Today’s network of long-distance trains is remarkably similar to the one that Amtrak initiated on May 1, 1971. The nation’s passenger-rail system was significantly smaller that day than it had been the day before. Two-thirds of the trains that left their points of origin on April 30th did so for the last time. Virtually all medium-distance trains disappeared, except for some on routes that have become state-supported corridors in California, Washington State or around the Chicago hub. Many long-distance trains died that day, as well.Yes, and those parts of the country in which the railroads had successfully dropped trains, most notably Dixie and Ohio, had few or no existing trains to preserve. The long-distance trains, despite having some of their intermediate stops eliminated, became part of the regional network, such as it was, although even the national network was much diminished.
On April 30, 1971, there were three trains between New York and Chicago on the historic Pennsylvania Railroad route through Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and three on the historic New York Central route through upstate New York and Cleveland. The next day, only the Broadway Limited through Pennsylvania survived. It lasted until 1995. The Lake Shore Limited through Cleveland came back, ran for another 207 days beginning in June,1971, died again at the beginning of 1972 and came back permanently in 1975. For twenty years, there was a train between New York and Chicago on each route. Again today, only one train links the nation’s two largest cities.One-and-one-half, if one counts the Cardinal, which connects New York and Chicago by way of Charlottesville, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. The Lake Shore, however, is all that is left of the New York Central side. On the Pennsylvania side, from two to nothing in under fifteen years.
Amtrak Form W23/65M effective May 21, 2000.
That looks like four trains each way between Chicago and Pittsburgh, three on the revised Norfolk Southern via Cleveland, and one via the traditional Baltimore and Ohio. But the Skyline Connection, intended as a mail train, never ran; the Three Rivers, because even Amtrak couldn't call that service the Broadway Limited, died with the end of some of the mail contracts, and the Pennsylvanian retrenched to its New York and Pittsburgh routing.
There is still upside potential in the long-distance network, but it may never be realized. And the freight carriers are likely to be pleased if it is not.
By contrast, in addition to the New York and Chicago schedules the essay mentioned, there were Washington and Pittsburgh schedules on Penn Central and Baltimore and Ohio, as well as Baltimore and Ohio's Capitol Limited on to Chicago, and New York or Washington and St. Louis schedules on Penn Central and Baltimore and Ohio in cooperation with Chesapeake and Ohio.
The Research Department is putting together an analysis of the Southeast that will appear soon.