The National Corridors Initiative Logo

July 5, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 26

Copyright © 2016
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 16th Newsletter Year


A Weekly North American Transportation Update For Transportation
Advocates, Professionals, Journalists, And Elected Or Appointed Officials,
At All Levels Of Government.

James P. RePass, Sr.
Molly N. McKay
Foreign Editor
David Beale
Contributing Editor
David Peter Alan
Managing Editor / Webmaster
Dennis Kirkpatrick

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

  News Item …
SEPTA Silverliner V Fleet Sidetracked
  Guest Commentary …
Pittsburgh And Cleveland Should Be Linked
   By Better Passenger Rail
  Funding Lines …
Sound Transit Approves $54 Billion ST3 Plan
  Planning Lines …
Commuter Rail Company Moves To Woonsocket, RI
  Transit Lines …
St. Louis To Study Three Light Rail Extensions
  Station Lines …
Platform In Springfield, MA Won't Be Ready
   For Union Station's Grand Opening
  Selected Rail Stocks …
  Transit-Oriented Development …
Expect To Pay More To Live Near Mass Transit
  Across The Pond …
New Thameslink EMUs Enter Passenger Service
Siemens Unveils Next-Generation Regional Train
  To The North …
GO Transit Service To Expand To Grimsby
   By 2021, Niagara Falls By 2023
  Off the Main Line …
A Visit To A River Town With A Storied Past,
   But Whose Future Is Uncertain
  Publication Notes …

NEWS ITEM... News Item...  

Travel Advisory


SEPTA Silverliner V Fleet Sidetracked

According to a rail riders’ advocate, the defect that took the entire Silverliner V fleet
out of service was found in the rail cars’ wheel assemblies. He also offered informed
speculation on what Tuesday morning’s commute will look like.

By Sandy Smith

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has made an announcement that all 120 of its Silverliner V Regional Rail electric multi-unit (EMU) cars were removed from service at the end of last week due to a “serious structural defect.“

Matthew Mitchell, vice president and commuter rail committee chair of the Delaware Valley Association of Railroad Passengers, said he had been briefed by SEPTA officials about the nature of the defect.

While he was unable to name a specific part, he said that the problem arose in the car’s trucks - the term used to describe the two-axle pivoting wheel assemblies at each end of the car. SEPTA first discovered the problem Friday evening, he continued, and ordered an urgent inspection of all the cars in the fleet after finding it. When the inspectors determined that only a small fraction of the Silverliner Vs would pass the inspection, SEPTA management made the decision to pull the entire fleet from service.

SEPTA does have a small supply of replacement parts on hand to make the required repairs, but not enough to fix more than a few of the cars in the fleet. Most of the needed parts will have to be manufactured, Mitchell said, and as a result, “it will be weeks” before any trains can be returned to service, and “things won’t get completely back to normal until the end of the summer. But if there’s a ‘good’ time to have this kind of problem, the summer is it.”


Photo By John Corbett - Wikipedia/Flickr

A SEPTA Silverliner V on the Chestnut Hill West Line at St. Martins station.

Mitchell noted that the trucks were not manufactured by Hyundai-Rotem but by a third party.

While SEPTA officials are still putting together the alternate service plan that will go into effect Tuesday, Mitchell offered some informed speculation on what is likely to happen. “The starting point for this schedule,” he said, “will be the enhanced Saturday schedule they use during weather emergencies.” This [past] Saturday schedule includes additional trains on select lines, most notably the Wilmington/Newark line.

But as one-third of the Regional Rail fleet will be out of service at a time when ridership continues to rise and “some lines are stretched beyond capacity,” he said, there will be some cutbacks even after accounting for the seasonal dip in ridership. He predicted that some shorter lines would be replaced by shuttle buses, with “bustitution” just about certain on the very short, lightly patronized Cynwyd line. Some other shorter lines with good transportation alternatives nearby, such as the Fox Chase and Chestnut Hill East lines, might also be suspended in favor of shuttle buses, and some stations on heavily traveled lines that have alternate service near them might be bypassed.

He also said that SEPTA General Manager Jeff Knueppel and Assistant General Manager for Customer Service Kim Scott Heinle are talking to Amtrak officials about the possibility of adding extra stops to Keystone Service trains to accommodate some Paoli/Thorndale Line commuters. Should that happen, there’s an outside chance that Amtrak will honor TrailPasses, but the railroad will not accept single-ride tickets.

Mitchell’s advice to riders: “Know what your alternatives will be and be ready to take them, especially if you live closer to the city. Also, ask your employer if they can offer flex time or other commuting options, for the more that people can commute outside rush hour, the better.“

Readers impacted by this should get additional details from

Read more at:

[ Editor’s note - Rail advocacy forums are speculating on whether this issue may also impact similar units based on the Silverliner V series that operate in Denver, CO and elsewhere. This story will develop throughout the coming weeks. ]

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GUEST COMMENTARY... Guest Commentary...  

Pittsburgh And Cleveland Should Be
Linked By Better Passenger Rail

From The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Groups working for good transportation choices in Ohio and Pennsylvania agree with the Post-Gazette (“For Cleveland Kinship,” June 21 editorial) that Cleveland and Pittsburgh have much in common beyond our love of winning sports. It’s a shared fate about jobs and development of our industrial and “eds and meds” economies — and those will depend on links created by better public transportation.

Passenger trains are the way to make that happen. In our 135-mile corridor live 6.7 million people, more than in 37 states and comparable to densities of Europe’s busiest corridors that enjoy fast, frequent passenger trains. That kind of passenger rail can serve not just the two big cities at either end but also many cities and towns in between, such as New Castle and Youngstown.

Sadly, Cleveland and Pittsburgh lack alternatives to driving — each day, only one Amtrak train, running late at night, and three daytime Greyhound buses. That’s not good, especially if we’re serious about trying to compete with the East and West coasts for innovative young people to build tomorrow’s opportunities.

Regional synergies among dozens of universities and innovative businesses depend on the mobility and retention of the 150,000 students within this corridor, many of them uninterested in owning cars. We want to encourage them to remain here as productive, post-graduate citizens, populating cities and towns enhanced by rail stations linked by modern, convenient passenger rail.

Cleveland and Pittsburgh can beat the coasts at more than hockey and basketball if we work together — except on fall Sundays, of course!

Ken Prendergast
Executive Director
All Aboard Ohio

Michael Alexander
Western Pennsylvanians For Passenger Rail
Squirrel Hill

Found at:

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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

Sound Transit Approves $54 Billion ST3 Plan

By Ryan Murray
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer

This November, Eastside voters could very well make the difference in approving or denying a $53.8 billion plan to improve transit across King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

The Sound Transit Board unanimously approved the sweeping infrastructure plan last week, and hopes to convince voters of its necessity by election day.

Claudia Balducci, Sound Transit Board member, King County Council member and former Bellevue mayor, has been intimately involved with the push for improved transportation in Puget Sound for years.

“This is the opportunity for our region to step up and build a full-scale transit system,” she said. “Some people said we should take more time, which I just don’t understand. If not now, when?”

The newly finalized plan changes the plan tentatively approved by the Sound Transit Board in March. After feedback lambasting the long construction times (stretching into the 2040s for several projects), the board resolved to find a way to reduce those dates. The new plan reflects that, with proposed construction sped up by two to five years for most extensions.

Bellevue will be a major hub for transit if the Sound Transit 3 passes.

Sound Transit proposes a light rail line from South Kirkland Park and Ride to Central Issaquah in the plan. It would connect with the already-planned spur coming from Redmond and have stops in Downtown Bellevue (part of Sound Transit 2), Richards Road, Eastgate near Bellevue College, a provisional stop in the Lakemont area and finishing in Central Issaquah. The provisional station would not be built in Sound Transit 3, instead requiring additional funds.

This 11.75 mile line would cost between $1.76 and $1.88 billion to complete by 2041. Sound Transit estimates it would add anywhere between 12,000 and 15,000 daily riders with an additional $28 million yearly operations and maintenance cost. From end to end, Sound Transit estimates the line would take 23 minutes and would have high reliability.

Bellevue is also centered in a major Interstate-405 Bus Rapid Transit proposal, where buses would leave northward from the Lynnwood Transit Center down I-405 through Bothell, Kirkland, Bellevue, Renton, Tukwila and into Burien. The 38-mile route would use eight existing stations and add three more at a cost of between $812 and $869 million. Sound Transit estimates that between 15,000 and 18,000 daily riders would take the bus rapid transit at 87 minutes transit time from end-to-end.

Balducci said this plan is a chance for Seattle, the Eastside, Everett and Tacoma to catch up with other major metropolitan areas.

The plan has its share of both supporters and detractors already.

People for Smarter Transit is a group opposing the Sound Transit 3 project and will be campaigning against it. According to the group, Sound Transit 3 will not solve traffic issues, will raise taxes significantly, will be the most costly way to attract new ridership and will not be safe or cost effective.

“There has been little discussion about the opportunity cost of hitting taxpayer wallets for so much money to achieve so little benefit,” the group writes. “This proposal goes after funding that should be used for schools.”

According to Sound Transit, $27.7 billion of the funding would come from new, local taxes between 2017 and 2041. An additional .5 percent sales tax would be added to the regional sales tax the regional transportation system already takes, and would raise $16.8 billion. A motor vehicle excise tax of .8 percent (about $80 per $10,000 of a vehicle’s value) would raise $6.9 billion and a property tax of $1 per $4,000 of assessed valuation (a $400,000 house would have an additional $100 property tax) would add $4 billion.

The additional $26.1 billion required to fund Sound Transit 3 would come from federal funds, existing taxes, bonds and fares.

All told, the average adult in the Sound Transit District would see an economic impact of about $200 additionally every year, or about $17 per month in 2014 dollars. Population estimates predict that nearly a million additional people will move to Puget Sound by 2040.

Balducci said while the price tag was high, Sound Transit tried its best to incentivize projects that people care about.

Light rail lines to Paine Field in Everett, Ballard, West Seattle, Downtown Redmond, Kirkland, Issaquah and Tacoma, as well as a Sounder Train extension to DuPont and improved stops and the rapid bus transit would connect the urban area.

“As part of Sound Transit 2, we wanted to connect the Eastside and other areas to Seattle,” Balducci said. “We want to connect people to things they care about.”

She said connecting important destinations on the Eastside to each other would make a more complete transportation system.

A strong opposing party based in Kirkland wanted to can the project unless Sound Transit could guarantee not to touch the Cross Kirkland Corridor. Balducci said that was the strongest opposition she had seen so far.

City leaders and former city leaders from Edmonds, Sammamish, Kirkland and Bothell also signed a petition urging voters to vote no on Sound Transit 3.

Others, such as the mayor of Issaquah and Bellevue council members, were pushing for the plan to pass.

From an item at:

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PLANNING LINES... Planning Lines...  

Commuter Rail Company Moves
To Woonsocket, RI

From The Worcester Telegram

Boston Surface Railroad, the company aiming to connect Worcester, MA and Providence, RI by commuter rail, has moved into new offices in Woonsocket, R.I.

Situated almost halfway between Providence and Worcester, Woonsocket will likely be the commuter rail’s only stop. According to Boston Surface’s website, the company hopes to start trips in early 2018 and is exploring the option of beginning service from Woonsocket to Providence earlier than that.

Boston Surface’s plan to connect these cities has been in the works since late 2014, with the company negotiating use of existing tracks owned by The Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. No material agreements have been reached yet, according to Charles D. Rennick, secretary and general counsel for P&W.

Only freight trains run between Providence and Worcester; passenger travel between Worcester and Providence would require going through Boston. That indirect trip would take over 2 hours, whereas Boston Surface estimates an initial total commute time of 75 to 80 minutes, with a goal of 65 minutes eventually. A car trip from Worcester to Providence takes about 50 minutes if there is no traffic.

From an item at:

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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

St. Louis To Study Three Light Rail Extensions

By Keith Barrow, Associate Editor
International Railway Journal
Via Railway Age

St Louis County, Mo., announced on June 23 that feasibility studies will be commissioned into three potential extensions of the MetroLink light rail network, which have been identified as part of the region’s long-range transportation plan.

The three projects under consideration include:

“I am excited to be moving ahead with MetroLink planning in St Louis County,” says county executive Steve Stenger. “We had originally planned to study only one route, but after hearing from residents and speaking with experts, it became apparent that all three corridors deserve a closer look. These studies are required to secure federal funding that will be an important part of any MetroLink expansion. The findings will show us which of these routes are most likely to qualify for those federal dollars.”

Funding for the three studies will come from a voter-approved local sales tax.

Found at:

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STATION LINES... Station Lines...  

Platform In Springfield, MA Won’t Be Ready
For Union Station’s Grand Opening

Regulations Have Forced Architect To Change Plans For Platform

By Anthony Fay

The passenger train platform at Union Station in downtown Springfield will not be ready in time for the facility’s grand opening this coming winter. Chris Moskal, Director of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, made the announcement last Tuesday.

Moskal said that the project is continuing on schedule, and that the bus terminal, parking garage, and tunnel to the current Amtrak terminal should all open as scheduled in January. The passenger platform, however, will have to wait, because of Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations regarding the width of the platform.

Because of the “unique configuration” of the tracks at Union Station, the Springfield Redevelopment Authority applied for a waiver to the FRA’s rules back in March, but last month, the FRA responded that all of their requirements would have to be followed. This means that big changes will have to be made to the platform and the underground passenger tunnel project.

A schedule has not been finalized, and there is not a cost estimate at this time for the changes that will need to be made, but Moskal said the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will provide funding.

When Union Station opens, Amtrak passengers will enter through the lobby of the renovated station, and then travel through the renovated portion of the passenger tunnel to the current Amtrak terminal on Lyman Street.

From an item at:

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STOCKS...    Selected Rail Stocks...
BRKB – Burlington Northern Santa Fe

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific

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TRANSIt-ORIENTED DEVELOPMENT... Transit-Oriented Development...  

Expect To Pay More To Live Near Mass Transit

By Steve Kiggins
Q13 Fox News

SEATTLE – If you’re looking to buy a home soon, be ready to pay more if you want to live near one of the new or planned Link Light Rail stations.

A Seattle real estate software company called Estately recently calculated the data, which in some areas suggest home prices could surge in the few areas many still considered affordable.

“Your home is undoubtedly going to go up in value at some point,” said Estately CEO Galen Ward. “Areas near a transit stop get restaurants, shops, density and create walk-able neighborhoods right there. All of those things together increase the value of housing and make people happier living there.”

Homes within a mile of a light-rail station are worth 10 percent more on average, according to Estately’s data. The most expensive home values are in downtown Seattle and Bellevue.

But also in the next few years, Estately predicts where new light rail stations are planned could also see property values increase.

“At stops that are there right now cost quite a bit more, and where more stops are going to be built over 5-10 years, there’s going to be some deals,” said Ward.

“I couldn’t believe how fast it happened,” said Tukwila homeowner Mike O’Donnell, who said he sold his home in just about 2 weeks for the asking price.

O’Donnell said his realtor told him that he’s making a big profit thanks to the Link Light Rail station, which is less than a mile down the road.

“The realtor had mentioned a lot of these houses are increasing in value because of their locale to transportation,” he said.

The company has calculated similar studies in other cities like Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C.; those areas also showed similar trends of rising home values near mass transit stations.

Next it will be up to voters this fall to decide if taxpayers are ready to spend $54 billion on 63 more miles of light rail and 37 new stations across the Puget Sound.

Ed note:  Similar stories of property values increasing near mass transit can be found all over the USA.  Local to this author in Boston, MA, transit-oriented development is the big selling point for new homes and multiple-dwelling structures soon to be built or under construction.

Found at:

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

New Thameslink EMUs
Enter Passenger Service

By Dan Templeton
International Railway Journal

Thameslink new Siemens-built class 700 EMU (electric-multiple-unit) performed well during its maiden passenger voyage from Brighton to London Bridge on June 20, making a total of four trips on this route during the off-peak.

On June 21, the 12-car train, which can carry up to 1750 passengers, made a further nine trips on the route, and operation of the class 700s is due to be extended north through the Thameslink core section to Bedford next week.

The new trains, which are being introduced as part of the 6.5bn Thameslink upgrade, will give passengers additional capacity with longer trains throughout rush hour, creating at least 1000 extra standard class seats.

Photo:  IRJ

Thameslink EMU

This fleet of 55 12-car and 60 8-car trains will run on an expanded Thameslink network to additional destinations including Peterborough and Cambridge.

The train’s features include wider doors and aisles, extra luggage space, air-conditioning, electronic signage indicating space, space for full-sized bikes in the off-peak, fully-accessible disabled toilets, and baby changing facilities.

From an item at:

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Siemens Unveils Next-Generation
Regional Train

By Keith Fender
International Railway Journal

Siemens has announced plans for a new range of commuter and regional EMUs, known as Mireo. The articulated design uses many components used in the current Desiro City EMU for Britain and will supersede Siemens’ Desiro ML platform for continental European markets.

The Mireo employs a modular architecture with a limited range of core components such as traction equipment, which includes a newly-designed transformer and inside-frame bogies.

Image: IRJ

Artist Concept Drawing

Siemens says Mireo will give operators almost complete flexibility to tailor the interior of the train to their specific requirements.

The Mireo design comprises 26m driving cars and 19m intermediate vehicles running on articulated bogies with an axle spacing of 2.65m. The train can be supplied in a variety of configurations ranging from a 52m-long two car train to 140m-long seven-car set. By increasing the number of powered axles, acceleration of up to 1.2m/s can be achieved. The Mireo will be capable of 160km/h, although Siemens will also offer a 140km/h variant.

Siemens has confirmed it does not intend to offer a diesel version of the Mireo although bi-mode options are under development which would use batteries for operation on non-electrified lines.

Siemens say the trains could be up to 30% more energy efficient than older multiple units due to its lightweight construction, intelligent energy management systems, and driver assistant systems.

From an article at:

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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  



GO Transit Service To Expand
To Grimsby By 2021,
Niagara Falls By 2023

From The Canadian Press

Work will begin next year to extend weekday GO train commuter service from Hamilton to Grimsby by 2021, and to Niagara Falls by 2023.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca says the project will include new and upgraded train stations, a new train layover facility in Niagara Falls, more passenger trains and 30 kilometers of new track.

In addition to the new Confederation GO station expected to open in east-end Hamilton in 2021, there will be another new GO station built in Grimsby, as well as upgrades to the VIA Rail stations in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

Del Duca says the 60-kilometre expansion of GO’s regional rapid transit network will help support economic development in the Niagara region, increase travel options for commuters and help manage congestion on highways.

He has been making a series of GO expansion announcements in recent weeks, including eight new GO train stations to be built in Toronto, and a 20-kilometre extension of the Lakeshore East line from Oshawa to Bowmanville, with four new GO train stations.

Del Duca has also announced plans to build another three new GO stations on the Barrie line, in Vaughan, Newmarket and Innisfil in Simcoe County.

The government has not announced cost estimates for the various GO train projects because it’s still in negotiations with the construction industry, the suppliers and with Canadian Pacific Railway, which owns much of the track the GO trains will use.

It’s a 10-year, $13.5 billion program to expand the GO regional express network, and some of the funding will have to come from local governments, said Del Duca.

The government earlier estimated that new GO train stations cost an average of $50 million to $75 million each, not counting operating, maintenance and energy costs.

From an item at:

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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

A Visit To A River Town With A Storied Past,
But Whose Future Is Uncertain

By David Peter Alan

The Fourth of July is not only a time to think patriotic thoughts, but also to remember “Americana”; an apparently-vanishing phenomenon that can still be found both in small towns, and in some neighborhoods of our cities.  While small towns are often romanticized nostalgically as the last bastions of a different America, where uncorrupted values still hold sway, that is not always the case in reality.  Last April, this writer visited a Midwestern river town; loaded with history, yet fighting for survival.

The Ohio River flows for 981 miles (1579 km) from Pittsburgh, through Louisville and Cincinnati, until it empties into the Mississippi River at Cairo, the southernmost town in Illinois.  Cairo, Illinois is spelled the same way as the capital of Egypt, but is pronounced “Care-o” in the American style.  Some of the early settlers in Southern Illinois must have been interested in ancient Egypt; Alexandria and Thebes are also located there, and the Central & Eastern Illinois Railroad (C&EI) once ran a train called the Egyptian between that area and Chicago.  

Cairo has a long and storied history.  It was a classic river town.  The riverboats called there; the waterfront hosted a lot of activity, and usually a lot of crime, too.  Stephen Foster wrote a song called Way Down in Cairo in 1850, and W.C. Handy mentioned the town in the St. Louis Blues, which he wrote in 1914.  Through this time, Cairo was a busy river port.  Trains bound for Chicago or New Orleans and other points south on the Illinois Central Railroad stopped there, as well.  Cairo was never a large city.  At its peak, it had a population of slightly over 15,000 in 1920.

For over a century, Cairo has been a troubled town.  It had a large black community, along with a white community who held traditional Southern values.  Historically, there was constant friction between them, which flared up in rioting from time to time.  The highway bridges over the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the 1930s did not help the town, either.  They made it easy for motorists to bypass Cairo; something that did not happen when the town still had ferries for the river crossings.  The train does not stop at Cairo anymore, either.  Amtrak eliminated the stop on the City of New Orleans route in 1987.  Over the years, the town’s population has declined sharply, now standing at only 2831 in the 2010 census; less than 20% of its peak nearly a century ago.

Despite the precipitous decline in the town’s fortunes, there are places that still showcase the Victorian beauty and prosperity of Cairo’s past.  The A.B. Safford Memorial Library is a magnificent edifice, which still contains most of the features that made it a showcase when it was built in 1884.  It still serves its original purpose.  The old post office and customs house across the street is now the town museum, with three floors full of Cairo’s history.  Cairo is a town of contrasts today.  Much of it is abandoned, and the empty buildings on such streets as Sycamore Street and Commercial Avenue stand as a silent reminder of what happens when a town’s decline is significant.  Washington Street, the prime residential street in town, is still alive, and the houses there are well-kept.  Some are magnificent reminders of a bygone era, like the library and the customs house.  Two of them, Magnolia Manner and Riverlore, are located across the street from each other and are preserved as house museums.

Although the train no longer stops at Cairo, there is transportation from Carbondale, 53 railroad miles to the north.  The Shawnee Mass Transit District runs a number of lines in Southern Illinois, as well as demand-response transportation.  Service on scheduled lines is limited, but there is a route between Carbondale and Cairo, which also stops at some smaller towns in-between.  The line only runs on weekdays, and the first van leaves Carbondale at 8:00 in the morning.  It is not scheduled to arrive in Cairo until 10:30, but there were few riders on the day of this writer’s visit, so we arrived shortly after 10:00.  The last departure for Carbondale is scheduled for 1:30, which left only slightly more than three hours to explore the town.  

That was enough time to see the library and the Customs House Museum, and have lunch at Shemwell’s Barbecue, the sole surviving “local” eatery.  Shemwell’s has been there since the 1950s, and it features a barbecue sauce with a heavy vinegar base and the flavor of mustard.  It is somewhat similar to the sauce served in South Carolina, and very different from those native to Texas, Memphis or Kansas City.  After lunch, there was time to explore Washington Street with its old houses, and take a tour of Magnolia Manner.  Riverlore, across the street, is only open on week-ends, when the van from Carbondale does not run.  

For the return trip, the driver and van met this writer at Magnolia Manner, as arranged.  Because he did not have any scheduled pickups on most of the route, the driver had a few extra minutes to stop at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and to take a quick look at one of the old mansions, which was built in the 1870s by one of the wealthiest residents of the town.  The new owners, two men from New Orleans, had purchased the house in a tax-foreclosure sale and restored it.  They brought the house and garden back to their former grandeur, with a touch of the French Quarter added on the inside.  They are loyal to Cairo and hold out hope for the town’s future, but they must go out of town to buy food and the other necessities of life.  There are no more stores of that sort in Cairo.

The van returned to Carbondale on schedule, at 4:00.  The Shawnee “MTD” is not the only community transportation provider in town.  After relaxing over a cup of coffee and a muffin at Cristaudo’s Bakery, this writer took a van to DuQuoin on one of South Central Transit’s scheduled routes, the Chestnut Route.  It runs a few times on weekdays; mostly for local commuters.  It arrived in DuQuoin at 5:15, which allowed slightly more than three hours to explore the town and have dinner at BJ’s the restaurant with “local color” before catching the Illini train back to Carbondale and a five-hour wait for the train to New Orleans that would stop at Carbondale in the middle of the night.

It was a unique experience to visit Cairo, despite the complicated logistics.  The only connection with Amtrak that could work is the last van from Cairo.  It arrives in Carbondale in time to connect with the afternoon train to Chicago, which leaves at 4:25.  The trip was an experience in itself, and the fare was amazingly low: only $3.00 each way, which amounts to about six cents per mile.  Shawnee MTD also has a route between Cairo and Cape Girardeau, Missouri, another historic river town.  A round trip between Carbondale and “Cape” is not possible on the same day, though.

Cairo was more interesting than DuQuoin, and one of the fascinating features of the town was the mix of magnificent history and present-day poverty that defines it.  Other river towns have fallen victim to the convenience of the automobile, which allows most people to bypass it, rather than visiting.  Still, there is something about Cairo that seems to nurture some seeds of hope.  That is the hope that the loyal residents of Cairo, including the men from New Orleans, will be able to form a nucleus of townspeople who can restart the town from the portions that survive.  Perhaps the old houses could become “second homes” for people from places like Chicago, St. Louis or Louisville.  Can Cairo fight against the forces of decline and make a comeback?  Time will tell.  Maybe if it does, the Shawnee Mass Transit District will run more service there.  Maybe, if the town makes enough of a comeback, the train will stop there again.  That is a tall order, though.  There is no station in Cairo anymore.  

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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

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