Passports on the Cal Zephyr

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Saturday, November 12, 2016

I am a news junkie, and salute Bloomberg News for a great beat this morning: The grand poobahs of Silicon Valley—the founders and CEOs and CFOs and financiers of the tech businesses centered near Palo Alto—are so upset at the result of the presidential election that they are plotting a secessionist movement. That’s right, create the Republic of California. I’m all for it. Oregon, too (citizens of Portland are seeking a vote on succession). Been good to know you and all that. (And did you know that popular lore in Texas has it that the Lone Star State, as a condition for joining the Union in 1848, retained the right to subdivide into five states? Oh, never mind.)

But the purpose of this blog is to talk railroads, so here goes. Will the Republic of California have free and open borders with neighboring counties, including Mexico and the United States? Or will passengers aboard the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief and Sunset Limited be required to carry passports or, worse than that, be required to go to the California embassies and consulates in the U.S. to acquire visas for their passports? At the international frontiers west of Reno, Nev., and in Needles, Calif., and Yuma, Ariz., will there be gentle knocks on your bedroom door, as someone says, “Your passports, please”? Or will passengers have to disembark from the Amtrak trains and file through security?  I so hate those lines. . .

Freight traffic . . . oh wow! BNSF Railway is running some humongous doublestack trains these days. Will the boxes be carefully searched in both directions, and what impact will this have on the fluidity of both BNSF and Union Pacific train operations? This could consume hours or even days. The yards in Needles and Yuma aren’t much to speak of anymore, so some serious expansion of tracks would seem in order.

With U.S. customs and border laws no longer applicable, the Republic of California could, if it chose, simply take down the gates and fences at the Mexican border. People could casually come and go as they please, like in a street fair. You know, trolleys from San Diego to Tijuana or maybe even extended Amtrak trains would operate uninterrupted as people returned to the Republic after buying their ganja. This is the new world order, the new Age of Aquarius! And I hope to live to see it.—Fred W. Frailey

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