18.8.04

WHAT IS SEEN AND WHAT IS UNSEEN. Both Instapundit and Tongue Tied have noted Amtrak's suspension of extra-board conductor Leslie Farr, a Republican candidate for a House seat -- the First Congressional District -- in Missouri. Mr. Farr was in charge of Amtrak's eastbound Ann Rutledge. The regular conductor was in charge of a westbound extra serving as Senator Kerry's campaign train. Mr. Farr got himself in a bit of trouble with Amtrak for exploiting the delay to his train to score some political points.
In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Farr said he used the train's public address system to inform passengers they would be delayed because of Kerry's train and quipped that they should vote accordingly in November.
The real problem here is not with Senator Kerry. Rather, the problem is a breakdown in supervision and dispatching on the Union Pacific Railroad, not that we haven't heard that song before.
According to Amtrak records, the eastbound Ann Rutledge train left Kansas City about 25 minutes late and was running more than an hour-and-a-half behind - due largely to freight train traffic - when it left Washington, Mo., headed toward St. Louis. The train, carrying 135 passengers, was delayed an additional 84 minutes just outside the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood to allow Kerry's special westbound train to pass.
It's not as if railroads haven't had occasion to keep first-class trains out of the way of POTUS(*) specials -- contemporary whistle-stop tours are nostalgia for President Truman (Senator Kerry ought to study the mistakes Governor Dewey made on his own whistle-stop that year, but I digress) after all. Likewise, railroads have had, what is it, 170 years of practice in moving lesser trains such as freight trains against first-class trains, using signal indications and instructions from the Superintendent. Furthermore, if memory serves, the Washington to St. Louis section is two main tracks. Although there are restrictions requiring the stopping of opposing trains on adjacent tracks past a moving POTUS train, laying out the Annie for 84 minutes on two main tracks constitutes a serious dispatching error. Union Pacific has yet to comment.

(*)President Of The United States. Senator Kerry's train enjoys the same status, although it might operate without the pilot train.

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