Dear Readers. In the past, I have made no secret of my passion for all things transport, and today, I have decided to once again make known my addiction by talking about a subject near and dear to my heart: American Railroads. While I am sure there are many of you that can claim to have ridden on things such as public transport, however, we are going to focus predominantly on the rail system that is in place to serve the country as a whole, the condition of said lines being in an appalling state of dilapidation. The federal railroad*, known as Amtrak can be divided into three main sections which make up the entire system, and from these systems, we will come to understand the severity of losing the railroads. First are the lines that span the eastern seaboard from Washington DC to Boston, seconds are the west coastlines, serving the routes in and around California, Oregon, and Washington; and finally, the cross country routes, with decrepit slow-moving superliners replacing the once-glamorous expresses that once crisscrossed the nation. So today, let's dive into the question: What should we expect from a seemingly decrepit system of transport in the US?
Overall, the answer to why we lost railroads in the first place is quite easy to explain: The strength of railroads had been cemented decades earlier from the ’20s and the great depression. During the first economic boom of American history, many railroads capitalized on the flagrant spending of the masses, advertising the glamour of their premier express train. When the depression hit, railroads were seen as a prime and cheap way to mass transport goods, when trucks were still an expensive and costly commodity for companies. After world war two, America was in a position of great economic prosperity, and the railroads again capitalized on this, taking advantage of the lack of roadway infrastructure in the US to create new streamliners, and named trains to carry passengers to the other side of the country for glamorous holidays in just a matter of days. Names like the Santa Fe Super Chief and the Broadway Limited became household names, promising a luxurious form of travel to the coasts and bustling cities. This however changed with the introduction of the Federal Highway act in 1952, and the introduction of the Jet Age in the ’60s. With this boom in the economy, America had become a mega power. Average Americans were now able to afford up to two cars in their suburban household and could even afford to travel trans-continental on the sleek dream liners of companies such as Pan Am and United. Trains started to lose their glamour. Jet and car travel became cheap and more accessible, and as the decades progressed the hemorrhaging profits of the railroads, resulted in the US government creating Amtrak, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The problem that we face now is this. We as a country are practically apathetic towards Railroads, however, we are unaware of the value that they play to assist us. Currently, Railroads carry over 40% of all goods one way or another through the country, and interestingly enough over 6 million passengers rode in 2019 before the introduction of COVID 19. The majority of these passengers are made up on the most profitable branch, the east coast, however the western and cross country trains do not see many riders, prompting a push to save these lines for their historical, economic, and tourist significance. Thankfully, there are currently bills in the works within the federal government that are serving to help American railroads, and new forms of rail conveyance have come out in the profitable quarters of the market to help Amtrak raise revenue, not to mention the massive increase in freight traffic, ironically thanks to COVID. Overall many companies are optimistic about the future of rail travel in the US. We may not have as intricate or important as those in Europe or Asia, however, American railroads are still as prominent as ever, just with some changes to the blueprint.
As an always dear reader, Remember: There is always the possibility of a better tomorrow. What can you do to make it a reality?
*Please note: Amtrack is a private company, however, the US government owns 70% of the company, making them a controlling partner.