America can't compete in the 21st-century economy with an Amtrak system forced to get by with decades-old equipment and decaying infrastructure. We need a fully modernized Amtrak that can accommodate the higher speeds that many states are already planning. And that takes long-term investment by the federal government, in partnership with states and the private sector. We also need to make sure that our freight rail system, which provides the track for much of Amtrak's service, is safe and adequately staffed — just the way Badger State residents say they want it.There are ways in which the freight railroads and the passenger train operators can benefit mutually from upgrades to the tracks. Union Pacific get faster tracks for piggyback trains out of the in-progress speeding-up of the Alton Route. The editorialists miss the opportunity to make a few salient points. First, connectivity of the corridor trains in Chicago is a must. Second, accommodating faster trains doesn't have to be a massive project. Let me show you a train, and coaches, capable of 110 mph operation.
That's the Illinois Railway Museum's Nebraska Zephyr, still capable of track speed on the Way of the Zephyrs. As I noted at the time, "Amtrak and Illinois Department of Transportation, you could do worse."
On May 1, 1971, these 1942 ribbed-side Hiawatha coaches were assigned to Twelve and 23, the Watertown - Milwaukee "Cannon Ball" (not so named in the timetable, but identified as such on station bulletin boards.) But they must have put away more than a few fast miles behind the likes of One and Fifteen and 105 and the other Hiawatha power.
What intrigues, though, is the picture the Journal-Sentinel runs with the editorial.
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel photograph by Gary Porter.
The Hiawatha Service ordinarily runs with plain vanilla Amfleet and Horizon coaches and it draws passengers. The former Great Northern Great Dome comes to Chicago around Thanksgiving to provide additional passenger seating. (Spare dinette cars also turn up, these are popular with packs of collegians looking to get some studying in.)
Is it too much to ask for some dome cars, some first-class seating, a day train Chicago to Fargo or Grand Forks and return (there may even be a case for an overnight service Chicago and Williston), some day service to Madison and Green Bay, and some late-evening trips on the C&M for opera or Summerfest or sports traffic?