History of Amtrak

The American trains have a proud history. They are survivors of an era that has had many departed trains that never returned to station. In 1929, there were approximately 29,000 daily passenger train departures. In the 1970's, the neglected passenger services were consolidated into Amtrak. Today, there are less than 300. If lobbyists for tax-supported airport and road construction have their way, long-distance rail service will eliminated. One should learn and not forget that compared to air travel, rail transportation ejects less than 10% of the CO2 per passenger mile.

Traveling on many trains is eye-opening. Amtrak describes itself as a two-facet rail system, the Upper Atlantic Corridor and the rest of the country, a description akin to the New Yorker cover view of America that has America as a several tiered bookshelf with America being the obscure top-shelf beyond the Hudson. In truth, Amtrak has three systems based on personnel attitudes: East, Midwest/West and California.

The Midwest have the best attitudes with the East being better than California. When problems were mentioned to Amtrak crew with whom frank conversation had been established, the common response was, "The California crews do that to the cars." This included taping over electrical outlets, turning off 110 volt circuits and blocking lounge seating with boxes, supplies and trash. Californians lock the bathroom in the lounge cars--see Thomas. Oddly, the East Coast trains have scented blue water for the toilets while the other trains have either plain water or no water for the toilets. Other columns, boxes and vignettes focus on aspects and issues of Amtrak service and disservice.

For Amtrak as a whole, the primary, common problem is the uber-conductor, that is, the president and CEO of Amtrak: ??. Hired directly from UP, he knows that when his Amtrak term is up that he will not be allowed to return to UP or any freight line if he champions Amtrak over freight lines. It is akin to placing a oil man in charge of global warming research.

Further complicating the problems of Amtrak passengers is how Vice-President Cheney is a former director of Union Pacific. Universally, Union Pacific is cited as the worse abuser of right-of-ways. A frequent joke of Amtrak employees is that UP is the middle two letters of stupid. A letter to the CEO details his conflict of interest is a sidebox of a future segment of this series.