20.12.16

RESTORING THE UNION.

Not a Civil War reference this time: rather, it's a day train of The Pennsylvania Railroad linking Chicago with Cleveland and Columbus, via Richmond, Indiana; and Piqua, Ohio.  At one time the service included parlor and dining car services for and from Columbus.  The Cincinnati service continued under Penn Central auspices until Amtrak Day (perhaps as what a magazine of the era described as a "grubby one-coach and a Flexi-Van") and Columbus passengers could change at Richmond for or from a St. Louis train that offered food service.

All that service evaporated with the coming of Amtrak, and Penn Central had done such a good job of discouraging passengers that almost all the regional service west of Pittsburgh and Buffalo failed to qualify for operation under Amtrak auspices.

Later, the New York - Kansas City National Limited came off, followed by The Broadway Limited first being rerouted onto the Baltimore and Ohio west of Pittsburgh, then it became the Three Rivers, and that, too, came off.

But public officials in places like Fort Wayne are still interested in having train service, and those ambitions extend southeast to Columbus.  "That vision, in the works for about two decades, may be a step closer to reality with an announcement Monday that federal rail and state transportation officials have given the go-ahead to a process that could restore passenger rail service to Fort Wayne."  I'm not sure what they're looking at for railroad routes.  The old Pennsylvania Railroad racetrack survives as regional carrier Chicago Fort Wayne & Eastern, and that line isn't exactly a streak of rust -- early in November I was heading west on the old Lincoln Highway, after dark, and I'm pretty sure that I saw a stack train with Union Pacific motors in charge being beckoned through the Latta interlocking by a position-light signal.  But in Fort Wayne there is hope of making the Fort Wayne Division, or perhaps some other railroad, great again.  "[Fort Wayne city councilman Geoff] Paddock is hopeful because the need to change existing tracks has been minimized by lowering the projected speed of trains from 110 to between 75 and 80 miles per hour. Also, he said, new interest in infrastructure improvements has been expressed by President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised an infrastructure bill in his first 100 days in office."  Now Mr Paddock is a Democrat, but it's worth noting that former Indiana governor Mike Pence will be hearing ruffles, flourishes, and Hail Columbia.

The optimists in Fort Wayne, Van Wert, and Lima (that's an interurban reference, if you're following along) are hoping for an All Aboard! sometime in 2020.  They also have ambitions of additional regional service to the likes of Detroit and St. Louis.

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