I'm back from an extended train trip.  More details anon.  First, though, a public service announcement.  On one leg of the trip I was visited by two plainclothes officers (with credentials in plain view) whose stated purpose was to check for fake ID or counterfeit tickets.  OK, the ticket stipulates "ID Required" and police officers probably know something about fake ID.  Bogus rail tickets, probably not so much.  In any event, I presented the requested items.  One officer is looking at the ticket.  "Where did you get on?"  [Gave station shown on the ticket].  "What were you doing there?"

"What business is that of yours?"

"Sir, I'm not trying to be argumentative."

Partner chimes in, "Since nine-eleven we've been making spot checks on trains."

Me:  "Officer [lastname], nine-eleven does not trump the Constitution.  Citizens retain the right to travel freely within the borders, without obligation to tell officials the purpose of their trip."

Partner again:  "We're just having a conversation.  You don't have to participate in this conversation."

Me.  "Thank you.  Stay safe."

I will be doing further checking on these informal interrogations and will report what I learn here.

Rail passengers ought note that Amtrak tossed the Transportation Security Agency out of Savannah, Georgia, for an improper checkpoint, and the American Civil Liberties Union have been following intrusive police practices on Amtrak for some time.
If Amtrak police want to help keep us safe, they should come up with smarter policies for detecting and addressing criminal activity. Vague and overbroad standards don't help anyone — passengers are at risk of harassment by police for lawful actions, and Amtrak makes finding the needle near impossible by vastly enlarging the size of the haystack.
Yes, and "come with us for a little talk" is a standard phrase used by MVD and the like.


These days, apparently a university cannot have an internet presence without a view mark and a tagline.  At Northern Illinois University, forty-five people labored to come up with "Learning Today, Leading Tomorrow" (to my great amusement).  Now, for reasons unknown to me, the university home page still has the same Stratego piece as a view mark, but the tag-line is "Your Future, Our Focus."  If there was a focus group or a branding committee, headquarters had the good grace to leave me out of the loop and just go away.  Or perhaps it's been changed by administrative ukase.  Whatever.  Still no news of five faculty searches authorized for the economics department.



No Germany this time.  But saecular crisis or not, I want a sabbatical, and I don't want to have to file a report after my return, the way higher education would have it.

Prosit!  Thanks for looking in.  The Gasthaus will re-open eventually.


I've discovered a site called Elite Daily, which appears to be propaganda for Millennial Obamaphiles (the ones that haven't been mugged enough by reality yet.)  Among the feel-good stories: The Headlines are Sad, But Life Is Good. "With poverty, war, disease, violence and intolerance on the decline across the globe, there are many good reasons to be happy." Yes, and life is a cabaret, old chum.  The New York Times, predictably, seeks to make the malaise political.
Republicans have made questions of how safe we are — from disease, terrorism or something unspoken and perhaps more ominous — central in their attacks against Democrats. Their message is decidedly grim: President Obama and the Democratic Party run a government that is so fundamentally broken it cannot offer its people the most basic protection from harm.
That's pretty standard stuff: it was the Donks staking out that position in 2006. The economy cratered in 2007.  It goes beyond the usual political posturing: see Sgt. Mom at Chicago Boyz, anticipating "a crisis or bundle of intersecting catastrophies."  Or, as we have it at Cold Spring Shops, a saecular Crisis. something very different from the usual get-headlines-by-calling-a-situation-a-crisis "crisis."


Mitch Berg of Shot in the Dark recommends a National Review editorial calling out the Perpetually Aggrieved for their reductionist view of identities.  George Will extends the argument: the reductionism, the censoriousness, the snarking and the attempts to marginalize: all evidence of weakness.
The fact that censorship is progressivism’s default position regarding so many things is evidence of progressives’ pessimism about the ability of their agenda to advance under a regime of robust discussion. It also indicates the delight progressives derive from bossing people around and imposing a particular sensibility, in the name of diversity, of course.
Pray that the apostate can make the case: look what your enlightenment has brought forth!


At Inside Higher Ed, columnist Liz Reisberg contemplates A Future of Growing Intolerance.
If we are going to have a prayer of a future where we collaborate across national boundaries to address common concerns and problems we will have to accept the differences between us and learn to work together despite sometimes holding opposing views on sensitive issues.

I hesitate to join the chorus of politicians finding fault with American higher education but I see this lack of tolerance, lack of openness to different ideas as a serious failing of higher education.  If we do not graduate individuals capable and willing to listen to one another within our own society what hope is there that any of us—particularly our “best educated”— can become global citizens?
You think self-despising multiculturalism and mandatory dialogue is part of the solution, or part of the problem?


It has generally been Cold Spring Shops practice to give egregiously silly student editorials a pass.  Northern Star columnist Marilou Terrones, however, would likely view that as encouragement.
I want to stay in bed and curl up with my blanket. But, I can’t because if I don’t go to class I won’t know what will be on the test. Even worse, I won’t know what will be on the midterm.

Midterms are an extra burden on students. Although students are expected to keep up with the readings and assignments of a class, it’s intimidating to know a longer multiple choice exam will have such a big effect on their overall grade for a course.

Tests suck, but midterms are even worse — they require extra work aside from homework and quizzes. Thankfully, not every course offered at NIU requires students to take a midterm.

Because Homecoming celebrations and midterm week coincidentally fell right after one another, students were left with little room to de-stress and enjoy themselves by engaging in school spirit activities.

Nonetheless, students were aware if they did have to set time aside to study, they’d only be studying for a couple of classes.
I hope at least a few of my former colleagues recognize that being student-centered, or fretting about retention, neither imply nor are implied by enabling the slacker attitude present in that column.



Sociologist Karen Weiss decided that some peer-reviewed research on the so-called rape culture in college was reason enough to tackle a book.  Party School: Crime, Campus, and Community is the depressing product.  Not, notes Book Review No. 10, depressing because of the story it tells; rather, depressing for its failure to propose any meaningful hypotheses, even in a summary that stakes out turf for future research.  Apparently in the world of Victim Studies, if you "contextualize the party lifestyle" and string together a bunch of sad stories, with no rigorous hypothesis testing, you have a book.  "Contextualizing" means "Big state universities with visible sports programs attract students that like to consume intoxicants or narcotics to excess."  Why?  Who knows?  Is there administrative motivation (bring in out-of-state-students who pay full freight by offering sports-bragging-rights and a cheaper degree than the Ivies?)  Is the transformation of general education from where the weeder courses once were to College Lite contributing?  Professor Weiss's case studies dial their wilding back going into junior or senior year, which she interprets as buckling down in their majors (or perhaps just growing up?)  Might a tightening of standards in general education reduce the temptations to get wasted?  Would that be salutary?  Again, crickets.

And what about the methods of sociology itself?  We encounter the concept of "situational norms", a fancy way of saying "getting away with bad behavior when Mom isn't watching."  The subtitle of the book suggests the situational norms of Greek Row or the student ghetto are less-than-desirable.  Does that lesson generalize to other sub-cultures behaving badly?  (That's a topic for future research.  I dare any sociologist to take it up.)  Or consider the attitude of the party types to responsible students who would like to get some work done, or to non-student-neighbors: they know this is a party school, they can go someplace else.  Professor Weiss compares the response of those residents with the response of residents in rough neighborhoods where the gang-bangers take over.  Again, I dare any sociologist to take up the challenge: is the cult of transgressivity where racially changing neighborhoods is concerned giving yobs a free pass that perhaps they shouldn't get as college partiers?  But there's none of that in Party School: the author suggests administrative and commercial complicity in beer-'n-circus, yet offers a thin list of proposals for reform that neglects tighter admission standards or a more rigorous curriculum or lessons that might have been drawn from crime control in cities.

If you're expecting Sprecher Black Bavarian, you get Miller Lite.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


I can get away with putting a thumping big electric motor inside a model of a steam locomotive and very few people will pick nits.

But model railroading is a HOBBY, for Odin's sake, not an attempt to influence public policy or the hiring practices of Norfolk Southern.

On the other hand, if you're attempting to build a model of anthropogenic climate change and you don't pay attention to the circulation of water in the oceans, or to photosynthesis, you may have a problem.

Start with this cartoon guide to the so-called scientific consensus.  "We've overloaded the atmosphere with heat trapping gas and the rest are just details."  I'll concur in part: using the atmosphere as a sink for combustion products and cow farts without paying for it is likely to produce inefficiencies.  But your basic exemplifying theory model of externality or collusion is convincing, or not, to the extent that it pays attention to essential elements.

Leave out major details like ocean circulation or photosynthesis, though, and people might not take your policy recommendations seriously.
This week saw the 18th anniversary since the Earth's temperature last rose - something that Dr Benny Peiser, from the Global Warming Policy Forum, says experts are struggling to understand.

He explains that we are now in the midst of a "crisis of credibility" because the global warming - and accompanied 'Doomsday' effects - that we were once warned about has not happened.

Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) once predicted a temperature rise of 0.2 degrees per decade - but are now baffled by the fact our planet's temperature has not increased for almost two decades.
Let's hope that enough of the civilized world's population understands that "if facts do not conform to the theory they must be disregarded" is a joke. (Maier's Law, to be precise.)
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Dr Peiser said: "What has happened is that the public has become more sceptical because they were told we are facing Doomsday, and suddenly they realise ‘Where is the warming that we were promised?’"

"They say we can predict the climate and the reality is that they can’t."
Scroll all the way down: "if it is settled, it is not science." Thus, there's an opportunity for further research.
Because of this so-called "global warming hiatus", Dr Peiser says climate change is not as pressing of an issue as it once was, a fact that should be embraced by the scientific community.

"Climate change used to be a top priority but it has dropped quite significantly - other issues are more important for international meetings," he said.

"The reality is that they are quite relieved in a way, and we should all be relieved that it isn’t such a big problem at present.

"We might have much more time than many people once told us."
And, perhaps, to devote that time to looking for elements, thus-far-excluded, that are essential.
Anthony Lupo, an associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Missouri – Columbia, and member of the National Weather Association, told The College Fix in an email that “climate change can be caused by a number of factors, including human.”

The majority of media pundits and global warming alarmists, Lupo told The Fix, are adherents of the idea that anthropogenic warming, or warming caused by humans, is the primary cause of climate change. Other scientists in the meteorological field are more skeptical, he said.

“They believe the ratio of natural (causes) to human (causes) is roughly 50-50, and there are those, like myself, who assess a smaller contribution for humans. But anyone who discounts a natural contribution is out to lunch.”

“We’ve gotten to the point where it’s taken on faith, humans drive everything. It’s simply not true,” Lupo told The Fix.

There have been other top-notch climatologists that have come out in support of the view that nature plays a principle role in climate change. For example, Dr. Horst-Joachim Lüdecke, a climate scientist at Germany’s Saarland University, published a paper in the climate-science journal Energy and Environment showing that the sun, not humans, largely drives climate change.
If not the sun, perhaps it's circulation of the ocean.
A new study from the journal Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences found human beings are not the primary contributors to global warming. As it turns out, natural variability in the Earth’s atmosphere plays a crucial role in climate change.

The study, conducted by Jim Johnstone, who worked on it while a climatologist at the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at the University of Washington, does not refute climate change. Rather, he and others find that warming temperatures attributed to climate change in the Pacific Ocean off of the West Coast are tied to natural shifting winds.
Fail to disentangle the oceanic circulation from the effects of rising carbon dioxide concentration, and you get a scary picture.

And I haven't elaborated on the effects of photosynthesis, because the scientists are only now working on it.
The study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences focusses on the slow diffusion of CO2 in plant leaves, with particular attention to the mesophyll or their inner tissue.

It concludes: "Carbon cycle models that lack explicit understanding of mesophyll diffusion will underestimate historical and future terrestrial carbon uptake.

"Consequently, they will overestimate historical and future growth rates of atmospheric CO2 concentration due to fossil fuel emissions, with ramifications for predicted climate change."
If it's science, it isn't settled.
Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Forum said: "This new paper adds to a growing body of research which shows that climate science is far from settled. Quite the opposite is true: the more we learn, the more we realise just how little we know.

"The research claims that current computer models have failed to account for past and current terrestrial carbon sinks and are thus inherently flawed in making any accurate climate predictions.

"The paper also confirms that the Earth's climate system is far more complex and far less understood than many people claim."
And warmer oceans, for whatever cause, might mean more continental snow cover.  With the prospect of a reprise of the Polar Vortex in DeKalb (quoting at length from a Northern Illinois University winter outlook that might soon be taken down (not censorship: that is the standard link for the most recent statement, which might be a summary of rainfall totals or local tornadoes when you click it.)
THE WINTER 2014 OUTLOOK. Unfortunately, several factors which came into play during the winter of 2013-2014 persist as we approach the winter of 2014. First, abnormally warm sea surface temperatures in the north-central Pacific and the Gulf of Alaska. This helps steer the jet stream up and over that warmer area into Siberia and the Canadian Northwest Territories, before it drops southward from there into the central United States. Another factor that favors this pattern to continue is that there will be no, or a weak, El Nino this winter. A strong El Nino can help offset the effects of the warm waters in the north Pacific, but some of our coldest winters have occurred with neutral El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions, or no El Nino in place.

Next, we watch for building snow cover in Asia and the eastern former Soviet bloc, and also across Canada. Both are now happening, and in fact, snow cover is continuing to get further south, and expanding, across southern Canada with each significant storm system. This allowed Polar air to flow southward into our area this past weekend behind an intense storm system; that dropped heavy snow in Canada, but it also brought our third earliest snow flurries recorded in our 130 year climate record history.

Finally, when you look at analogs to similar winters, 13 of them come up as resembling the conditions we have now. Of those 13, 12 of the winters were colder, and snowier, than average. The one that wasn't had a weak El Nino, in the winter of 2004-2005.

Here's the latest snow cover map...


That will be one to watch in the weeks to come. If the snow coverage area increases later this month significantly, then the chances for us getting a colder than average winter increase.
No shortage of interesting research questions.


A single honoree this year, recognized for his work on market power and regulation.

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution put together a rapid response.  The other members of the Marginal Revolution team have weighed in.  The Economist's Free Exchange has background.  John Palmer is first not thrilled, then discovers that the Popular Perspective is wrong.

Here's Econ Log's David Henderson explaining how the Popular Perspective gets it wrong.
I looked back at everything I had seen that morning and realized that it was the Nobel Committee, with its emphasis on reining in big business, that had colored my view of Tirole. That wasn't fair to Tirole. But it also gave me my angle: contrast Tirole's cautiousness with the Committee's aggressiveness.
William Shughart suggests that drawing policy implications from game theory without explicitly considering rent-seeking, regulatory capture, and public choice.
Professor Tirole treats policy interventions “intended” to restrain the exercise of market power and to protect consumers against its abuse as being designed and implemented by benevolent “public servants,” who survey dispassionately a nation’s industrial economy, identify and then surgically excise the tumors of monopoly, all with laser-sharp eyes on enhancing social welfare.
I wonder, though, how carefully he read Theory of Industrial Organization. Its message, when it comes to the welfare implications of monopoly or oligopoly is, It's Complicated. Even in relatively simple game-theory examples, and the book has a lot of those.


Norfolk Southern are learning that downsizing leaves a railroad unprepared to handle business.
Norfolk Southern spokesman David Pidgeon declines to comment on specific conversations NS has had with Amtrak, though he tells Trains News Wire that “we generally have a cooperative relationship with Amtrak.”

“There’s palpable frustration in communities between Chicago and Cleveland over train congestion in that corridor, and that frustration is understandable. We’re frustrated too, because moving trains is just good business,” Pidgeon says. “These communities depend on Norfolk Southern to operate a safe, fluid network and that’s why NS is working proactively to solve these challenges and increase fluidity.”

The railroad expects by the end of 2014 to have hired 1,300 new conductors, “with a significant number heading to the corridor between Chicago and Cleveland. We’re hiring and training right now,” Pidgeon says, and the railroad is “looking at other potential operational measures to take because the national and local economies are depending on us to get this right.”
Put another way, the railroad spent the last quarter century cutting employees. And we have to learn this lesson every time an economic recovery shows staying power: railroads melt down, stores encounter spot shortages of stuff, customer service sucks.

The difficulties on Norfolk Southern west of Cleveland have prompted Amtrak to alert prospective passengers on the Lake Shore and Capital Limited to delays.  The alert is currently effective through January 15.



I had a few books along for sleepless flights or rainy train rides on the Continent, and picked up a few more (including several with a European social-democrat perspective on political economy) for additional travel or quiet moments.  Those reviews will come.  I'll return to the Fifty Book Challenge with a rail-related Book Review No. 9, acquired from Ian Allan hard by Waterloo Station.  Andrew Martin grew up in a railway family, hard by the steam-powered North Eastern Region of British Railways, in York.  Belles & Whistles: Five Journeys Through Time on Britain's Trains, is his comparison - and - contrast of today's British passenger trains with what used to be.  Let's say he's no fan of Lord Beeching, or of the unsuccessful Demsetz auctions by which passenger train franchises change hands today.  He expresses his preferences early on, see page 12.
A nation's railway ought to be too important to privatise.  Gladstone, Lloyd-George and Churchill were all sympathetic to state ownership.  It has been argued that we are only able to contemplate having a fragmented railway because we never had a standing army, and so lacked the sense of strategic imperative.

Anyone attempting to write a book about modern railways soon finds out about fragmentation.  You never know whether to speak to a train operator, the association of operators, Network Rail or perhaps something called the Office of Rail Regulation.  It is hard to warm to a railway that has no voice; and it has been said we no longer have a 'railway mind'.
If we had occasion to hoist a pint at the Railwayman's Arms, or a Hiawatha Tap, let's hope we could have a civilised disagreement about the virtues of the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe or Yim Hill's Great Northern or the Canadian Pacific.  And in some ways, fragmentation and Demsetz auctions or not, these might be the Good Old Days of passenger travel.
Under privatisation, railway use has increased to the highest level since the 1920s, and the privatised companies claim credit for this.  But it's road congestion that has boosted railway use, with the expense of car insurance for young people (who no longer buy cars as a rite of passage) and the death of  'the company car' as contributory factors.  Also, we as a society seem to have been travelling more -- by whatever means -- ever since journey indices began to be collected.
The point of constructing indices is to keep track of prosperity or its lack, and that more people travelling means greater absolute prosperity.  That's another topic for hoisting a pint.  Or perhaps we go to one of the coffee houses along the Racetrack, where road congestion and high parking charges in Chicago have a salutary effect on Metra passenger loadings, even at weekends.  And that might be a good place to engage the substance of Mr Martin's book, which is about the replacement of famous engines and famous trains with souped-up diesel railcars and latter-day Electroliners.  That would make for a good conversation, if this passage from page 25 is any indication.
It could be argued that, in choosing named trains as my point of comparison, I am setting the bar too high.  The modern railway is bound to lose out when compared to the high points of the Golden Age.  I admit that part of my aim is to show up the modern railway for lacking romance and style, with its crammed-in 'airline' seats, vacuous and paranoid announcements, and ugly liveries and train interiors.  Let's face it: to travel in most of the carriages on British railways is to be trapped in a noisy hell of shuddering grey plastic.

But I will try and put some nuance into my nostalgia.  I do not want this to be 'chocolate box' so much as bitter-sweet.  Modern-day trains are faster and safer than ever; there are also more of them, albeit running over a smaller network.
And here the North American ferroequinologist has a different frame of reference.

Serendipity: here's that shuddering grey plastic, on a Virgin Pendolino.

I took that picture enroute from London to Manchester, before I found Belles on my shopping day in London and Oxford.  But I'm enough of a believer in internal combustion to use the Art Deco era, rather than the deluxe steam train, as my standard.

Reclining seats on the Nebraska Zephyr at track speed.  The regular Amtrak service isn't as fast as Britain's fastest, but it offers reclining seats.

In Britain, sometimes you get there faster, and with more choices: the Cornish Riviera.  Mr Martin explains that "first stop Plymouth" (with slip coaches for intermediate stations) made sense when there were few long-distance trains; these days the frequency is hourly.  Sometimes you get there faster at a less convenient hour: there is a Flying Scotsman, in the up direction only, off Waverley Station at 0540 as competition for the early morning jets that have also supplanted the company car.  Those jets have crowded out the sleeper trains, although there is still a Caledonian Sleeper to the Northern Highlands, and, for the present, the Night Riviera still goes to Land's End.

Before I continue with the substance: a mystery.  That's a North American upper-quadrant semaphore displaying "Diverging Approach" and a North American pole line alongside the tracks.  The cover art is properly British, and there's a colour section of promotional posters from the Grouping era private companies (a business model that might have made more sense than fragmentation once the failures of nationalisation became clear.)

There are two other journeys, where the E-T-T-S dimension of ferroequinology comes out.  Once there was a Brighton Belle, an all-Pullman (meaning only parlor car seating in North America) electric train on a memory schedule between London Victoria and Brighton.  There's now a fast electric multiple unit working at approximately the same time, but patrons have to bring their own booze.  And recapturing the Golden Arrow is like asking for directions in Vermont.  You can't retrace the Golden Arrow route from Victoria, although you can get to Dover, but to retrace the Golden Arrow outside London, you start at Charing Cross.  Fortunately, a foot passenger can still buy a ferry ticket on the Dover side.  On the French side, c'est impossible.  (And to replicate the arrival time of the Arrow at Paris, you have to start before dawn in London.  The Eurostar schedule, however, is jet-competitive.)

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)


Harvard University might be a hedge-fund with a university attached, and yet, the academic side of the enterprise finds the pricing policies of journal publishers a bit much.
Many university libraries pay more than half of their journal budgets to the publishers Elsevier, Springer and Wiley.

Robert Darnton, director of Harvard Library told the Guardian: "I hope that other universities will take similar action. We all face the same paradox. We faculty do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of it for free … and then we buy back the results of our labour at outrageous prices.

"The system is absurd, and it is inflicting terrible damage on libraries. One year's subscription to The Journal of Comparative Neurology costs the same as 300 monographs. We simply cannot go on paying the increase in subscription prices. In the long run, the answer will be open-access journal publishing, but we need concerted effort to reach that goal."
The story is two years old. The  Faculty Advisory Council memorandum describing the situation is instructive.
Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles.

The Library has never received anything close to full reimbursement for these expenditures from overhead collected by the University on grant and research funds.

The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership, reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable. Doing so would seriously erode collection efforts in many other areas, already compromised.
That "never received anything close to full reimbursement" is the key.  At one time, there might have been enough grant money for researchers to buy those monographs out of their summer salary (and in those days, write it all off on their taxes) and enough indirect cost return to the libraries that nobody would balk at spending somebody else's money.  But when you run out of somebody else's money?

The generalization to Obama Care or Britain's National Health Service is left to the reader as an exercise.


There are parts of fly-over country that are so far from the Interstate as to have no bus service either.  A Destination: Freedom writer explores the transit options for Havre - Great Falls - Shelby, Montana.
Transit is very limited in rural areas, where almost everybody has access to an automobile. For the few who do not, the van that runs to the shopping mall or the doctor’s office provides the only opportunity they have to venture beyond the distance they can walk. For people with difficulty walking, it provides the rare (and maybe only) opportunity that many of them have to get out of the house.
For this writer, the trip was an adventure; an opportunity to explore a few towns in a state where cows outnumber people, and which is still celebrating the achievement that its human population now exceeds one million. Given the physical size of the State of Montana, even one million people do not take up much room in such a large area.

Accordingly, Montana has very little public transportation.
And what there is sometimes runs on a weekly headway.
There are local bus systems in several of the state’s larger towns, but it is the lifeline service operated by NCM Transit, Northern Montana Interlocal and others that prevents some residents of Montana from being completely housebound.

This writer’s trip to Great Falls is probably one that few local residents would ever take. If they are going to Great Falls from Havre or Shelby, they could return home after three or four hours in Great Falls. Anyone actually traveling between Havre and Shelby can go there directly on the train, every day, with a trip time of slightly more than 90 minutes. The local vans took seven hours; four on the highway and three to spend in Great Falls. That was not enough time to take in the entire town. There were other attractions, including a museum about famed Western artist C.M. Russell, and three hours did not provide enough time for anything but the history museum, a quick look at the town, and lunch.

Still, without the local vans that operate twice a week and connect only on Thursdays, the trip which this writer made would have been impossible. Because of the temporary schedule of the Empire Builder train, there was enough time to experience Havre and Shelby, as well. Amtrak and its riders hope that the “Builder” will be back on its old schedule soon.
I have vague memories of the Great Northern Railway purchasing a Budd Car for a Great Falls train connecting with the transcontinental services.  In my June 1954 Official Guide, the Western Star (in those days the transcontinental railroads generally offered at least two long-distance trains, running about twelve hours apart) took the long way around, Havre - Great Falls - Shelby.  As late as the summer of 1967 there were connecting buses to the Empire Builder and Western Star via Shelby for and from points west and via Havre for and from points east.  Perhaps, though, one line of pickup trucks is named "Montana" for a reason.


Some lady soccer player at Syracuse mouths off to some guys under conditions that might come under the rubric of sexual harassment and the Perpetually Aggrieved -- Syracuse being the institution where Donna Shalala first figured out the formula for political correctness, sports visibility, and gutting academic departments -- figure there hasn't been enough in the way of diversity and inclusion, or privilege-checking, or properly ranking the Totem Pole of Oppression.

Gotta love those requests, though.  On the one hand, "more open dialogues" but on the other, "mandatory dialogue class."  There's never any dialogue, anyway: it's the Anointed hectoring the Unwashed.  Four legs good, two legs baaaaaad.  As Dave Huber of The College Fix notes (remarking on PC atrocities at several universities including Syracuse),
It truly remains a mystery why, since progressives/liberals dominate lower education, so many college students require the services of a Vice President for Equity and Diversity from an Office for Equity and Diversity, a director of an Office for Diversity in Graduate Education, and/or a student Director of Inclusive Excellence and Equality.

What happened in elementary, middle and high school? Weren’t students taught to embrace diversity and be tolerant of other cultures then? Of course they were. Anyone who thinks otherwise is being silly.

Which means there’s another motive at work at campuses. Gosh, what might that be …?
Those deanlets and deanlings have to come up with new programs to justify their existence. Never mind that paying them to sit around at the nearby coffee-house all day might be more productive.



Sometimes it takes 59 minutes and 57 seconds to win a game.  Left out of the recap:  Josh Sitton T. J. Lang pouncing on an Aaron Rodgers fumble to make the fourth down play possible.  The Packer defense had trouble in the second half, but got the stop when it counted.

But that provokes a question: Packer coach Mike McCarthy called for a field goal with 4:09 to go, rather than attempt a fourth-down conversion to set up, if not to get, a tying touchdown.  The radio analysts had the coach "putting it on the defense" (more accurately, showing confidence in the defense.)  Isn't that a logical error?  Score the touchdown, the defense still has to protect the tie?  Fail to convert the fourth down?  The defense is under the same pressure to get the ball back as it is after the field goal.


A ghetto politician will highlight the parlous condition of his constituents by making invidious comparisons with the wealth of other people.  So seems to be the pattern of the Quinn re-election campaign, constantly pointing out the wealth of Republican challenger Bruce Rauner or the vulture-capitalist tendencies of some of Mr Rauner's companies, while saying nothing about how Mr Quinn's policies, with the full support of Democrat majorities in Springfield, have done anything to improve the parlous conditions of the Democrat constituencies.

I know I'm repeating myself, but repeat myself I must:
More precisely, this is how ward-heeler politicians operate. There's a symbiosis between desperate people who like having a ward-heeler "fighting for them" and a ward-heeler who mau-maus the rest of the polity about the continued parlous condition of his or her constituents. A ward-heeler cannot call out the constituents for engaging in self-destructive behavior, nor get re-elected in a district in which constituents discover, or re-discover bourgeois habits. Better to have constituents rendered helpless by years of Democratic policies.
Give Mr Quinn full marks for chutzpah, though: one of his political action committees, which pays for some of these invidious comparisons, is the delectably named Taxpayers for Quinn.  Which taxpayers are those?  The ones who fled Illinois, or who might still work in Illinois but live in Wisconsin, or who closed businesses in Illinois?  Or the Link-card dependent Democrat base?  Or perhaps Mr Quinn's cronies are attempting to make a virtue out of a perceived necessity by giving the impression that there is some sort of public support for making permanent the temporary state income tax increase that hasn't helped make much of a dent in the state's backlog of unpaid bills.  Illinois: the land of cash-flow games.  Just ask the accountant for any clinic that accepts patients on state insurance.

Fortunately, some opinion makers are seeing through it.

You'd expect Crain's Chicago Business to say Enough to the Machine.
Key to Mr. Rauner's fiscal fix is rolling back the “temporary” income tax hike passed in 2011, the one that Democrats seem hellbent on making permanent. Phasing out that tax probably will take longer than the four years Mr. Rauner would like. But in the end, he would release individuals and businesses from an anti-competitive levy. His plan to make up the lost revenue is better for the state, too: an overhaul of the tax code that would reduce the overall sales tax rate while expanding it to many services. Meantime, he would put a ceiling on property taxes.
That may be wishful thinking, but getting out of an abusive relationship is an act of hope. And the relationship of Illinois with Springfield Democrats has been abusive.
Our endorsement of Mr. Rauner is not an act of partisanship. We have rallied behind Democratic candidates for governor in the past, including Glenn Poshard over George Ryan in 1998 and Rod Blagojevich over Jim Ryan four years later.
Double oops.
Yet all too often, Mr. Quinn has seemed deliberately indifferent to the needs of business owners. Exhibit A is his “temporary” income tax hike.

Originally an outsider, Mr. Quinn unfortunately has fallen victim to the vices of one-party rule, promoting patronage and passing around political favors. He has not garnered enough political support, among voters or in the Illinois General Assembly, to serve as a counter-weight to House Speaker Michael Madigan or Senate President John Cullerton.
Sometimes, a good house-cleaning is in order. That appears to be the perspective of the Daily Herald, out of the northwestern suburbs.
Is Rauner the perfect candidate? Who could be? To be sure, we are more than a little troubled by the vagueness of his economic proposals, the outright naiveté if not political opportunism of his call for a property tax freeze, the sometimes simplistic framework in which he contains Illinois' complex problems.

But we are clear on his ultimate objective for the state -- an objective, frankly, that we believe Gov. Quinn and most Illinoisans share. The question is which of the two men can change the course of Illinois history, and that dramatically.

Whatever small steps he has taken, Gov. Pat Quinn has had six years in which to put the state back on course, but ultimately has shown he is not the leader we need.

Bruce Rauner is.
Now, if we could just get past the Cult of the Executive.  As long as editorial boards expect that state governors, or presidents, are able to make good on their promises of bright shiny things, people will run for office promising bright shiny things, or to "fight" for those bright shiny things.  Just once, just once, I'd like to see someone run for state or national office on a platform of consolidation, and an aversion to change for its own sake, or just to recognize the limitations of government.

It's progress, though, for the Chicago Tribune's editorial board, in endorsing Mr Rauner, to call out Mr Quinn for mau-mauing successful people.
Quinn's obsessive attacks on a man who can afford several homes may be a deft way to change the political debate, but the crucial issue on Nov. 4 is that in today's Illinois — with so many jobs going to Texas and other hiring-friendly states — many families here can't afford one house. All of us should focus on that.
(Excerpt courtesy NBC Chicago.)

The editorial board at the DeKalb Chronicle, located in a university community with a lot of Democrat operatives with tenure, has also had enough of Mr Quinn.
Gov. Pat Quinn has had more than five years to guide Illinois toward a brighter fiscal future.

Instead, his incompetent leadership and regressive policies have driven the state to the brink of financial collapse.
That's encouraging: higher tax rates used to be a progressive policy. But:
Illinois is bleeding jobs. State data released last month show there are 102,000 fewer Illinoisans in the workforce now than when Quinn, a Democrat, took office in 2009. That’s good for worst in the country. Illinois also is the only state in the Midwest where food stamp enrollment has outpaced job creation – by a 2-to-1 margin – since the Great Recession, again under Quinn’s watch.
Explain to me why it is bad form to speak of a food-stamp governor, or a food-stamp president? Oh, wait, that's the Democrat base.
Deadbeat state government owes social service agencies, school districts and other employers almost $5 billion for work completed months ago. Illinois’ worker’s compensation costs are fourth worst in the U.S., driving businesses and jobs elsewhere.

Quinn and Democratic state lawmakers also foisted a 67 percent income tax increase on wage earners in 2011, costing a household with annual income of $50,000 an additional $1,000 in taxes. Quinn promised it would be temporary, but now wants to make it permanent. He also wants to introduce a graduated income tax, another jobs killer.
And a graduated income tax, or increasing marginal tax rates, sometimes sails as a progressive tax rate. Priceless.

The editorial writers take a tone skeptical toward the Cult of the Executive.
Rauner admits he does not have all the answers. He understands Illinois’ financial situation is so dire, he will need help. He vows to surround himself with talented people whose focus will be righting the state’s fiscal ship, not political cronies looking for more taxpayer-funded handouts.

Rauner doesn’t need this job. He said he’s running because he believes in Illinois and wants to make it a better place to live. Bruce Rauner gives Illinois hope.

Gov. Pat Quinn offers more of the same failures.
I suppose it would be too radical to write an endorsement that didn't have "hope" or "change" in it, someplace.



Perhaps things have changed in forty years.  Inside Higher Ed found a humorous exchange of recruiting videos from Ohio University, another of the November night football game universities.  First out, the sorority, Chi Omega.  Usual cutesy stuff, the dancing and primping comes before studying.  But ladies, using a song with the lyrics We don't need no sleep .. We could do this all night??  (Or is that defanging the reputation you used to have?)  Phi Kappa Psi offered a parody that, given the material they had to work with, stayed tasteful.

Of course, since the videos appeared at Inside Higher Ed, you can bet that the Perpetually Aggrieved found much to gripe about in the comments.


Our President's critics on the left are not happy with his use of the oil weapon.
Washington is now the key country brandishing that same weapon, using trade sanctions and other means to curb the exports of energy-producing states it categorizes as hostile.  The Obama administration has taken this aggressive path even at the risk of curtailing global energy supplies.

When first employed, the oil weapon was intended to exploit the industrial world’s heavy dependence on petroleum imports from the Middle East. Over time, however, those producing countries became ever more dependent on oil revenues to finance their governments and enrich their citizens.  Washington now seeks to exploit this by selectively denying access to world oil markets, whether through sanctions or the use of force, and so depriving hostile producing powers of operating revenues.
Pikers. The way to deprive producers of revenues is to make a better product and sell it at a lower price.  That's too Rockefeller a concept for our political masters.
In an April 2013 speech at Columbia University, Tom Donilon, then Obama’s national security adviser, publicly expressed this outlook with particular force. “America’s new energy posture allows us to engage from a position of greater strength,” he avowed. “Increasing U.S. energy supplies act as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price shocks. It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.”

This “stronger hand,” he made clear, was reflected in U.S. dealings with Iran. To put pressure on Tehran, he noted, “The United States engaged in tireless diplomacy to persuade consuming nations to end or significantly reduce their consumption of Iranian oil.” At the same time, “the substantial increase in oil production in the United States and elsewhere meant that international sanctions and U.S. and allied efforts could remove over 1 million barrels per day of Iranian oil while minimizing the burdens on the rest of the world.” It was this happy circumstance, he suggested, that had forced Iran to the negotiating table.
Deliver the stuff more cheaply, or develop better substitutes, and there's no need for negotiating.  Bond traders will de-fund the petro-states far more effectively than any sanctions can.


Five Chicago aldermen want a better rail connection from O'Hare to the Loop.
The proposal for the speedy, upscale service to be operated by Metra or Amtrak — or possibly under a public-private partnership — follows yearslong studies by the CTA and the city's transportation and aviation departments, as well as a separate state analysis that called on the expertise of the University of Illinois.

Those efforts went nowhere.
It took a few years for London to see the wisdom of supplementing the Heathrow extension of the Piccadilly Line with a fifteen-minute train into Paddington Station.  That new service is useful, particularly for the savvy traveller who books a hotel within walking distance of Paddington.  (It's a longer schlep from the Heathrow station to check-in than it is from the hotel to the station.)  Perhaps, though, Chicago wants to go the way of the Frankfurt Flughafen Fernbahnhof.
CrossRail Chicago envisions new electrified express trains connecting O'Hare to the Loop, McCormick Place and the University of Chicago campus, as well as cross-town commuter trains linking the south suburbs to the northwest suburbs, line extensions to Rockford and Champaign, and eventually a high-speed rail network, including trains operating at more than 200 mph.
We've looked at CrossRail before. The problem with ambitious plans, though, is that as soon as government participates, paralysis by analysis sets in.
But the City Council resolution concentrates on giving business and leisure travelers a "world-class'' alternative to taking the all-stop O'Hare branch of the CTA Blue Line between downtown and O'Hare, and improving the transit options for conventioneers at McCormick Place.
The Metra North Central service uses the old Soo Line to River Grove.  The Soo at one time ran passenger trains into [Illinois] Central Station, which was near downtown and the museum campus.
In addition, the resolution states that the Chicago Department of Aviation should "strongly consider'' expanding the scope of an $800 million consolidated O'Hare rental car facility and public parking garage to include a new Metra train station. The new facility will be built starting next year at Zemke Boulevard and Mannheim Road, on the site of the existing economy parking lot F. The light rail People Mover also will be extended from its current terminus at economy parking lot E to the new facility.
Put in some retail and you'd have a reasonable facsimile of the Frankfurt Flughafen Fernbahnhof.  And the People Mover would save a lot of steps compared to Frankfurt.

But getting somebody to pay for it poses problems.

The resolution said that federal, state and "transit funds" should be sought to pay for the project. It also said the Emanuel administration's Infrastructure Trust should study possible creative financing options to pay for the premium express train service between O'Hare, Union Station and the McCormick convention center on the South Side lakefront. One of the benefits, the resolution said, would be direct South Side Metra service to O'Hare, using an elevated freight line along 16th Street from the lakefront to Halsted Street and connecting ramps.

The Department of Aviation, meanwhile, should conduct a new round of solicitations requesting information from train operators around the world, as well as financiers, on the feasibility of establishing the express train service to McCormick Place, running along tracks owned by Metra and the Canadian National Railway, the resolution said.
Keep in mind, also, that Metra Electric exists to bring commuters to downtown offices and diverting some of those trains to O'Hare ought not be done casually.  On the other hand, as long as the aldermen are engaging in wishful thinking when it comes to financing, why not put back the fifth and sixth tracks on the old Illinois Central, and dedicate those to the airport trains and the future fast trains to Milwaukee or Rockford?


At CSU Faculty Voice, Here's What a Provost Search Looks Like at Another University.  Unsparing.
As we look at the “Provost Search Update” from the other school, we should be mindful of the administrative hiring practices that obtain at Chicago State. Here are the requirements and qualifications enumerated in Chicago State’s recent job announcement for Provost: “driving new initiatives to create a student-centered and ‘student-first’ (you have to love that kind of meaningless jargon) supportive and nurturing learning environment.” Additionally, Chicago State’s Provost will be expected to “[lead] the university to meet its goal of increasing enrollment and graduation rates.” To qualify for the Provost’s position at Chicago State, it is only necessary to hold “an earned terminal degree,” and to possess “a level of administrative experience that will add value to CSU’s continuous efforts to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the institution’s human, fiscal and technological resources required by its academic and co-curricular programs.” You will note the absence of any reference to scholarly achievements. Did we get any applications from managers at WalMart? What does any of that bullshit mean?
If you are at all interested in the ways higher education self-destructs, bookmark CSU Faculty Voice.  It's all there: most recently, a catered student recruiting event somewhere on the Rock Island Suburban Line.



In early September, I made a rail trip from Köln to Manchester, this time with ample connection time at each station, and sampled three different European fast trains, Thalys Köln - Brussels, Eurostar Brussels - London, and a Virgin Pendolino London - Manchester.

I'd be willing to exchange a little of the speed for additional legroom, and seats that recline.  (Travel and Trains, commenting on a rash of reclining-seat-rage on the pressurized kipper cans that pass as airliners today, notes that "legroom is not a problem for those of us who choose to travel by [Amtrak].")  But the European fast trains offer approximately the seat spacing of an intercity bus, with the opportunity to stroll to a bar car if the mood strikes.

Thalys power cars, and the paint scheme, recall the Trans Europ Express of fifty years ago.  On the Köln - Brussels segment, they don't have much opportunity to stretch out, that's onward to Paris.  The Eurostars do move, both in France and on the new fast lines into London St. Pancras.

I'm not sure the artwork obscuring the clock at the city end of the train-shed improves the station aesthetically.

Getting from St. Pancras to Euston used to be simple: walk toward the clock, turn right, locate the exit to Euston Road, walk past the new British Library.  These days, because boarding passengers for the Eurostar have already cleared passport control and immigration into the European Union, everyone must go down the ramp, walk back toward the vaults once provided for storing beer kegs, loop around the departure lounge and the security control point, then find the exit for Euston Road.  No more passing the impressive public areas of the Midland Hotel.

I took the precaution of obtaining a seat reservation on the service to Manchester before leaving the States.  Unaccountably, the algorithm gave me a seat next to a blank wall.  There were plenty of un-reserved seats at windows.  Light passenger loading, a chance to get a picture of the interior of the coach.

No seat-belts, and somewhat less substantial tray tables than the airliners.  If I didn't tell you it's a train, would you think it was a bus?  It's Virgin Trains, which means there's some whimsy.  Go to the loo and hit the lock button, an electronic voice tells you, "Please don't flush nappies, sanitary towels, paper towels, gum, old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, your ex's sweater, hopes, dreams, or goldfish down this toilet."  (The advice is also printed on the top of the lid.  Give me "Passengers will please refrain" or "Penalty for improper use."  Please.)

Into Manchester on time.


Kevin Williamson of National Review offers a perspective on intersectionality that you aren't likely to encounter in a Victim Studies class.
I ordered a ribeye, extra rare, and the chef or the waiter or somebody messed it up. I sent it back to the kitchen. A lesbian couple near Uniontown, Ohio, ordered a baby, extra white, and their order got messed up — the sperm bank mistakenly gave them the product of a black man, with the result that their daughter, Payton, is half black. And that’s the problem with treating children as consumer products: You cannot send them back to the kitchen.
In some ways, the consequences of New Age parthenogenesis are the quintessential first-world problem.
While one must pity the poor little girl who is being treated like a defective Honda Civic, it’s a delicious clash of progressive pieties. The mother — and somehow I suspect that I’ll be informed five minutes from now that it is wicked to call the half of the couple who carried the child and gave birth the “mother” — Jennifer Cramblett, among other things complains that it is difficult to find a place to get her daughter a decent haircut. It should be a hoot watching her make that case in court.
Dig deeper, and it ceases to be funny.
The disassembly, now complete, of the triangular linkage of sex, marriage, and procreation is going to present us with even more awkward questions than whether you can sue for breach of warranty if your daughter turns out to be racially other than as originally specified. There is some evidence already of sex-selective abortion in the United States — the opening salvos in an actual war on women — particularly in subcultures that have a strong preference for sons, though data about that is scarce. The reason it is scarce is that we refuse to collect it, and the reason we refuse to collect it is, presumably, that we do not wish to know. If we ever develop a test for a hereditary inclination toward, say, homosexuality, we’ll probably have gay-selective abortions, too.
And, inevitably, the cultural change rot collides with the Say Aggregation Principle.
A model of parenthood dominated by the mandate to satisfy the parents’ needs rather than those of the children will be forever defective. But it is, increasingly, the model we have. It’s a perverse consequence of the times in which we live: Cultural and economic pressures see to it that many young women spend their most fertile years trying desperately to avoid motherhood and then spend their least fertile years trying, with the same desperation, to conceive. It’s cruel.
Yes, and protestations that the old dispensation, in which young women were encouraged to marry and start families, was its own form of cruelty, aren't an adequate response.


If administrators at an obscure public college serving a predominantly minority, commuter population conduct themselves like Third World despots and nobody notices, does it matter?  If bargaining organizations that officially or unofficially represent faculty object and nobody notices, did it happen?

Larry Summers got tossed at Harvard, after a faculty vote of no confidence made the news world-wide.  What you have done to the least among thee ... the Chronicle of Higher Education discovers the faculty discontent after ten years, and five years after President-for-Life Wayne Watson brought his enrollment-management skills over from the Chicago community college system.  Here's the CSU Faculty Voice reaction to the Chronicle coverage.  The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has sued Chicago State, comments, "One might think that CSU would have learned from its repeated failed attempts to quell internal dissent—but one would be wrong."  And University Diaries takes occasion to characterize President-for-Life Watson's rule as "North Korean style dictatorship."

I should think that as a matter of justice, administrative over-reach at Chicago State is as egregious as similar over-reach at a Delaware or a Harvard.  Otherwise, administrators at similarly obscure colleges and universities might feel safe in getting away with such stunts.  Academically vulnerable or striving or place-bound students will therefore be less-well served than their counterparts at institutions where Public Scrutiny offers a check on the over-reach.


Electroliner repairs might require until 2017 to complete.
The [Illinois Railway Museum's] Electroliner received an external restoration when it returned to Illinois in the 1980s, but problems with the train's eight electric motors prevented the streamliner from returning to operation. Work is now under way to return the luxury streamliner to operable condition within the next three years. In addition to work on the motors, work is needed on the wheels, trucks, air brakes and air conditioning before it can be operated.
Until then, here are a few illustrations of Electroliners in action.

Norwich Street, September 1958.

Ryan Road, early 1959.

Best seat on the train.  Racine, September 1958.

The other Electroliner, in preservation as a Liberty Liner in Pennsylvania, is operable, although it requires electrical work and the museum intends to undertake major body work.


So it is also with the Chief Diversity Officer.
Whatever institutions choose to call them, chief diversity officers are one of the fastest-growing administrative positions. Charged with promoting diversity among faculty and staff in a less compliance-based manner than their equal opportunity counterparts, many of these officers are the first to hold such positions at their colleges and universities -- or are the first to hold such positions as they have been elevated in the college hierarchy.
"Less compliance-based manner." Put another way, the Chief Diversity Officer must be aware of the requirements of the various civil rights acts, plus the whims of the current president and provost.  Or whatever politically correct follies Student Life or Housing are up to these days.



A cruise ship, M.S. Hamburg, operated by Plantours, calls at Milwaukee for Oktoberfest and a visit to the Harley - Davidson museum.

There are several Great Lakes cruise operators.  Plantours is a German company, and the cruises involve flights from the German-speaking countries to Montreal for this cruise (another one sails on 10 October.)

If there are any visitors from Hamburg aboard Hamburg, they might find Milwaukee's city hall familiar.

Hamburg Rathaus, 1 September 2014

Much of Milwaukee's commercial center was built by Germans about the same time that much of Hamburg's commercial center took shape.  There's a bigger tower clock in sight of the Milwaukee Harbor than Hamburg's St. Mark's, which is still plenty prominent.

I must investigate the origins of the stern-wheelers in service at Hamburg.

And Hamburg is home to Miniatur Wunderland, which claims to be the world's largest model railway exhibition.

Without the National Model Railroad Association, which was established in Milwaukee, their task would be more difficult.  On a package tour, a visitor is unlikely to get to the Milwaukee School of Engineering, a college based on a German education model from the end of the 18th century, which has its own railway exhibition, and it's the only college or university I'm aware of that has a model railroad in its student center.

That's how it is, though, with package tours.  You have the security of everything arranged, with narration in your own language, but you might not get to sample those things that make a city, whether it is Hamburg or Milwaukee, distinct.

Enjoy, and fair seas.


It's long been a Cold Spring Shops theme that self-despising multiculturalism and its attendant privileging of transgressivity and crudity-dressed-up-as-authenticity do no good.  Now comes The Superversive Literary Movement, positive advice to aspiring writers.
The job of the superversive is at once difficult and rewarding. We shall need to build on the high ground, as people used to do: not only for defence, but because the high ground is more solid. Before the subversives dug their mines under the churches, there was a parable that used to be widely known. The gist of it was that a house built on rock will stand firm, but a house built on sand will soon fall down. High ground is usually rocky ground, and from that perspective, ideal for us to build on.
The proposed course of work is perhaps and unavoidably political. On the other hand, anyone who can write "insanity of the committee, where people who disagree about their destination have to agree which road to take" might be worth your study.


On the railroads, notes Fred Frailey of Trains, it is trains down on the sidings.
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited (train 29) left South Bend, Ind., yesterday at 11:08 a.m. Thirteen minutes later, the Lake Shore Limited (train 49) followed. Next stop for both trains: Chicago, 84 miles west. The Lake Shore reached Chicago at 4:26 p.m., the Capitol at 5:20 p.m. This fiasco illustrates how precarious our railroad infrastructure is today, at a time of record shipper demand and probably record shipper unhappiness. The tale of what happened to these trains is worth retelling.
Short form: there are limits to doing more with less, and railroads also have construction delays.
The railroad is basically in gridlock, shut down.

The problems seem to be twofold: trains needing to be recrewed and construction jobs associated with the Indiana Gateway project, which ironically is intended to speed up train movements.

The first two trains in the long line are empty oil trains and have been there all morning, probably waiting to be recrewed. Behind them is a manifest freight and then an intermodal train and finally the two Amtraks. On Main 2 sits a merchandise train, crewless, ruling out any overtakes.

By and by this conga line begins to wiggle its way west. But all must apparently stop and be flagged through a construction job (crossovers, signals) east of Porter (CP 482) and so not until 2:45 p.m. does the first oil can train rumble by Porter at 25 mph. Fifteen minutes later the second oil job goes by, followed after a bit by the manifest train and later by the intermodal train.
Throw in a few crews, including the Capitol's running afoul of the Hours of Service Law, and nothing moves.  Perhaps, though, the accountants are totting up the profits they hope to earn by moving all that freight with almost no crew reserve, and inadequate capital.
This is not a picture of a railroad in meltdown, but rather dysfunction. Everything gets done, but slowly and at great cost to the railroad and inconvenience to its freight customers and those of tenant Amtrak. I tell you this little tale because ones just like it are happening on a lot of railroads right now. And it is happening because railroads are not prepared on key routes with the crews, locomotives, or track capacity they need to handle a surge of new business. Call it the new normal, but don’t smile when you say it.
What are the macroeconomic implications of consumers, badly served by business restructuring everywhere, deciding to do without?

I will be exploring some of these Amtrak routes in the near future, and will file reports, assuming I don't get stranded on some siding on a train out of booze first.


Well, three, actually.  Prosit!

Eins: the maligned Packer defense allows zero points in five consecutive quarters, with the reserves allowing ten points in garbage time.

Zwei:  Aaron Rodgers achieves close to a perfect quarterback rating at Soldier Field.

Drei:  The Vikings are still not an outdoor team, and the Packer running game got running.

(The analysts are right, though: Thursday night football is a dumb idea, whether it's the National Football League or the Mid-American offering it.)