Riding Amtrak

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Aug 31 10:20:03 EDT 2010

In 1959, Dave Garroway of NBC's "Today" show interviewed
Stuart Saunders standing in front of No. 4 at the Roanoke
passenger station. Saunders said there'd have to be 400
passengers on board to reach the break-even point. I can't
vouch for his accounting, but N&W soldiered on, reducing
some of the "fluff" and eliminating some of the service
(Ex. Nos. 9-10). There was no evidence I saw that N&W
deliberately intended to run passenger traffic away.

During the Brosnan-era on the Southern, it wasn't unusual
to have No. 46 (The Tennessean) arrive Knocksville just as
No. 28 (The Carolina Special) to Charleston was leaving.
For any passengers scheduled to transfer . . . .tough. This
changed. Southern didn't join Amtrak. but Graham Claytor
DID take efforts to improve service. A supervisor from the
Atlanta Diesel Shop was assigned to The Crescent disguised
as Mr. Fix-it. In reality, he was taking notes of all the delays.
On the single track portions Birmingham-NOLA, dispatchers
were putting The Crescent in sidings behind freights to make
meets. Rather than let the psgr. train ahead, the dispatchers
would let the psgr follow the freight. That practice ended.

Amtrak ? Well today's employees do what they're supposed
to, but nothing more. No 'thank-you's". No "may I's". On No.
16's diner, I left my ticket on the table and the waiter scouted
the train to return it to me. Would an Amtrak employee do
the same ?

Here in the Old Dominion, proposals are to increase the
maximum authorized speed over the former RF&P to 90 MPH.

>From Main Street Station-Richmond to the south bank of

the Potomac River, it's 113 miles. On the average, it will cost
$15.5 million for additional track and signals. In the winter
of 2003, a 4-inch snow near Milford caused a signal failure.
CSX suspended all passenger service. This winter, CSX
suspended North East Corridor trains originating at Richmond
and Newport News and the Virginia Railway Express commuter
service from Fredericksburg account snow, but NS attempted
to operate its schedules. In one instance, NS originated
The Carolinian at Charlotte and terminated it at Raleigh to
avoid a CSX shut out at Selma.

Unfortunately, in the public's eye, Amtrak bears the fault
for the contract carriers' actions. Last winter,The California
Zephyr arrived Chicago 10 hrs. late account weather and
hitting a pick-up in Iowa. NBC interviewed some passengers
that described the journey as "duh train from hell". But to
those BNSF and Amtrak employees that brought the train
across the Midwest, my greatest respects. CSX ? They
wimped out. And now federal and state grants are going
to the SEHSR for speeds of 130 MPH when there's fair weather.
Harry Bundy
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