , and it is simply TOO expensive!

Instead of continuing in the Transportation Dept, I returned to the Roadway Equipment Shops where I stood for a 7AM to 3:30 PM job with SAT/SUN rest days! WooHoo! Turned out to be the right move, too, as they eventually moved ALL the clerk jobs to Atlanta, and I'd have to move (YUCK!) or pound sand! LOL! Glad I went to the shops! :)

As an aside, I have a photo of me, circa '83, dark hair and all, with headphones just finishing up OS-ing a train and clearing a local to go to work. Them old yard office days!!!!!! At least the hair is still there, but it sure ain't the same color! LMAO!
:)
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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Desertdweller » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:51 pm

Gadfly,

Those were the days, when we had hair!

I feel the way you do about the NEC, which is one of the reasons I joined the Tea Party.

That was a good move for you to go to the Roadway Equipment Shops. The hours and days off you got there would be some type of nirvana for train crews.

I spent ten years in station operations, before becoming a locomotive engineer. The clerks had a weak union (BRAC) that didn't do much to help their members, but kicked the Rock Island when they were down. When I was laid off the Milwaukee Road, the union offered me no help at all, not even any advice on how to protect my seniority or how to get hired on another railroad. When the Rock Island was on strike, all the unions settled with the railroad except the BRAC. They really demonstrated who was the boss when they caused their members to lose their jobs when the Rock went down.

The toughest assignments I ever pulled were unit coal trains. These ran on a schedule determined solely by when the loaded trains arrived at their interchange points. One could work any time of the day or night, any day of the week. One seldom got to sleep the same hours two days in a row.

The change in hours of service rules mandating ten hours rest was a tremendous improvement. I did not work in train service under the 16-hour law. But I did put in 16 hour days as a relief clerk when relieving another clerk after working my own shift. Since I was working jobs bulletined by two different people, the 16 hours were all worked at straight time. If you are relieving someone taking a week or two of vacation, you can get burned out in a hurry. But I have a feeling you have been there and done that.

Les
Desertdweller
 
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Re: Should the railroads have kept their passenger service?

Postby Gadfly » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:53 am

Desertdweller wrote:Gadfly,

Those were the days, when we had hair!

I feel the way you do about the NEC, which is one of the reasons I joined the Tea Party.

That was a good move for you to go to the Roadway Equipment Shops. The hours and days off you got there would be some type of nirvana for train crews.

I spent ten years in station operations, before becoming a locomotive engineer. The clerks had a weak union (BRAC) that didn't do much to help their members, but kicked the Rock Island when they were down. When I was laid off the Milwaukee Road, the union offered me no help at all, not even any advice on how to protect my seniority or how to get hired on another railroad. When the Rock Island was on strike, all the unions settled with the railroad except the BRAC. They really demonstrated who was the boss when they caused their members to lose their jobs when the Rock went down.

The toughest assignments I ever pulled were unit coal trains. These ran on a schedule determined solely by when the loaded trains arrived at their interchange points. One could work any time of the day or night, any day of the week. One seldom got to sleep the same hours two days in a row.

The change in hours of service rules mandating ten hours rest was a tremendous improvement. I did not work in train service under the 16-hour law. But I did put in 16 hour days as a relief clerk when relieving another clerk after working my own shift. Since I was working jobs bulletined by two different people, the 16 hours were all worked at straight time. If you are relieving someone taking a week or two of vacation, you can get burned out in a hurry. But I have a feeling you have been there and done that.

Les


You got that right! I once worked 22 ( I think it was, memory fades) days straight at straight time off the Extra Board. It was called "moving from one assignment to another" and carried no overtime. That was under BRAC/TCU rules. We always tried to get onto a Freight House vacation assignment because it meant 8-5 w/ Sat-Sun rest days. Since you were called for eight naught one, you were not "back to the board" until eight naught one the following Monday because of your rest days. The call clerk called for the Yard at seven naught one AM so that meant that you werent' available for call because your rest days werent' complete. What that did, during summer vacations, was set up a "cycle" where you could potentially work all summer on daylight assignments (Freight office only worked 1st trick). Because of the number of vacations and mark-offs you were able to actually plan your life a little! The only thing that "messed up" the cycle was when another clerk marked off his regular assignment for a Dr. appointment, "one day only", etc. That meant that you were "back to the board" the same day and available for call, except for operator assignments. But, because of the volume of mark-offs, it wasn't hard to get back onto the 8 am cycle, and if you "hit" a mark-off on vacation for a week or two, you gots it made! :)
Ah, the railroad game...............................! :)
Gadfly
 
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