The National Corridors Initiative, Inc.

A Weekly North American Transportation Update

For transportation advocates and professionals, journalists,
and elected or appointed officials at all levels of government

Publisher: James P. RePass      E-Zine Editor: Molly McKay
Foreign Editor: David Beale      Webmaster: Dennis Kirkpatrick

Contribute To NCI

October 31, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 43

Copyright © 2011
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 12th Newsletter Year

This E-Zine is best viewed at
1024 X 768 screen resolution

IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  News Items…
Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman Warns Of Likely
   Funding Cut Impacts
Ten Arrested In LIRR Disability Scam; Retirees
   Claimed Undeserved Disability $
  News From Amtrak…
As Amtrak Racks Up Yet Another Record Year; Congress Plans
   To Cut Back Support For The Service
  Political Lines…
House Committee Bill Threatens Amtrak, Including Even
   State-Supported Amtrak Trains
  Select Rail Stocks…
  Across The Pond…
UK Looks At Heathrow - Gatwick Airport Rail Link
   To Ease Airport Congestion
Deutsche Bahn To Start Direct Poland –
   London (UK) Freight Train Service
Daimler And Rolls-Royce Take Control Of Railway
   Diesel Engine Builder MTU
Opportunity Knocks For Rail Freight
It Seems Like Forever Since The Trains Died:
   An Introduction
Transportation Revolution Is Coming;
   Will U.S. Be Ready?
Growth Strategies for the Next Golden Age in Rail
  We Get Letters…
Leo King
  Publication Notes …

NEWS OF THE WEEK... News Items...

Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman Warns
Of Likely Funding Cut Impacts

From Amtrak And BY DF Staff

WASHINGTON --- Amtrak CEO in a special advisory to employees is warning that likely funding cuts being planned by Congress will negatively impact Amtrak capital and other program, but he vows to maintain safety and performance of the railroad.

Here is the message sent:

“[This week] the Senate is expected to resume debate on appropriations bills, including funding for Amtrak for this fiscal year. The latest best estimate from the Senate is about $1.48 billion for Amtrak, which would translate to a decrease in operating funding from last year, and would be significantly less than the $2.2 billion we’d requested for this fiscal year.

“Once the Senate approves the appropriations bill, it will go to the House for debate. While we don’t know what the outcome will be, we do know that a House subcommittee had previously recommended a much lower number. We will need to make our capital program a priority for the future success of Amtrak. It should be clear to all of us that for now uncertain economic conditions will not allow Congress to be our sole funding solution.

“Using the Strategic Plan we released earlier this month as our roadmap, we must shift our focus to strengthening the bottom line. The plan, ‘which everyone should read,’ aligns organizational efforts, prioritizes resource allocation, and measures performance against goals and strategies to put us in a stronger financial and strategic position.

“The truth of our finances will require difficult decisions in the weeks and months ahead. You’ll be hearing more about what this means next week, so please keep an eye out for more information. Our focus must be on the safety and service that our passengers and state partners expect.

“Uncertainty about federal funding support and budget cuts are not new to Amtrak, and over the past 40 years we’ve learned to live with that kind of ambiguity. In the past, we’ve often halted or put off capital investments when federal funding fell short, which put us two steps back and left us in a perpetual state of mere survival.

“But we have a great future and we cannot abandon our investments or our plans. We don’t have that luxury, and our customers expect us to get better while some of our detractors expect us to fold our tent. We will not do that. We need to create an organization and a culture that can manage the ambiguity that comes from the annually changing government support. We will not lose sight of the Amtrak our customers need us to be. We will continue to make the investments that will yield a more efficient and reliable Amtrak.

“We will allocate our resources to continue long-lacking capital investments that have become critical for us in serving our customers, such as the next-generation reservation system and eTicketing; fulfilling our mandatory requirements for stations under the Americans with Disabilities Act; and proceeding with the acquisition of new equipment for our aging fleet. I know that there have been rumors about our budget, and that can be distracting. But I ask you to stay focused on our customers. At a time of record ridership, delivering safe, reliable and customer-friendly service is the best antidote to the Amtrak funding debate,” concluded Boardman.

Return to index

Ten Arrested In LIRR Disability Scam;
Retirees Claimed Undeserved Disability $

From The New York Times

NEW YORK CITY--- The New York Times is reporting that “Ten people, including a doctor and a former union president, were arrested early last Thursday and charged in a major fraud scheme in which hundreds of Long Island Rail Road workers made false disability pension claims costing a federal agency an estimated $1 billion, according to people briefed on the matter. “

Another doctor charged in the case was being sought, The Times William K. Rashbaum reported last week.

“Most of the people — those charged in the case include seven former railroad workers accused of making false pension claims, the two doctors and a former federal railroad pension agency employee who helped the workers file the claims — were taken into custody in the early morning hours [last Thursday] at their homes by F.B.I. agents and state investigators,” The Times reported.

“They were arrested on mail fraud and conspiracy to commit health care fraud charges,” the Times said, quoting unnamed sources, “and were expected to be arraigned later in the day in United States District Court in Manhattan. The federal investigation developed out of reporting by The New York Times for a series of articles published 2008 that revealed systematic abuses of Railroad Retirement Board pensions by Long Island Rail Road workers. The United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and the head of the New York F.B.I. office, Janice K. Fedarcyk, were expected to announce the charges at a news conference with two inspectors general, Barry L. Kluger of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Martin J. Dickman from the Retirement Board. The investigation was conducted by the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors in Manhattan, along with the inspectors general of the federal Railroad Retirement Board and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Long Island Rail Road’s parent agency,” The Times reported.

For the full story go to

Return to index
NEWS FROM AMTRAK... News From Amtrak...  

As Amtrak Racks Up Yet Another Record Year,
Congress Plans To Cut Back Support For The Service

By DF Staff, From Amtrak, And From The Economist

WASHINGTON---Even as Amtrak was reporting record ridership yet again for the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2011, the US House of Representatives was busily planning ways to cut back or shut down the service altogether.

Amtrak, formed in 1970 at the request of the private railroads which were at that time going bankrupt almost daily because of massive tax-payer-subsidized competition from truckers using the taxpayer-built Interstate Highway System, reported last week that it has for the first time carried more than 30 million riders in a single fiscal year, smashing old records, and doing so in the teeth of the worst recession since the 1930’s.

Here is the Economist’s take on the story:

“The number is a new record for the company and represents a 44% increase since 2000. Over seven million of those passengers travelled on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which runs between Boston and Washington, with stops in New York and Philadelphia along the way. Ticket sales increased 5% on FY 2010 and ticket revenues were up 8%, reported The Economist.

“FoxBusiness’s Jennifer Booton makes a fairly convincing argument that Americans are turning to trains as an alternative to driving and air travel, noting that Amtrak has hit record ridership and revenue levels almost every year since 2002, “which is about the time airlines started to struggle.” (The only year since 2002 that Amtrak didn’t set new records for revenue and ridership was 2009, in the depths of the recession.) High gas prices and the growing hassle of flying have made trains more attractive,” reported TE.

“Of course, government-run Amtrak and its Acela Express still have their problems: low funding, meager profits, speed regulations and sharing tracks with freight trains, to name a few. High-speed rail supporters call for a system that is built from the ground up, using rails designated only for high-speed trains and new technologies that whip trains around at speeds faster than 200 miles per hour,” the paper continued, citing Boonton.

For the complete Economist Story go to:

Return to index
POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

House Committee Bill Threatens Amtrak,
Including Even State-Supported Amtrak Trains

By DF Staff

WASHINGTON---More than a decade ago, the then-GOP controlled Senate demanded that, in return for continued Federal support, Amtrak “make a profit;” as a part of this Soviet-style order for profitability, the Congressional GOP leadership also called for individual states to support Amtrak trains that served those states.

Many complied, stepping up and dedicating millions of state and even local funds to develop and support commuter and regional rail via Amtrak, for trains like the Vermonter, the DownEaster, and several North Carolina trains; there are a number of other such “403(b)” trains across the country.

Those trains will all be killed, along with any future High Speed Rail program funding, if the Tea-Party dominated GOP controlled House Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing & Urban Development gets its way.

This week, a bill sits before that committee that would not only reduce Amtrak’s existing level of Federal support, already tiny, but wipe out rail service in those states that have indeed complied with past rail-hostile GOP dictums, and spent local money to support Amtrak.

In a letter sent to rail advocates by Conservation Law New Hampshire Vice President Tom Irwin, he warned about a number of New England rail cancellation threats:

“As you no doubt already know, federal funding for Amtrak and High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail is in jeopardy, with the House Transportation, Housing & Urban Development subcommittee appropriations bill proposing to cut funding for Amtrak operations by 60 percent, eliminating support for state-supported Amtrak lines like the Downeaster and Vermonter services, and provide zero funding for HSIPR grants.

There are two things each of us can do:

1.      Take a look at the first attachment, prepared by TrainRiders Northeast (go to, and contact members of your delegation to urge them to support Amtrak, including state-supported lines like the Downeaster and Vermonter, and support strong funding for High Speed & Intercity Rail.

2.      When you contact your Senators and Representative(s), ask them to join the Bicameral High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail caucus.  The second attachment contains a list of all current caucus members.  Unfortunately, New England is not well represented, with only seven members from the region having joined (Kerry, MA; Olver, MA; Capuano, MA; McGovern, MA; Larson, CT; DeLauro, CT; Cicilline, RI; Bass, NH).  It’s essential that this caucus build its strength, and New England needs to do better.  Ask your Senators and Reps to contact John Monsif (, of Congresswoman Slaughter’s office, to join.”

Tom Irwin can be reached at:

“Tom Irwin’s advice applies nationwide,” said NCI Chairman James P. RePass “and readers should follow up and take action.”

Return to index
STOCKS...  Selected Rail Stocks...


Berkshire Hathaway B (BNSF)(BRK.B)79.9677.45
Canadian National (CNI)79.7674.26
Canadian Pacific (CP) 68.9957.98
CSX (CSX)23.3121.71
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)61.8155.85
Kansas City Southern (KSU)65.4159.54
Norfolk Southern (NSC)75.0070.90
Providence & Worcester(PWX)13.0512.16
RailAmerica (RA)13.8314.15
Union Pacific (UNP)101.9696.96

Beginning August 29, 2011, we will be adding Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B)
as an indicator for BNSF Railroad, as well as RailAmerica (RA).

Return to index

ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor


UK Looks At Heathrow-Gatwick Airport Rail Link
To Ease Airport Congestion

Can A Virtual “London Heath-Wick Airport” Be Created By High Speed Rail?

Via Railnews UK And Mary Anne Baldwin Of UBM Aviation News

LONDON – A proposal from the UK government two weeks ago to link London’s two main international airports with a dedicated high speed rail line has generated interest in the rail construction industry while infuriating aviation industry officials.  Two weeks ago the UK’s Department of Transport proposed to build a GBP 5.0 billion (US $ 7.8 billion) high speed rail line between the sprawling Heathrow passenger terminals in the western London suburb of Hounslow and Gatwick Airport in the suburban town of Crawley, due south of London.

Airline industry executives have been craving a new third runway at London’s Heathrow airport for years, if not decades.  But the current Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition government has essentially killed off the proposed and highly controversial third Heathrow runway for the foreseeable future in a recent decision, favoring instead to free up precious landing and take-off slots at Heathrow by ending most domestic UK flights from Heathrow in the medium to long term and replacing these flights with a dramatic expansion of Great Britain’s high speed rail network, especially the HS 2 high speed rail corridors from London to Manchester and Birmingham and beyond, currently in the planning phase.  Despite the UK government’s final decision not to build a third Heathrow runway, airline executives and others in the aviation industry continue to push hard to have the third runway built. 

The proposed high speed rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick would create a kind of virtual single airport, with airline passengers exchanged between Heathrow’s mostly long distance intercontinental flights (from Asia, Australia, South America, South Africa and the Middle East) and Gatwick’s mostly shorter and medium haul flights (from North America, continental Europe, North and Central Africa, domestic UK, plus Caribbean and Atlantic island destinations).  The proposed line would follow the right-of-way of the existing M25 circle highway around London for much of the 57 km (35 mile) distance between the two airports and trains would operate with en-route speeds in the 280 km/h (175 mph) range between the airports.  The trains and platforms would be designed with security and access control features so that passengers would not have to clear immigration and airport security screening check points more than once per flight transfer.   

Both airports are currently connected to the existing UK rail system, Heathrow is at the end of a branch line which runs to London Paddington Station with “Heathrow Express” trains via the so-called “Great Western” rail main line, while Gatwick has a large airport rail station along the busy London – Brighton mainline.  Heathrow also has a direct subway line connection on the London Underground metro train network. 

Willie Walsh, the CEO of IAG, the name of the new combined firm from the merger of Iberia Airlines and British Airways, had little positive to say about the proposed “Heath-wick” high speed rail connector in an editorial he wrote for the Evening Standard newspaper:  “A high-speed rail link might be an impressive piece of engineering but [it] would not create more take-off and landing slots. Heathrow already exceeds its capacity by 75,000 passengers [per month] and Gatwick is at its limit.” 

“The notion that London’s airport capacity crisis can be solved by a rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick shows how much Whitehall [British for the UK central government offices in London] has lost the plot on aviation policy.  With 35 miles of railway, you can travel 35 miles.  With two miles of runway, you can travel anywhere in the world,” added Walsh.

Return to index

Deutsche Bahn To Start Direct Poland – London (UK)
Freight Train Service

From A Deutsche Bahn AG Press Release

BERLIN – Deutsche Bahn – German Railways – announced it will begin a once-per-week freight train service as of the 8th of November with continental European loading gauge rolling stock between Wroclaw, Poland and Barking (London), England.  The operation will be handled primarily by two Deutsche Bahn divisions: DB Schenker Rail UK (formerly known as EWS) and DB Schenker Rail Polska.  The trains will travel into England via the Channel Tunnel and then over the HS1 rail line into the Barking section of the city of London. 

Deutsche Bahn claims that the scheduled freight train will be the first ever into the UK with standard continental EU loading gauge-sized freight wagons.  Although the UK has been actively increasing height and width clearances along several existing rail lines to handle higher and wider continental EU rolling stock, the only rail line that was built from the start to handle this rolling stock size is HS1, formerly known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CRTL), which runs from the Channel Tunnel on the south English coast to central London.  DB also claimed that this is the first regular use of HS1 by freight trains.  HS1 is used primarily by Eurostar passenger trains from Paris and Brussels as well as a high-speed regional train service operated by Southeastern from central London to Ashford, Medway, Dartford, Maidstone and Dover, England.   

Deutsche Bahn says the trip on the 2000 km route between Wroclaw and London will take approximately 50 hours and the first customers for the service are from the automobile, food supply and retail store industries.  Deutsche Bahn plans to increase freight train services into London via this link from other European locations in 2012.  Deutsche Bahn also plans to start passenger train services into London using this route with ICE trains in 2013 from Frankfurt and Amsterdam.

Return to index

Daimler And Rolls-Royce Take Control Of
Railway Diesel Engine Builder MTU

From Internet Sources

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, GERMANY –  MTU, one of the top three diesel engine and propulsion system suppliers in the rail industry, comes back into the Daimler family, which it left back in 2005 when Daimler, then known as Daimler-Chrysler, spun off MTU to Swedish investment firm Tognum. 

Earlier this year Daimler and Rolls-Royce formed Engine Holding GmbH, which now holds 98 percent of MTU’s parent company Tognum.  MTU has supplied diesel engines to the railway industry for decades, from smaller under-floor motors used in DMU rail cars to large 16 and 20 cylinder engines for locomotives in the 3000 – 4000 hp class built by Siemens, Bombardier, and Alstom.  MTU also supplies diesel motors and engines to the ship building, military vehicle and construction equipment industries and has become active in developing fuel cells for industrial use.

An MTU 4000 series diesel engine

Photo: David Beale for NCI

Under new management - MTU goes back to management under previous owner Daimler along with new partner Rolls-Royce. An MTU 4000 series diesel engine for line-haul locomotives on display at InnoTrans 2010 in Berlin.

Daimler, one of the largest automobile, truck and bus manufacturers in the world, and Rolls-Royce, a manufacturer of jet engines, gas turbines and large ship diesel engines, installed new members into MTU/Tognum’s management board this past Thursday (27th of October), thus completing the take-over of the diesel engine supplier.  They are, from Rolls-Royce, John Paterson, president marine and industrial power systems, Andrew Heath, president energy, and Dr Michael Haidinger, president Rolls-Royce Deutschland and president civil small and medium gas turbine engines, plus Stefan Buchner, head of global powertrain, procurement and manufacturing engineering from Daimler Trucks.  Chairman of the new board is Andreas Renschler, who is head of Daimler Trucks and has been a Tognum board member since 2008. 

MTU was previously a wholly owned division of Daimler, and prior to full ownership under Daimler-Chrysler, it was a jointly-owned company between Daimler, BMW and truck/bus manufacturer MAN.  BMW was, until the late 1990s, a 50 percent share-holder in Rolls-Royce Deutschland, which is primarily an aircraft turbine engine manufacturer based near Berlin.  MTU / Tognum owns small – to – medium size diesel engine manufacturer Detroit Diesel in the USA, which will continue to be a part of the MTU diesel engine family. DaimlerChrysler changed its name to Daimler, after it sold off Chrysler to investment firm Cerberus Capital Management in 2007.

MTU’s gas turbine business was separated from its diesel engine business back in the late 1980s by Daimler, and later Daimler sold off the gas turbine engine side of MTU to investment firm KKR in 2003, much the same way Daimler sold off the diesel engine MTU to Tognum two years later.  The gas turbine company, based out of Munich, continues to do business under the name MTU Aero Engines as an independent stock held firm.  Despite the common name, MTU Aero Engines has no appreciable business ties or common interests with the diesel engine manufacturer of the same name, which is now under ownership of Daimler and Rolls-Royce via Engine Holding GmbH.

Return to index
COMMENTARY... Commentary...  

Opportunity Knocks For Rail Freight

Volume III, No. 20        By Richard L. Beadles

Virginia Rail Observations & Commentary

At a recent conference on freight transportation, attendees heard an insider’s assessment of the current challenges confronting truckers. This should be good news for the rails, but will it be? It could turn out to be a set-back for rail. In the past, when truck operators were faced with similar challenges they have often managed to use adversity to obtain liberalization of legal size, weight and combination (truck-trains) limits from key states, then leveraged such exceptions into more favorable nation-wide rules in the name of uniformity, consistency and efficiency. This could happen once again.

By all accounts, the problems confronting truckers do, in fact, represent a serious issue for the U. S. economy. The industry slogan that “America moves by truck” is indeed accurate. But such public benefit, in commercial terms, has to be weighed against the off-setting public cost of road and bridge damage, highway congestion, safety, relative inefficiency of energy consumption, environmental degradation, etc. In an ideal world, much of the cargo presently moving on U. S. highways should be on rail, but under current political, economic and business conditions, that may be a utopian dream.

As with the Bible, people seem to be able to find just about anything in transportation statistics to prove their point, e.g. USDOT Bureau of Transportation Statistics. At the risk of oversimplification, trucks appear to handle as much as 70% of U. S. freight tonnage, compared with 15% or less by rail. The truck-share is heavily concentrated in relatively shorter-hauls, of fewer than 500 miles, and most of that is even much shorter, e.g. 250 miles or less. Rails, which capture more than 40% of overall ton miles, do much better, competitively speaking, in long-haul corridors. Obviously, there are many exceptions, e.g. coast-to-coast highway haulers of perishable agricultural products, and 50-mile rail hauls of crushed stone, sand and gravel.

Current rail freight prosperity -- and those appealing rail TV ads -- both of which are welcome developments, tout mile long intermodal trains handing 250+ truck-like containers, and the rails’ ability to move a ton of freight “almost 500 miles” on a gallon of fuel. The public is apt to draw the conclusion that the fuel-efficient claim applies to intermodal, which is highly unlikely. Also, there are relatively few markets capable of generating such large intermodal trains in the shorter-haul corridors where most of the truck-competitive cargo now moves. Despite numerous attempts, the freight rails have yet to come up with an acceptable (to them) technology and operating/service system that works in short-haul corridors. A major reason is the subsidized below-cost access to, and use of, highways that is provided truckers as a matter of public transportation policy.

If the freight rails have a great new competitive “thing” to introduce in the under-500-mile truck-dominated corridors, they’d better roll it out soon. Otherwise, shippers and highway movers of freight are going to demand and get some sort of emergency relief for trucks. Motorists all across America hope that freight rails will hear the knock of opportunity, and answer the door with an alternative that works.

Return to index

Amtrak At 40: A Rider’s Perspective


It Seems Like Forever Since The Trains Died:
An Introduction

First In A Series

By David Peter Alan

On April 30, 1971, thousands of communities across the nation lost their train service. In hundreds of other communities, train service was reduced, often from multiple daily frequencies to one. For most of those cities and towns, rail passenger service never returned to its former level.

That was the day of last departure. The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) began operations the next day. The Rail Passenger Act of 1970, the legislation that created Amtrak, preserved service in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), along with a skeletal network of long-distance trains. The freight railroads, which had been getting rid of passenger trains for years, had the benefit of killing off most of the remaining trains all at once, without need to ask for government permission any more. Most rail riders would remember “Amtrak Day” as the day they lost their train.

The magnitude of the cuts was staggering. Penn Central had run three daily trains between New York and Chicago and two between New York and St. Louis on the former Pennsylvania Railroad route and three daily trains between New York and Chicago on the former New York Central route. These trains are gone today, with the exception of Lake Shore Limited on the former NYC route, which survives. Only one St. Louis train and one Chicago train on the Pennsylvania route survived the beginning of Amtrak. They are gone, and only one train between New York and Pittsburgh still operates today. The once-mighty C&O/B&O system was reduced to a single train, the George Washington, on the C&O. Today, that train runs only three times a week as the Cardinal. The Santa Fe lost two of its four trains then, and one of the survivors was discontinued in 1979. Only the Southwest Chief on its full route and the Heartland Flyer, a 206-mile remnant of the former Texas Chief, still run today.

The same scenario was repeated on virtually every railroad. Except for a few “corridors” in the mid-west, every medium-distance train was obliterated along with the longer runs. The once-mighty passenger train empire of the Union Pacific, including the five Western Cities Domeliner trains ceased to exist. So did the passenger trains on the Delaware & Hudson, Chicago & Northwestern, Norfolk & Western, Central of Georgia and Baltimore & Ohio. Many stations were also casualties, including such landmarks as Chicago’s Dearborn Station, which had served rail passengers since 1883.

Where has Amtrak taken the nation in the past 40 years, and where has Amtrak itself gone? This series of articles will discuss issues pertinent to these questions, from the perspective on an Amtrak rider. We will look at Amtrak’s early years, changes to the Amtrak network, some of the most severe service cuts since Amtrak began, as well as Amtrak today. Our focus will be the rider’s experience on Amtrak, in terms of destinations, on-board services, and other issues that affect riders. Our retrospective is not designed to be specifically technical or political, although it would be impossible to examine Amtrak without touching on technical and, especially, political issues.

Like many other members of the rail advocacy movement, this writer has gone from student to senior during the 40 years of the Amtrak era. After completion of an MBA in April, 1971, shortly before the end of the railroad-operated trains and the beginning of Amtrak, there was time to ride some trains during their last days. At the end of the month, many of those trains were gone. The last of the old transcontinental trains reached the end of the line early on May 2d, signaling the end of an era.

For the trains that survived, May 1, 1971 was the beginning of a time of transition. Railroads that still ran some passenger trains issued timetables, bearing that date. They looked much like the ones that bore a date in the fall of 1970, except they were thinner. They listed fewer trains, and there was some mention of Amtrak, but the railroads still published timetables. Amtrak published one, printed by the company that also published the Official Guide to the Railways.

On the trains themselves, there was little change at the beginning. Although Amtrak had painted a few locomotives in the new Amtrak red-white-and-blue color scheme, and with the “arrow-tail” logo that represented Amtrak for decades (some people referred to it as the “pointless arrow”), the surviving trains ran with the same consists of the same equipment that had operated in April. The coaches, lounge cars and sleepers were the same, as was the dining service. Riders could still enjoy boiled beef with horseradish sauce on the trains between Chicago and St. Louis, smothered pork chops with grits on the Florida trains and fried oysters on the George Washington (now the Cardinal, but without the dining car). Fred Harvey service was still offered on the two remaining Santa Fe trains, although neither the railroad nor Amtrak called it that. Homogenization and nationalization of the on-board experience, through nationalized dining service and equipment consolidation and repainting with the Amtrak logo, took time. It was not completed until late 1973.

Today, not many people still remember the pre-Amtrak trains. Perhaps that explains why so many members of the rail advocacy movement are in their late 50s or older. The size of the Amtrak long-distance network has been remarkably stable over the last four decades, despite the turbulence that the airline industry has experienced. The Amtrak long-distance network remains threatened with further cuts and expansion appears impossible at this time, despite increasing highway congestion and the growth of the environmental movement since Amtrak began.

Still, Amtrak riders remain loyal to their trains, despite service cuts and declining on-time performance. The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) often quotes statistics from surveys which indicate that a vast majority of Americans want more passenger trains. This is probably true, but the leaders elected by these same Americans appear to disagree. Calling for more trains is one thing. Balancing the public’s desire for more trains against the desires of the airline industry, the highway construction industry, the oil and automobile lobbies, the freight railroads and other powerful constituencies which favor the elimination of passenger trains is another.

Meanwhile, Amtrak has survived and continues to do so, somehow. There are still a few long-distance trains running, and ridership on these trains is growing. The NEC remains busy, and more commuter trains use the line than ever before. Although Amtrak was not chartered by statute to operate commuter trains, it deals with several commuter operators along the line, especially between New York and Washington. Corridors have also sprung up outside the Northeast Region, especially in California. There are also more trains today on corridors in the mid-west than there were when Amtrak began.

It appears that any expansion of America’s rail mobility map happened through local initiatives, rather than through Amtrak’s efforts. Today, Amtrak is not healthy and is forced by the office-holders who also hold its purse strings to survive on, essentially, a starvation diet. This is not a new development. Amtrak started life as an unwanted and unhealthy child, with little expectation that it would live long. The next article in the series will focus on Amtrak’s infancy, back in the early 1970s.

David Peter Alan has ridden the entire Amtrak system, and some former Amtrak routes where passenger trains no longer run. He writes about Amtrak and local rail transit. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any other individual or organization.

Return to index

A Warning To America From A Transportation Expert And Author


Transportation Revolution Is Coming;
Will U.S. Be Ready?

From San Antonio Express

OCTOBER 27 – In a San Antonio Express article, writer Tracy Hamilton reports the dire warning to the United States by a transportation expert who predicts a very rough road if America continues to depend on oil.

“Roughly half the world’s oil is still in the ground, so humans have plenty of time to figure out what a post-oil world will look like.”

This conventional wisdom is putting the U. S. at great risk says Anthony Perl, a transportation expert and author of “Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight without Oil.”

“Much of the remaining oil will be more expensive to remove, refine and transport, meaning costs will continue to rise, he said.

“And because oil products power 95 percent of the transportation sector, it’s imperative that the U.S. focus now on creating the infrastructure for a post-carbon transportation system.”

Perl spoke on October 20 at the Alamo Area Council of Government’s second annual electric car conference, which this year was held in conjunction with the 43rd annual international auto show at the Convention Center in San Antonio.

AACOG is home to the Clean Cities Coalition, a Department of Energy-funded initiative to promote policies that reduce communities’ dependence on foreign oil for transportation, replacing it with domestically produced energy, the article states.

Perl said Americans must first attack our current inefficient use of oil. A third of transportation oil could be saved just by becoming wiser consumers.

Beyond that, he sees electric vehicles, rail and water transportation, and “collectively managed travel,” such as car sharing or light rail.

The last time the U.S. focused on car sharing was World War II. Perl showed an old poster of a lone man in a car with this slogan: “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler!”

Electric rail should come before electric because it’s a mature technology and is incredibly safe: “Japan has had zero fatalities related to its bullet train since its introduction in 1964,” he said.

China’s huge investment in high speed rail will help drive down the cost of bullet trains and rails, he said.

He supports President Obama’s efforts to build a nationwide high-speed rail system but noted the resistance of Congress which has stymied the president’s proposal. He also cited the lack of American engineering know-how.

He suggests creating a national agency made up of the secretaries of defense, energy and transportation that would be charged with redeveloping the country’s transportation infrastructure.

“You have to have a target for where you want to go,” he said. “The transportation revolution will arrive whether we’re ready or not.”

[Anthony Perl is Professor of Urban Studies at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, and author with Richard Gilbert of “Transportation Revolutions: Moving People and Freight Without Oil”.]

Return to index
EVENTS... Events...  

There Is Still Time To Register For This Important Conference!

Go to

RailTrends 2011
November 1-2, 2011
The W Hotel
New York


Growth Strategies for the Next Golden Age in Rail

This two-day summit was carefully crafted to address the issues that matter most to rail professionals. Facilitated by some of the rail industry’s most-respected authorities, presentations will include:

  • An exploration of Wall Street’s take on the rail industry
  • An intelligent discussion on freight railroad executives’ views on rail in the post-recession economy
  • A candid dialogue about the Obama Administration’s take on rail policy
  • A comprehensive understanding on what lenders are looking for in potential railroad investments
  • A rare opportunity to meet with and learn from some of the rail industry’s most prominent, influential deal makers, trend setters and high rollers

Return to index


WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

This is an interesting issue (DF October 24) as there was little practical reason for placing the Tappan Zee Bridge where it is in the first place.

Governor Dewey wanted it there because it was a spot (regardless of how wide the river) beyond the New York Port Authority’s mandate which meant that the state could collect the toll revenues.

In August, there was a good program about this on NPR’s Planet Money: A Big Bridge in the Wrong Place:

Now’s probably not the time to talk about moving it – and the Garden State Parkway and the New York Thruway (excuse me, the Governor Thomas E. Dewey Thruway!)

Best wishes,
Michael Reidy


Michael is a rail fan from Worcester, Massachusetts, now living in the UK, working in PR and taking European trains.

For more, please see:

He can be reached at

Return to index


OBITUARY... Obituary...  

Leo sits at the block operator panel at Boston’s South Bay Tower where he worked for Amtrak.

Leo King

1938 - 2011

Leo King, the writer, at his computer.

Leo H. King, founding editor of Destination: Freedom, has died at age 73. 

His death was reported to us October 29 by a former colleague of Leo’s at Amtrak, where he worked as a dispatcher in South Boston’s Southampton Street rail yard before “retiring” to Florida --- Leo, of course, never actually retired, staying busy with writing, photography, rail-fanning, his rail blog, and his extensive model railroad empire.

Leo and his wife Christy, partaking in a little holiday cheeer.

Happy Times - Leo and Christy

Leo died in his automobile August 15 not far from his home in Middleburg, FL. According to the police autopsy, his widow Christy King told us, the cause of death was a heart attack; Leo was apparently able to pull his car off the road and cut off the engine before he died, as the police found the key in the “off” position when they went to the scene. 

We will have a much more extensive story on Leo King’s life in Destination: Freedom in the very near future.

Jim RePass, Publisher, Destination: Freedom
And Chairman, The National Corridors Initiative

END NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2011 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

Destination Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

|| Top of Page || Past Newsletter Editions || NCI Home Page || Contact Us

  || page viewings since date of release.