Today there's only one round-trip passenger train a day on the Pennsylvanian, the line that runs from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. It passes through Lewistown going east at 11:20 a.m. and heading west at 3:45 p.m., stopping in Huntingdon, Tyrone, Altoona, Johnstown, Latrobe and Greensburg on the way to Pittsburgh.On the eve of Amtrak, the remnants of The Pennsylvania Railroad's Fleet of Modernism for and from Chicago, Cincinnati, and St. Louis crossed the Mountain overnight, plus there were two Pittsburgh day trains. But getting the trains back involves negotiations.
A lot of people would like to see more daily trains to make day trips and commuting possible.
After a series of bankruptcies and buy-outs, the once-great Pennsylvania Railroad was divided up among different rail companies. The line east of Harrisburg into Philadelphia went to Amtrak, the passenger rail company. West of Harrisburg became freight lines owned by Norfolk Southern Corporation.Yeah, we've seen what Norfolk Southern does about moving people on the revised Chicago to Harrisburg main line Conrail created out of Penn Central.
Amtrak and Norfolk Southern serve as each other's landlords, one renting track time for passenger trains, the other for freight trains. Norfolk Southern spokesman David Pidgeon says they are happy to help when they can, but the company's priority is moving stuff, not people.
"Roughly about 40 to 60 Norfolk Southern trains a day travel that corridor, so this is a critically important part of not just the Norfolk Southern network, but also, the nation's supply chain," said Pidgeon.
But in the news story, perhaps there's a way forward. An infrastructure project Mr Trump and the Pennsylvania delegation can strike a deal on?
Passengers waiting at Lewistown, Pennsylvania. The priority stacks are moving.
Lindsay Lazarski photograph retrieved from Keystone Crossroads.
That dirt road between the platform and the tracks is the former site of a track. The Pennsylvania Railroad's four tracks on the Middle and Mountain Division are two or three after years of restructuring, downsizing, and service curtailments. Norfolk Southern now says the tracks are packed.
Norfolk Southern is planning for an increase in freight traffic over the next three decades, so the company is wary about renting more track time to Amtrak. Before they consider the proposal, they will require a feasibility study that addresses scheduling, safety and liability concerns.I have copies of Pennsylvania Railroad and Penn Central timetables showing the passenger train frequencies from the middle 1950s until 1971 to show what the passenger train frequencies used to be. In those days there was a lot more dead freight, particularly on the Mountain Division, with coal and ore into the mills and steel out. The improvements to the former Alton Route speed up passengers between Chicago and St. Louis, as well as intermodal traffic for and from the Sun Belt. Perhaps Norfolk Southern, Amtrak, and the government can strike a deal. It would certainly hearten Chris Matthews, who of late has been going on about building faster passenger trains into "flyover country." The Midwest would likely still be flyover country for Californians headed for or from the east coast, but a regional rail passenger service linking Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh to Cleveland and Cincinnati, Erie and Cleveland to Toledo, Detroit, and Chicago, Chicago to the Twin Cities and Fargo, and the Twin Cities to St. Louis would be nice.
And, of course, "Norfolk Southern is a private business, so we would certainly be looking for fair compensation for the use of our private network."
The railroad subcommittee in the Pennsylvania House has brought a resolution that requests funding for that feasibility study. After that, there will be a better sense of what the costs might be, whether it's worth it, and whether PennDOT, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern would be able to strike a deal.
Let it begin with the Middle and Mountain Divisions.