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WHY AMTRAK IS NEVER ON TIME – HAVEN’T YOU HEARD ARLO? IT’S INTENTIONAL, STUPID!
Submitted by Jeff Buster on Fri, 11/23/2007 - 15:58.
CHAPTER ONE Recently, when I spoke with a conductor on the Albany-Boston Amtrak coach, he told me that he had been working on that run for the last four years and the train had NEVER arrived on time. Consistent with his experience, we arrived an hour late.
FOUR YEARS!? Well, right off the bat you’ve gotta find that that is intentional.
So why? What seems to be going on?
I am not a management consultant, I am not an efficiency expert, and I don’t’ have the inside connections of a “reporter” like Dick Feagler.
What I can bring to the discussion is my camera – clicking away in all directions. Here, I’ll show you some pictures. Maybe you can make sense of what you see.
When I got on the train at the Cleveland Lakefront station (the location of the station is one of those “you can’t get there from here” locations – good luck!) I was still a little blurry eyed in the 6:30 am darkness.
But when I looked out the window of the train near Painseville and saw the twisted tank cars from the recent freight train derailment lined up in a muddy field next to the track with all the axels lined up in another row – I became more alert.
So when we arrived in Erie, Pennsylvania, I observed three of these strange old rusty tower-like buildings with doors between the tracks. They looked like they hadn’t been used in at least 60 years
While we were paused at the station to discharge and load passengers (and smokers), I got off too and asked a station staffer what the purpose of those towers had been.
“Those are the old baggage and passenger elevators” he told me. “They connect with a passageway below the tracks”.
Well, the train platform was no longer used as far down as where the towers were – the old canopy columns and roof framing were still in place, but the roof boards had long ago rotted away leaving random nails sprouting.
Now, when you move from the train to the station, you carry your luggage down a staircase.
Back on the train we highballed to Buffalo – I’d say we were doing 70MPH on that stretch. Very smooth rails. I was about eight cars back from the locomotive, but I could still hear the horns blasting ahead of every grade crossing.
Everyone along the track could hear the horns too. I’m sure they could feel all that hurtling energy on the rails, Doppler modulating the roar of the horns and the engines with the passage of the sound source. And though I was never able to get a photo (but I tell you I saw it time and again) - People stopped at the crossings, people working in their yards, or people pruning in the vineyard - they,
STOP WHAT THEY ARE DOING,
AND WAVE AT THE TRAIN!
It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to wave at a big chunk of anonymous metal going 70, but they do (and to tell the truth, I waved back).
So sure, there’s a mystique to trains – but that isn’t because they are on time. I think the human attraction to trains has a lot to do with their efficiency. There is something succinct and purposeful about the rail road. Rail travel represents that maxim - the “straight line is the shortest distance between two points.
And that invention - the wheel – cannot be more sublimely presented than in the rolling steel wheels on continuously welded steel rails.
And there’s the sense of pure power, the speed, and the noise. But do people wave at freight trains too? Or do we just wave at passenger trains?
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