How to illustrate delights of train travel

Posted 9 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
When advocates of increased investment in passenger train equipment and infrastructure make our case to elected officials, we generally emphasize the boost that this investment offers to the economy, the importance of providing mobility choices to otherwise isolated populations without easy access to cars and air travel, and the energy efficiency and reduced pollution that would come from shifting more car and air trips to the rails. These arguments are solid and backed by evidence, but they ten...

Dinner in the diner: it's tough to make it finer

Posted 9 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
I returned to Washington, DC from a conference in Minneapolis last weekend via Amtrak. At least I intended to go the whole way by train. In the past, I would have simply booked a through reservation from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Washington, with connection at Chicago. However, for the last few months, due to the Empire Builder’s chronically poor timekeeping, the guaranteed connections from the eastbound Builder to all trains at Chicago except the City of New Orleans and Lake Shore Limited h...

Will the NRHS Survive? Part Three: What Comes Next?

Posted 9 years ago by John Hankey
Many thanks to all of you who offered such useful (and civil) suggestions and criticism. This is the kind of discussion that is difficult to initiate, and even harder to sustain. It can be extraordinarily useful when engaged by people with a willingness to be reasonable and look forward. The next few months are going to be difficult for the national NRHS as it decides what kind of organization it wants to be, and as it fights for its life against a nasty lawsuit. It will be hard for the chapter...

There's Nothing Like a Dome Car

Posted 9 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
I had ridden Amtrak’s California Zephyr, Empire Builder, Cardinal and Adirondack routes before, and thoroughly enjoyed taking in their scenic wonders from either the Superliner Sightseer Lounge car or my coach seat. But being able to experience these four routes in a dome car took the already unmatched experience of the landscape that train travel gives you to a whole new level. The Sightseer Lounge comes close, allowing one a fairly complete view to both sides as well as upward. But addin...

Will the NRHS Survive? Part Two: Whose NRHS is it, Anyway?

Posted 9 years ago by John Hankey
Over the past couple of weeks the conversation about the future of the National Railway Historical Society has opened up considerably, and that is a good thing. I have always had great respect for the NRHS and its accomplishments. It was 1968 or thereabouts when I signed on to the Baltimore Chapter, and I've been a member of the NRHS off and on, here and there, ever since. Whether the NRHS survives and prospers is not an abstract question to me, or to anyone interested in railroading. We should...

World’s first railroad didn’t expect to carry passengers, but made money doing so

Posted 9 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
I find myself back in class this semester after having been out of school for six years. I received my bachelor’s degree in 2008 and, though I have weathered the Great Recession better than many in my cohort, I’ve decided to pursue a master’s degree as a way to improve my career prospects and eventually put myself in a position to play a satisfying role in the nascent resurgence of passenger rail and other alternatives to the drive-fly duopoly that permeates Americans’ ch...

Where is Amtrak's desire to grow and advance?

Posted 9 years ago by Malcolm Kenton
In the cover story of this month’s issue of railroad industry trade journal Progressive Railroading, several top Amtrak officials tout the company’s shift towards operating in a more businesslike manner, which the article describes as “taking a hard line on expenses, continually seeking to grow revenue, becoming more financially transparent and accountable, and providing the best possible customer service.” While this all sounds well and good, and many aspects of the chan...

Will the NRHS Survive? Part One: How did we get to this point?

Posted 9 years ago by John Hankey
Not to put too fine a point on things, but the national organization of the NRHS is in a pretty tight spot. Whether the National Railway Historical Society survives through the end of the year is in serious doubt. Their own newsletter mentions serious financial and organizational challenges, while otherwise cheerily describing business as usual. The NRHS membership has legitimate grounds to wonder just what is going on and what version of the several "truths" flying around they should heed. And...

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