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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT --CATCHING THE AMTRAK


Historic Maysville, Kentucky Railroad Station

A couple of days ago I drove my son to the nearest railroad station. The drive to the station involved about two and a half hours. Why so long? Because to travel by passenger rail today, one must hunt up the closest stop and then go for it. And, Maysville, Kentucky was our closest Amtrak station.

My son was returning to New Mexico where he lives --  he had just spent a few great weeks with me in Kentucky. Some folks don't like to fly today so he decided to ride the rails. The cost was about four hundred dollars round trip, about the same as if he had flown. If you were to drive, the cost of fuel would also be about the same as the ticket for Amtrak. 

From the middle of the 1800s until 1920 nearly all intercity travelers in the U.S. moved by rail. After the 1920s, factors such as improved roads, and the popularity of automobiles caused passenger rail travel to decline. In the 1960s the Rail Passenger Service Act was enacted and the Amtrak passenger rail lines was established. It is totally owned and operated by the federal government.(wiki)  


My son arriving at the railroad station ready to ride the rails back to 
New Mexico

His train was not due to arrive until midnight. He convinced me to drive the long trip back before it got dark. So we said our good-byes and I left him in the lobby of the station -- no one else was there, not even a station master. 


Empty station lobby

The lobby was filled with lots of wonderful old waiting benches. As I glanced around its interior I could tell that little had changed since the station was built. However, it was maintained well.

My  thoughts turned to the movie, "In the Heat Of The Night," -- son alone waiting for a night train and the air thick with heat and humidity. I felt uneasy about him sitting there all alone in some strange town, around midnight. Of course I shook it off when I told my son that this adventure reminded me of the southern movie -- he thought I was being silly. Why is it that mother's always have this "in the genes" protective feeling even when their children have reached adulthood.




Amtrak set its sixth straight year of record ridership with 28 million passengers in 2008.According to Amtrak an average of more than 20,000 passengers ride on up to 300 Amtrak trains per day.


Hopefully Amtrak will be able to expand its rail lines for passenger service. Doing this would help with our energy crisis as well as making stations closer to home. 

15 comments:

  1. Barbara,
    I have ridden Amtrak...from Hinton to Chicago. I'd looked forward to the trip as I love trains and train travel. Have been on the trains in Italy, but I think I was seduced. The ride and the trip to and from Chicago was basically...well....awful! We were delayed at every juncture. Coal and freight have the right of way, and Amtrak simply has to wait them out. There's no discernable schedule (that is maintained); the tracks are rough; all in all, very much a disappointment. Ruta in North Devon talks about retrieving her son from the station which is just a few miles from their home and complains about scheduling; but all Europeans, it seems, grumble about the inadequacy of their trains, but I would love to introduce them all to the disaster that is Amtrak here in the U. S.!! If one isn't tied to a schedule, and didn't mind a very rough rail bed, they'll enjoy the train. Otherwise, probably wise to take other means of transport. I'm anxious to hear how your son fared on his trip back...!

    Elora

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  2. I know that protective feeling well, even though they are all adults. I just can't seem to shake it.

    I do so wish our country had a better railway system. Too bad we didn't strike a happy medium, back when the superhighways were being built.

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  3. willow -- If we could turn back the clock I would vote for your suggestion of how to have a happy medium. Some politicians talk about increasing passenger service. Do hope it will happen in the near future.

    Personally, I love to ride trains. -- barbara

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  4. Elora -- Oh Oh. Unfortunately you have had bad experiences with Amtrak. I have heard stories like yours from some of my friends. I have ridden the western Amtrak trains several times and only had one bad experience and that was due to huge snow covered tracks from a snow storm. We were the last train to make it through to Calif. before they closed the tracks for almost a week. Interesting experience.

    My son made it to New Mexico without a hitch. He was an hour late pulling into his station which isn't all that bad. -- barbara

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  5. Here in Victoria we're still pushing to get rural railway stations reopened, look HERE to compare the 1940 map to that of 2000 and see how many lines and stations we've lost.
    There's a few interstate lines but no overall national rail line in Oz.
    LOVE travelling by rail, it's far more civilised than road coach, you see more and it's so much better for the environment.

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  6. Jayne, Many of our rural rail staions have been torn down or sold off to private parties. I thought our country was perhaps the only one that had let the passenger service in rural areas decline. I would like to know if there is a book of old train stations with photos -- both old and new. Thanks for the words about your country's rail service -- always interesting to find out what is happening in other places.

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  7. When we lived in Milwaukee, we often took the train to Chicago and back. So convenient. Like you, I hope train service will continue to expand.

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  8. Chicago has a great train system extending out to the far suburbs. Really helps with pollution problems as well as keeping so many cars off the roads. From Milwaukee to Chicago would be a very nice ride on Amtrak. Beats driving any day as Chicago is a tough city to drive in but a wonderful city to visit.

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  9. I don't have any idea where our nearest Amtrak station is. How I wish we had even the train service they had here a hundred years ago.

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  10. Vicki -- As I mentioned -- there is talk of Amtrak improvement. Of course talk is cheap but I want to believe that something will be done to extend and improve Amtrak's passenger's service. -- barbara

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  11. I was in Holland a decade ago and took the train all around, from Amsterdam to Rotterdam to The Hague, it was wonderful, quick, efficient, comfortable, on time. We have Via in Canada, which I've taken a few times. It's okay but limited in availability.

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  12. barefootheart -- Your Via service is similar to our Amtrak service. Amtrak has been underfunded here in the U.S. for years and this has made train travel unpredictable. Now, as I understand the current system has improved Amtrak travel. Perhaps Via suffers from underfunding? -- barbara

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  13. I heartily agree with everyone who wishes passenger train service would make a big, high-quality, affordable comeback in the US! (I ask for so little... lol). Until I was about 10 or 11, my mom and I used to take the train every summer from our east coast home to Havre, MT to visit my grandparents. It took about 3 days and we'd change trains in Chicago. I was disappointed when we started flying (and shortly after that, driving) to MT instead. I've not ridden overnight on a train since, but I sure have wonderful, vivid memories of the experience.

    I'm writing this in the midst of the furor over the TSA's new pat-down and full body screening searches (not to mention the extra fees and deteriorating service among the airlines) and the "Do Not Fly" grassroots movements in response. I told my husband just this weekend that I hope it all results in far fewer people flying domestically for good, and gives rise to a resurgence in our railroads.

    I once worked for a woman at the time that she (literally) married a millionaire, and he wanted them to spend their honeymoon traveling on the Orient Express from Paris to Instanbul. SHE wanted to go to Disney World instead (I kid you not!), and she prevailed! Argh!!

    And by the way, one of our Thanksgiving traditions is watching the movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles." Just thought I'd toss that out there. :-)

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  14. Laloofah -- I realize that Amtrak has some problems such as time schedules, etc. but I still feel it is a viable option for those travelling long distances. It could use some financial support from the government but with our economy like it is -- I don't think that is going to happen soon. I have used Amtrak from the east coast to the west coast and with but a few small problems, was happy with the service. Flying can have its problems too. -- barbara

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  15. I'm glad to hear you were happy with your coast-to-coast travel on Amtrak more recently. I was unaware of any real problems with train travel, except that there isn't enough of it available in enough places and when we've checked into trying to go anywhere via train, it's always been cost-prohibitive. I certainly didn't mean to imply that Amtrak has any significant problems with its service - as I said, I haven't gotten to really ride the rails since I was 10 or 11, except for brief rides on commuter trains in the past 10 years, and those experiences were great! Flying absolutely has a lot of problems - I think train travel is superior to flying unless someone has a need to go a great distance in the shortest amount of time, and I too wish our government would invest significantly in passenger train service and infrastructure, like Europe has done. I'm sure you're right, they won't now, but too bad they passed on all the opportunities when they might have!

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