A new study says a Japanese-style bullet train in Texas would generate $36 billion extra in benefits for the region over a 25-year period.The service proposes a 90 minute train, Houston to or from Dallas. In September, I reported on a ride from New Orleans to San Antonio, including four hours, nonstop, Houston to San Antonio (with an hour of unused make-up time.) After a few days in San Antonio, it was time to go home. Thus, a Throwback Thursday trip report.
According to Texas Central, the company that would build a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, a report by Insight Research Corp. shows the benefits of a high-speed railroad would come from increased employment, taxes paid, and direct spending associated with the railroad.
Amtrak 22 Texas Eagle, San Antonio to Chicago, 29 October 2014: Diesels 66, transition sleeper 39036, sleeper 32084 Kansas, diner 37009, lounge 33044, coaches 31014 - 34087 - 34018. Train originates at San Antonio this day, at 6.45 the conductor says, "Let's go for a train ride." Leave San Antonio 7 am, on time. First stop San Marcos, 52 miles away, 8.32, double stop, away 8.39. Texas Central wishes to get from Houston to Dallas in 90 minutes. I'm enjoying a good breakfast and conversation in the diner, yet have flashbacks to those German trains of two months previous. Train held south of Austin account a trespasser on a river bridge.
The view of Austin from the bridge is of a somewhat larger city than that of Köln from the Hohenzollern Bridge.
But our Texas Eagle will be the only northbound intercity train until tomorrow. Austin have local rail rapid transit, but good luck catching a regional train to Waco or New Braunfels. Arrive 9.24. Smoke stop for those as wish to indulge. Chance to examine the train, and the infrastructure.
Motor 66 is one of the Amtrak at 40 diesels in a retro paint scheme. The station would be respectable in a midwestern town.
But for only one train a day each way, a city with Frankfurt's population doesn't require a station that looks like Frankfurt's. Leave Austin 9.36, stop Round Rock 9.58 - 10.02 for light engines, conductor advises passengers of a freight train ahead and signal troubles near Taylor, stop, go, Taylor 10.40 - 10.46, get new track warrant, near Granger conductor advises passengers that the house in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (actually based on a real Wisconsin serial killer, but that's entertainment), clear freight 11.04, go 11.12, arrive Temple 11.54. There is a small railroad museum with an amusement park-like miniature train in the station.
There's nothing that symbolizes Amtrak's status like a station hidden under an expressway bridge, which is depressingly common wherever there are expressways.
The museum has full-sized rolling stock as well, including 8 section 5 bedroom Pullman Clover Glade.
We're looking at the corridor side of the car. The museum tracks are closest to the station building. The fencing is to keep visitors away mostly from the freight trains. There's time for a self-portrait.
I'm old school. As long as cameras come with countdown timers, no awkward selfie poses for me. Doing some light reading, have the scanner, although it's obsolete with the new digital frequencies. In the background, a bit of propaganda. During the Second World War, one of our propaganda points was that all troop movements in excess of 500 or so miles would be by Pullman.
But for most G.I. movements, that meant 50 foot express box cars fitted with three-high bunks and rifle racks, lettered P U L L M A N and referred to as troop sleepers.
Leave Temple 12.05, maintenance of way in progress near Pendleton, stop 12.20, go 12.44; McGregor double stop 1.02 - 1.08; Cleburne, still signs of the old Santa Fe shops, 2.18 - 2.20, meet 21 at 2.38, 21 on time or close to time; south of Fort Worth is the Sycamore Strip, one of those developments anticipating the days everyone would own an airplane.
Pass famous Tower 55 inbound to Fort Worth 2.55, arrive Fort Worth 3 pm (due 1.58), conductor apologizes for delays account maintenance and freight congestion. Add a second unit, 50, for the trip north. The Fort Worth station is the most impressive railroad station I've seen since Washington's, almost two weeks previously.
Trinity Rail Express offer commuter trains for and from Dallas, and a number of bus routes call at the station. I did not inspect the passenger facilities, which were a few tracks away, and the crew advised continuing passengers that the train would attempt to get away quickly. In the distance is the stock of the connecting Heartland Flyer. All Aboard at 3.26, away at 3.28. At the time of my ride, the Eagle used the Union Pacific line to Dallas, something that Amtrak and Trinity Rail were negotiating to change.
Amtrak, the nation’s only coast-to-coast passenger rail company, will begin using the Trinity Railway Express line between downtown Fort Worth and Dallas in February, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo said. Amtrak’s Texas Eagle runs daily from Chicago to San Antonio, with stops in Dallas and Fort Worth.The Union Pacific line has lots of freight traffic on it.
The Texas Eagle has traditionally used a Union Pacific Railroad freight line between Dallas and Fort Worth, but the tracks are frequently crammed with freight traffic and Amtrak trains are often delayed, sometimes for an hour or more. The TRE line, on the other hand, is mostly a commuter rail route.There was freight traffic, but this day the additional delays will be by passenger trains. The new routing, however, will eliminate a reverse move at Fort Worth. That's Tower 55 again, the photography lines were better before the expressway came, but because terrorism, there isn't much railfanning at towers any more.
“This is a significant improvement for the long-distance route,” said Peter LeCody, president of Texas Rail Advocates, which pushes for better passenger rail service.
We run alongside a stack train, and overtake it near Arlington.
This is the Texas of parvenus, obnoxious pickup trucks, and the Dallas Cowboys.
To the east, a roller coaster at the original Six Flags amusement park. New Texas Rangers stadium is nearby.
Looks like an airport re-purposed as a staging area for the obnoxious pickup trucks.
Approaching Dallas, the commuter train gets to use the throat tracks first. That's proper, commuters are a more time-sensitive clientele than long-distance riders. The route into the station is across the notorious triple underpass.
Dealy Plaza and the grassy knoll are on the other side of the train. I had moved from the lounge to my room in order to meet the steward for dinner reservations. Arrive Dallas 4.27.
Here's another properly configured railway station. The light-rail line uses tracks closest to the headhouse. Trinity suburban trains use the next tracks over.
The Texas Central high-speed line promoters are thinking about connectivity with the suburban trains and the light rail.
Texas Central officials say they want to pick a spot that connects passengers with public transit. A downtown station could put the line’s terminus within walking distance of Union Station. That station serves two DART [rapid transit] lines, the TRE [Trinity] to Fort Worth, Amtrak, existing bus routes, the under-construction streetcar line to Oak Cliff and taxis.Indeed. But that's for posts yet to be written. Leave Dallas 4.38. Suppertime. Stop for freight ahead 5.36 - 5.38, slow running, freight gets out of the way, fast running. Near Mineola, a high school football stadium with sky-boxes??? Make of that what you will.
But if the company goes with one of the I-45 spots, such infrastructure and transit routes would have to be built or moved.
“To relocate all of that would just be financially infeasible,” said Stephen Salin, DART’s vice president of capital planning.
Officials and residents who attended a meeting about the high-speed rail project last month unanimously favored a downtown terminus. That included City Council member Vonciel Jones Hill, who chairs the transportation committee.
“We strongly urge that the train comes into downtown Dallas, and more specifically, Union Station,” she said at the meeting.
Mineola 6.46 - 6.48; Longview stop for conflicting freight movement 7.32 - 7.35, station 7.37 - 7.44 (did better on my re-route ride a few years ago). Marshall stop to re-crew 8.10 - 8.16, passenger stop 8.17 - 8.20, fifty minutes late.
A Texan and a Rhode Islander were in a bragging contest once, and the Texan said, "Texas is so big, that the Missouri Pacific Railroad Texas Eagle leaves San Antonio at 7 am and it's still in Texas at 10 pm." The Rhode Islander said, "We have the New Haven Railroad ..."
Texarkana will come and go about bedtime. The Eagle is a decent train, but ought not be viewed as any kind of a corridor train. The light-rail and suburban train projects of Texas show some promise. The 90 Minute Train for and from Houston? We'll see.
In the morning, the Eagle will enter another emerging corridor. That's for another #ThrowbackThursday.