24.8.08

NOT RAILROAD AWARE? When Senator Obama introduced Senator Biden as his vice-presidential pick, he praised Senator Biden for his regular "lonely train ride" from Washington, D.C. to Wilmington, Delaware. That's as lonely as an Acela Express can be. (I'm surmising that the senator uses the Acela Express, probably in First at the urging of his protection detail.) Acela Express timings Washington - Wilmington are 72 minutes to 77 minutes, depending on whether that train stops at New Carrollton (Capital Beltway) and on the presence of commuter trains. That's not a bad commute: your Boston techie with a place in Grafton or your Chicago option trader from Geneva has more minutes on the train, as does your New York Master of the Universe riding the by-subscription parlor car to the Hamptons.

That, however, is not the supposedly rail-friendly nominee-to-be's most egregious mischaracterization of the railroads. Credit there goes to an observation about China that Riehl World View has pounced on.
Their ports, their train systems, their airports are vastly superior to us now, which means if you are a corporation deciding where to do business you’re starting to think, “Beijing looks like a pretty good option."
Yes, China is installing high-speed rail from Pekin to the coast, but for business logistics, that might not be determinative. This is the China that, to save money, equipped its new Jingpeng Pass route with steam locomotives (keep scrolling) cascaded from other lines. A few of those steam locomotives have since found new homes to raise railroad awareness in the U.S. And yes, China has recently built a mountain-climbing railroad into Tibet (keep scrolling). That railroad uses General Electric diesels, built in Erie, Pennsylvania, where the manufacturer has lots of expertise providing power to lift far more tonnage over Horseshoe Curve or Sherman Hill or Cajon Pass or Marias Pass.

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