Best place in North America to build a Swiss-style train network

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Best place in North America to build a Swiss-style train network
Posted by Steve Sweeney on Thursday, August 08, 2019 10:01 AM

It will take billions of dollars. Many billions. Land acquisition. Court fights. There will be construction corruption, financial manipulation. Buy America vs. off-the-shelf European/Japanese/Chinese/[fill in the blank]. Most people won't want it in their back yards, but tourists and Millenials will flock to it. And when it's finished, it will be glorious: Half-hourly, clean, coach passenger service to even the remotest rural towns, deer path-crossings, and fishing spots.

I vote for central and southern Wisconsin because:

1: That's where I live now.

2: Grades are mild.

3: Rail parcels, baggage service, and LCL freight service with rural broadband could really improve the quality of life in small towns and make moving there easier and more affordable. Connected properly, it should help people who live in big urban areas the opportunity to reverse commute to wherever they want and get me out of my car for nearly two hours a day.

What say youse guys?

 

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Thursday, August 08, 2019 11:28 AM

Steve Sweeney

It will take billions of dollars. Many billions. Land acquisition. Court fights. There will be construction corruption, financial manipulation. Buy America vs. off-the-shelf European/Japanese/Chinese/[fill in the blank]. Most people won't want it in their back yards, but tourists and Millenials will flock to it. And when it's finished, it will be glorious: Half-hourly, clean, coach passenger service to even the remotest rural towns, deer path-crossings, and fishing spots.

I vote for central and southern Wisconsin because:

1: That's where I live now.

2: Grades are mild.

3: Rail parcels, baggage service, and LCL freight service with rural broadband could really improve the quality of life in small towns and make moving there easier and more affordable. Connected properly, it should help people who live in big urban areas the opportunity to reverse commute to wherever they want and get me out of my car for nearly two hours a day.

What say youse guys?

 

 

Shouldn't this be in the passenger train forum?

(Sorry man, the Devil made me do it.)

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

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Posted by Steve Sweeney on Thursday, August 08, 2019 1:02 PM

Yea, I was tempted to put it there, except for the frequent freights that run on Swiss lines make it general purpose. Almost interurban-ish. ;)

 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, August 08, 2019 2:55 PM

Perhaps it belongs on a fantasy forum? 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, August 08, 2019 3:11 PM

Well, I'm kind of with you Mr. Steve, there's a lot of reasons why it should be done, but a lot of reasons why it can't and won't  be done.  

For a very  sobering appraisal I'd suggest you read Fred Frailey's column in the August "Trains" titled "Another Train Derails" if you haven't done so already. That's what we're up against. Mr. Fred says it all.

Until something's done about all the "Why We Can'ts" enumerated in the column a Swiss-style rail set-up's never going to happen here.  Assuming anything can  be done about the "Why We Can'ts."

And the other wrinkle in the situation is the fact that while there's money to be made building a high-speed rail system there's probably damn near as money to be made blocking it at every turn.  

It sucks, I know, but the situation is what it is.  

Right now the only thing Swiss-style we can enjoy in this country is cheese and chocolates.  

There's something else Swiss-style that seems to work for them, and works beautifully, but that'd be off-topic, so I won't mention it.  Whistling  Anyone can PM me if they're curious.  Smile, Wink & Grin

 

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Posted by MidlandMike on Thursday, August 08, 2019 9:05 PM

Steve Sweeney
2: Grades are mild.

Maybe in Wisconsin, but that is not like Switzerland where there are rack (cog) rail sections or really long tunnels.  The country is mountainous, and rail or road routes are limited.

Colorado would be the obvious place to try to copy Swiss rail.  Their DOT has studied alternatives (including rail) to I-70 thru the mountains, and I-25 along the Front Range.  There are a half dozen mega ski resorts (and some smaller ones) within 100 miles from Denver along the I-70 corridor, and the interstate becomes a parking lot on weekends.  The resorts are also popular in summer.  The I-25 corridor contains all the big cities in the state.  Of course money is the big problem, and most people in the state seem to like cheap gas and open roads.

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Thursday, August 08, 2019 10:59 PM

Steve Sweeney

Almost interurban-ish. ;)

The proposal would make sense if the hydrocarbon fuels were extremely scarce, electricity was inexpensive and specific energy (i.e. w-hr/lb) for batteries were stuck at the lead acid level. This would mean that autos and trucks would be for short haul only and long hauls would be by electric railroad.

Roads of any type in Switzerland would involve a lot of tunneling and bridging and for a given width of bridge or tunnel, a railroad will handle more traffic than a plain road. Couple this with the scarcity of petroleum and the abundance of hydroelectric power, it is not surprising that Switzerland has focused on rail transportation.

Nonetheless, an interesting discussion idea.

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, August 09, 2019 1:20 AM

Steve Sweeney
... And when it's finished, it will be glorious: Half-hourly, clean, coach passenger service to even the remotest rural towns, deer path-crossings, and fishing spots ... parcel, baggage, and LCL freight service with rural broadband could really improve the quality of life in small towns and make moving there easier and more affordable. Connected properly, it should help people who live in big urban areas the opportunity to reverse commute to wherever they want and get me out of my car for nearly two hours a day.

Straight out of the Fifties with a little modern connectivity and different alternatives to the tired old REA express 'last mile' model: it's the GM Truck and Coach description of uses for monocoque angle-drive buses.  Update it as a plug-in hybrid and it beats almost anything equivalent that has to use tracks ... by several orders of magnitude.  Money that can be spent effectively increasing service or amenities.

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Posted by Deggesty on Friday, August 09, 2019 7:58 AM

Colorado? Yes!--and run an overnight train between Denver and Antonito.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Friday, August 09, 2019 8:22 AM

Let me just pop in one more time and say "Thank you!" to Mr. Steve for having enough interest in the Forum to start a topic of his own.

I wish more of the "Trains" staffers would jump into the "Forum" and it's various topics to comment and just "shoot the breeze," it would be a LOT more of an interesting place!   

It would make all of you seem a lot less remote, if that's a proper use of the term.

You're the writers, the editors, and the staffers.  We're the subscibers and the readers.  In a way, we're all on the same team.

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Posted by Steve Sweeney on Friday, August 09, 2019 10:16 AM

Deggesty: YESSS! And breakfast on the way to Chama!

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Posted by Steve Sweeney on Friday, August 09, 2019 10:25 AM

MidlandMike

 Steve Sweeney

2: Grades are mild.

 

Maybe in Wisconsin, but that is not like Switzerland where there are rack (cog) rail sections or really long tunnels.  The country is mountainous, and rail or road routes are limited.

Colorado would be the obvious place to try to copy Swiss rail.  Their DOT has studied alternatives (including rail) to I-70 thru the mountains, and I-25 along the Front Range.  There are a half dozen mega ski resorts (and some smaller ones) within 100 miles from Denver along the I-70 corridor, and the interstate becomes a parking lot on weekends.  The resorts are also popular in summer.  The I-25 corridor contains all the big cities in the state.  Of course money is the big problem, and most people in the state seem to like cheap gas and open roads.

 

 

OK. Too true. I should have clarified. By Swiss-style network, I mean one that works and is useful. The fact that the Swiss railroads engage in crazed engineering feats is impressive, but secondary to the purpose. AND much of the modern network, the standard gauge network anyway, are pretty darned level and boring — from an engineering point of view. You have to get to the Rhaetian Railways for honest-to-goodness, I can't believe I'm riding a train, action.

For example of the RhB:

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Posted by Gramp on Friday, August 09, 2019 1:28 PM

To start to design this project, we need to identify a ground zero.  I'd like to suggest New Glarus, Wisconsin, a Swiss community southwest of Madison.  The New Glarus Brewery is located there, and certainly a lot of Spotted Cow, which can only be sold and distributed in Wisconsin, will be needed to lubricate the wheels of this venture.  The Milwaukee Road once served this community, and the depot still stands, and there is still a Railroad Street in the center of town.  Our interurbanish vision should meld goods transportation in with providing useful movement for people.  Afterall, today we are witness to a renewal of the Sears and Montgomery Ward mail order catalog system of old to homes and businesses far and wide through the likes of Amazon et. al., making use of the internet.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60135-d10285245-Reviews-Sugar_River_State_Trail-New_Glarus_Wisconsin.html#photos;aggregationId=101&albumid=101&filter=7&ff=344756852

 

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Posted by kgbw49 on Saturday, August 10, 2019 8:14 AM

I have biked most of the southern Wisconsin rails-to-trails many times. There is a literal spider web of former roadbeds that could be converted back, in theory. (To the howls of many.) The Glacial Drumlin trail still has super-elevated bridges on curves that helped C&NW Class D Atlantics and Class E Pacifics keep their speed up to make time between Milwaukee and Madison.

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, August 10, 2019 10:33 AM

Steve Sweeney
Almost interurban-ish. ;)

When reading your original post the first thought that came to mind was "oh so you want to restore the interurban networks?"

Sometimes I think that would be a great idea,  then when I ponder how much they would have to charge in order to be selfsustaining (including long term maintenance) I have to wonder if I could afford to be a regular rider.

BTW, what does affordable broadband for farmers have to do with railroading?Confused

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, August 10, 2019 11:37 AM

Why does it need to be self-sustaining? The Swiss network is subsidized because it provides utilitarian value beyond the limits of balance sheets (double-entry accounting was created for small businesses,  not nations). 

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, August 10, 2019 11:55 AM

charlie hebdo
Why does it need to be self-sustaining?

I really don't believe that you would be able to obtain concensus for a new,  largescale, subsidized system that delivers freight, much less people.

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, August 10, 2019 12:01 PM

charlie hebdo
Why does it need to be self-sustaining? The Swiss network is subsidized because it provides utilitarian value beyond the limits of balance sheets (double-entry accounting was created for small businesses,  not nations). 

Amtrak cannot get the subsidies necessary to operate in anything more than a subsistance level of operations.  What makes you think a 'Swiss styled' network would be treated any different in its infancy.  There are predators that feast on infants - be they in financial or animal form.

 

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Posted by Backshop on Saturday, August 10, 2019 12:01 PM

Rural Wisconsin doesn't have broadband?  The horrors...

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Posted by zardoz on Saturday, August 10, 2019 12:15 PM

Flintlock76
Well, I'm kind of with you Mr. Steve, there's a lot of reasons why it should be done, but a lot of reasons why it can't and won't  be done.   For a very  sobering appraisal I'd suggest you read Fred Frailey's column in the August "Trains" titled "Another Train Derails" if you haven't done so already. That's what we're up against. Mr. Fred says it all. Until something's done about all the "Why We Can'ts" enumerated in the column a Swiss-style rail set-up's never going to happen here.  Assuming anything can  be done about the "Why We Can'ts." And the other wrinkle in the situation is the fact that while there's money to be made building a high-speed rail system there's probably damn near as money to be made blocking it at every turn.   It sucks, I know, but the situation is what it is.

Right now, in 2019, you are absolutely correct. Perhaps after the 2020 elections, the attitudes of people might change sufficiently to encourage the administration to actually support infrastructure improvements.

What will be more likely to effect change is the global financial situation, such as the trade wars plunging the world into a recession, along with (or independent of) the effects of climate change.

If global warming causes such incredible weather changes to the extent that only the fanatics or those with self-serving intentions still espouse that 'everything is ok', then the world will attempt to mitigate some of the causes. One method will be to make driving so uneconomical that people will be forced to consider using alternate forms of transportation, despite the inconvenience. Then the trains will start to look better.

Flintlock76
Right now the only thing Swiss-style we can enjoy in this country is cheese and chocolates.

And the occasional Army Knife.

Mmmmm, chocolate. Swiss chocolate. Hershey's chocolate. World's Finest chocolate. Aldi's chocolate. And at this time of year--chocolate ice cream!

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Posted by York1 on Saturday, August 10, 2019 12:20 PM

Convicted One
BTW, what does affordable broadband for farmers have to do with railroading?

 

I don't think he intended that the broadband was necessarily for farmers.  (By the way, almost every farmer I know already has broadband service.)

"3: Rail parcels, baggage service, and LCL freight service with rural broadband could really improve the quality of life in small towns and make moving there easier and more affordable."

I read the statement as meaning that more people could be encouraged to move to the rural or small town areas if service was available to work from home or run a business in a small town.  That's how I interpreted it anyway.  

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Posted by York1 on Saturday, August 10, 2019 12:30 PM

Gas prices:

In my area a liter of gas goes for about 63¢, in Switzerland the average is $1.64.

 

https://www.globalpetrolprices.com/gasoline_prices/

 

Just another roadblock to building a rail system.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, August 10, 2019 12:33 PM

BaltACD

 

 
charlie hebdo
Why does it need to be self-sustaining? The Swiss network is subsidized because it provides utilitarian value beyond the limits of balance sheets (double-entry accounting was created for small businesses,  not nations). 

 

Amtrak cannot get the subsidies necessary to operate in anything more than a subsistance level of operations.  What makes you think a 'Swiss styled' network would be treated any different in its infancy.  There are predators that feast on infants - be they in financial or animal form.

 

 

I still have hope that folks will wise up. 

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, August 10, 2019 1:10 PM

charlie hebdo
I still have hope that folks will wise up. 

I believe that any proposal for such a system including a new freight network will just provoke the common carriers currently serving those needs...to hire a lobbyist...or worse.

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Posted by Convicted One on Saturday, August 10, 2019 1:15 PM

York1
That's how I interpreted it anyway.  

When I think "rural people"...farmers come to mind way before the thought of people living in the city who would like to live in the country, but can't. 

Silly me, I suppose.

 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, August 10, 2019 1:17 PM

Zardoz, you make some good points, but remember NIMBYs, BANANAs, and all the law firms ready to make money representing them aren't effected by elections.  They'll never go away.  

And even if they can be sold on a modern rail transportation system they'll want it some where else, not next door to them.

The endless cycle of "Environmental Impact Statements" that stall rail development for years, plus the firms that make money off of them might  be effected by elections, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

The whole "EIS Complex" strikes me as a protection racket even Al Capone would envy. 

I mean, there's rail lines up in New Jersey that have been in place since the 1850's that need EIS's before anything can be done to improve them!  As if anyone's going to run smoky, sparky 4-4-0's on them nowadays!   I mean really! 

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Posted by Steve Sweeney on Saturday, August 10, 2019 1:34 PM

York1

 

 
Convicted One
BTW, what does affordable broadband for farmers have to do with railroading?

 

 

I don't think he intended that the broadband was necessarily for farmers.  (By the way, almost every farmer I know already has broadband service.)

"3: Rail parcels, baggage service, and LCL freight service with rural broadband could really improve the quality of life in small towns and make moving there easier and more affordable."

I read the statement as meaning that more people could be encouraged to move to the rural or small town areas if service was available to work from home or run a business in a small town.  That's how I interpreted it anyway.  

 

 

Correct: Without giving away my exact location, broadband would be a big improvement for me, small businesses out here (and the nearby farmers).

It would also enable us or our neighbors to engage in work-from-home employment made possible by video conferencing and dependable, secure, data links. The rail system would be the physical complement to broadband's digital connectivity.

I imagine the combined connectivity would make small towns everywhere more desireable — for some — or at least more competitive and certainly more diverse, and therefore, resilient.

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Posted by JOHN PRIVARA on Saturday, August 10, 2019 1:34 PM

Steve Sweeney

What say youse guys?

(I'd say...) You need a "Swiss like" society first;  not a #batpoop# crazy mean neurotic paranoid "US like" one.   

When you fix THAT problem, then I'd recommend starting where there's some "Swiss like" population density:

http://luminocity3d.org/WorldPopDen/#5/38.668/-77.915

 which, based on the map above, is basically anyplace east of Illinois.  

 

Wake me up when you get the first problem fixed...

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Posted by JOHN PRIVARA on Saturday, August 10, 2019 1:46 PM

Flintlock76

  I mean really! 

You are forgetting the "track record" of infrastructure in the US, which allows anything to be destroyed for the "good of society" ("society" being translated in the US as: "those who own the society").

 

If it wasn't for the NIMBY's, lawyers, and environmental-groups most of the country would have been destroy with concrete and toxic chemicals by now.  

There's no "good guys" when it comes to money.   Only duplicitous mean self-servicing #posterior-cavity# people.    Plus, most of the anti-NIMBY people are those who are rich enough to never have been threatened with concrete or toxic chemicals.  

Flintlock76

And even if they can be sold on a modern rail transportation system they'll want it some where else, not next door to them.

I mean REALLY, would YOU want it next door to YOU? 

And REALLY, what would YOU do if it was (I mean REALLY)?

(AND,  I know what I'd do... Join a NIMBY group). 

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Posted by Miningman on Saturday, August 10, 2019 2:34 PM

I'd settle for this :

 

 

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