I recently picked up and leafed through the most recent Amtrak national timetable, or, in the case of the eastbound Empire Builder, a reference point for a worst-case scenario.

In the Northeast, the southern end of the Corridor is now somewhere in Virginia, with a comprehensive schedule of day trains running between Richmond and New York City or Boston, and two regional trains between Springfield, Massachusetts and Lynchburg, Virginia.  Passengers may have the option of changing from regional trains to Acela Expresses to expedite their journey, as a number of the northbound regional trains leave Philadelphia a few minutes before an Acela that overtakes the regional train somewhere around Trenton.   To the south, there is something resembling a corridor into North Carolina.  On the West Coast, a corridor is beginning to emerge, although a traveller hoping to go from Sacramento to San Diego or make an international excursion into Vancouver, B.C. has to look at the background shadings carefully to determine how much of the trip is by train and how much involves a connecting bus.

There are a lot of connecting buses in the timetable, including a service that runs Quad Cities - Galesburg - Peoria - Bloomington - Champaign - Danville - Indianapolis timed to connect with a number of the trains radiating from Chicago, and an echo of a Soo Line day train connecting Milwaukee to Wausau by way of Appleton and Stevens Point, nowhere as fast as the old North Woods Hiawatha service through New Lisbon.  Unaccountably, the schedule does not mention a bus to Green Bay that leaves Milwaukee a few minutes after the noon arrival of a Hiawatha Service train from Chicago.

The timetable no longer includes a table of arrivals and departures at Chicago, probably because such a table would frustrate riders identifying all the non-connections among the corridor trains.  The arrival times for long-distance trains are guesses most days, anyway.  A quick look through the midwestern schedules shows the first departures of the day for Pontiac, Mich.; St. Louis; and Quincy leaving before any inbound trains arrive.  The first arrival (except Sunday) from Milwaukee offers a feasible connection to the first departure for Carbondale, and the second arrival (first Sunday) arrives nine minutes after the second departure for St. Louis.  I could go on.  The last arrivals from Pontiac, St. Louis and Quincy are after the last departures of the evening.

Amtrak might realize savings from servicing as many train sets as it can in its Chicago yards, and those first-morning-outward, last-evening-return services are a round trip of a single set from Chicago.  Unknown, though, is the revenue lost to the carrier because each corridor exists unto itself, without regard to the lost Sturtevant to Springfield or Kalamazoo to Macomb or Urbana to Ann Arbor or Indianapolis to anywhere ridership the current schedule implies.

There's another reminder of how things have changed on the cover of the timetable.  Look closely at that red nose illuminated by the bumping post in Washington.  Two tracks over is a Pennsylvania Railroad E unit, in tuscan red with the later single gold stripe.  That paint job might have been a symbol of decline, and yet, it brings memories of through sleeping cars from Boston to Pittsburgh, and train service from Chicago to Florida by way of Louisville.

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