History of the creation of Railpax which became Amtrak

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jis

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I came across this very informative article on how Amtrak came into being

https://enotrans.org/article/amtrak-at-50-the-rail-passenger-service-act-of-1970/

Thought this would be appropriate to revisit as Anthony Haswell, the founder of NARP (RPA) and one of the authors of the Railpax Act that created Amtrak passed away recently.
Thanx for posting. I missed all this by being stationed in Berlin, relying on clippings mailed by my family. I came home in September 1971 and started at ODOT in October. It took me a while to figure out what happened. Or, at least to piece together an outline of what had happened!

The first year of Amtrak was really crazy. For almost a year, the remains of the SP&S (BN) passenger traffic department came into work with nothing to do. Equipment was shuffled around, and additional cars had to be purchased because ridership immediately started to grow. Classic railroad accounting had to be ferreted out: in Kansas City, the terminal company was billing Amtrak for mail-handling expenses. In the Northwest, BN assigned a rear brakeman daily to PDX<>SEA trains, even when the car shortage held consists to three-car consists. Oregon and Washington full-crew laws only required a second brakeman on consists longer than three cars. And so on.

It's good that the paper includes the postal service changes. In the early 1960's the western roads were still investing in equipment to handle mail. Later on, in Portland there were rumors that the UP was going to discontinue the City of Portland and upgrade the service on the Portland Rose. I never pinned that down, but the fact that some insiders were discussing it showed the line of thinking.
 
Some more background on the interaction with the post office. A handful of mail by rail operations continued between the 1967 postal bloodbath and the 1971 launch of Amtrak. One of them was the former SP&S connection for the Mainstreeter and Western Star. Had the start-up of Amtrak been smoother, a Pasco <> Portland section of the Amtrak Empire Builder would have continued that mail service to small cities poorly accessed by trucks.
 
I almost laughed out loud when I saw the familiar map -- with the Pacific Northwest chopped off. Author Stewart Holbrook used to call it the Far Corner. Part of my work for ODOT in 1971-76 turned out to be explaining geography to people in The Nation's Capital.

Aside from omitting what became the Coast Starlight, the choice of the Stampede Pass route for the original Empire Builder drove Oregonians wild. A passenger from Portland would spend all day riding around the State of Washington, crossing the Columbia River twice. And later, in North Dakota, passengers would ride the old line through Grand Forks. But.... people in DC would claim that the route selection was based on population.

The article omits selection of the route between Spokane and Seattle, except that the map shows the routings that included Portland were arbitrarily eliminated. The Oregon PUC had even proposed running Pasco<>Vancouver<>Seattle, with a bus connection into Portland. That would have added less time than the deviation via Grand Forks. The map also failed to show the original Pasco <> Villard Junction <> Portland route, which likely would have stifled the demand for what in 1977 became the Pioneer.

What does fit with what we knew was the assignment to contact members of Congress. The Oregonian Washington, DC correspondent was in Senator Warren Magnusson's office when "Maggie" took the call from Catherine May Bedell, former member of the House from Yakima. So, we had a route decision that no one could explain, and a board member with a conflict of interest.
 
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Fascinating history lesson, thanks for posting.

Jim McClellan was a bit like Forest Gump- he was everywhere at that exciting time, as this article describes.

I remember watching the evening news and seeing Secretary Volpe describe the routes. At that time there was a lot of enthusiasm for Amtrak (although railroads were excited about losing the financial liability and assumed it would soon fail). The promise of a more efficient central management of passenger rail led to rosy predictions:
“The operations of the Corporation can be expected to turn a relatively small initial year loss of $30-40 million – the current level in the preliminary network – into an operating profit by the third year…the economic prospects make the hazard of future demands for Federal support relatively low.”

Unfortunately Amtrak still struggles to achieve the promise of that time:
“The rejuvenation of railroad passenger service will require a great deal of effort, dedication, and imagination. These traits have never been lacking in American enterprise”

I remember seeing the first Amtrak LD train in Baltimore during that early rainbow era. Everyone was optimistic then and Amtrak was quite innovative with new routes, new consists, and new features with most every new timetable.

Unfortunately the loss of management talent, government inefficiencies and micro management, hostile host railroads, and funding struggles have dulled that promise.
 
Does anyone have a (digital) copy they can post of the original notice of train-offs posted in all the stations in the months prior to Amtrak Day, and then the responding notice of train service to begin May 1, 1971, that included the names of all the railroads and terminal companies involved?

I recall those two historic notices, but regret never obtaining copies or at least photographing them…
 
Does anyone have a (digital) copy they can post of the original notice of train-offs posted in all the stations in the months prior to Amtrak Day, and then the responding notice of train service to begin May 1, 1971, that included the names of all the railroads and terminal companies involved?

I recall those two historic notices, but regret never obtaining copies or at least photographing them…
I don't, but I have a very clear memory of the Arrival/Departure board ar LAUPT being plastered with Discontinuance Notices that April.
 
Yes, that is what the 1971 timetables show. By 1973 it originated in LAX. There was a daily Coast Daylight on the same schedule LAX to Oakland on the days the Starlight didn't operate. By 1976 it was 6 each way.

By the way, the 1973 a roomette Chicago-LA would set you back $149. Using an inflation calculator it would be $1052 tiday. Amtrak fare for a date this September is $1112. So, Amtrak is really a bargain!

In looking at these timetables I was reminded of this amenity that seems to have vanished:
"Complimentary Wake-Up Coffee and Orange Juice 6-9:30 - Lounge car. (Sleeping car passengers served in their room on request)"
 
In looking at these timetables I was reminded of this amenity that seems to have vanished:
Among other amenities…”Bedtime sweet”, daily or Sunday newspaper, shoe-shine, later, an overnight amenities kit, small bottle of wine plus snack pack…
Even overnight chair car passengers received complimentary pillows…
🙂
 
Among other amenities…”Bedtime sweet”, daily or Sunday newspaper, shoe-shine, later, an overnight amenities kit, small bottle of wine plus snack pack…
Even overnight chair car passengers received complimentary pillows…
🙂
Yup. In Sleepers I remember the welcome pack which included a small bottle of wine and some cheese/snacks and the folder with Amtrak stationary. IIRC all disappeared by the end of the '80s or early '90s. Also remember the pillow in Chair Car/Coach, which I traveled in extensively in the '80s when I did not have the money to travel in Sleepers extensively. Those College loans had to be paid off on an accelerated schedule first.
 
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IIRC, it started with only 3 daily trips, and for a brief period, one of them was an extension of the Starlight, all the way to Seattle 3 days2 per week…
At first, the San Diegan's daily trips are cut back from 2 day from Santa Fe's 3. The third only ran the days it connected to the three day a week LA-Seattle train. The whole consist also did not run through to Seattle. The train carried a through coach and sleeper that were switched from the San Diegan to what became the Starlight at LA.

At first, the train was nameless, then it became the Coast Daylight-Starlight. Finally it just became the Coast Starlight, I think around the time it became daily north of Oakland.

I was a rabid teenage railfan at the time living in Orange County. I was riding the these trains.
 
The early problem with the Empire Builder at and after Amtrak startup was that the train's Portland section should have remained in place. For Washington state, Stampede Pass was the correct route choice. The less-populous Wenatchee line was a poor performer with the North Coast Hiawatha in both ridership and political support before it was discontinued in 1979, but in 1981 Amtrak was only interested the operational convenience of maintaining a five-set equipment rotation on the Builder with the shorter run on the GN line while still keeping its Chicago connections (the five-set rotation works even worse today) and Amtrak apparently didn't care about costs or revenues. Sadly, the local railfan community, preferring the GN line, backed that reroute, which continues killing us in eastern Washington to this day. Unfortunately, we now appear to be stuck with the Wenatchee reroute forever because of the costs of getting Stampede back up to passenger-train capability. I'm told much of the problem with that is the cost of required PTC installation. Actually, a BNSF-inspired Builder reroute back to Stampede to clear badly-needed room for an expected intermodal rush through Wenatchee had a chance to happen around 1998 long before PTC (a test train was actually run), but the intermodal rush never materialized. Apparently, under this scenario, the Portland section would have separated in Pasco rather than Spokane, the way it should have been in the beginning.
 
At first, the San Diegan's daily trips are cut back from 2 day from Santa Fe's 3. The third only ran the days it connected to the three day a week LA-Seattle train. The whole consist also did not run through to Seattle. The train carried a through coach and sleeper that were switched from the San Diegan to what became the Starlight at LA.

At first, the train was nameless, then it became the Coast Daylight-Starlight. Finally, it just became the Coast Starlight, I think around the time it became daily north of Oakland.

I was a rabid teenage railfan at the time living in Orange County. I was riding these trains.
At around that time I was riding the French Train Militaire between Berlin and Strasbourg, but my dad picked up the May 1, 1971 timetable for me. As you can see when it is blown up, the SP thought it was still doing things its way with nitpicky special charges.

1971 SP NRPC 001.jpg
1971 SP NRPC 002.jpg
 
The early problem with the Empire Builder at and after Amtrak startup was that the train's Portland section should have remained in place. For Washington state, Stampede Pass was the correct route choice. The less-populous Wenatchee line was a poor performer with the North Coast Hiawatha in both ridership and political support before it was discontinued in 1979, but in 1981 Amtrak was only interested the operational convenience of maintaining a five-set equipment rotation on the Builder with the shorter run on the GN line while still keeping its Chicago connections (the five-set rotation works even worse today) and Amtrak apparently didn't care about costs or revenues. Sadly, the local railfan community, preferring the GN line, backed that reroute, which continues killing us in eastern Washington to this day. Unfortunately, we now appear to be stuck with the Wenatchee reroute forever because of the costs of getting Stampede back up to passenger-train capability. I'm told much of the problem with that is the cost of required PTC installation. Actually, a BNSF-inspired Builder reroute back to Stampede to clear badly-needed room for an expected intermodal rush through Wenatchee had a chance to happen around 1998 long before PTC (a test train was actually run), but the intermodal rush never materialized. Apparently, under this scenario, the Portland section would have separated in Pasco rather than Spokane, the way it should have been in the beginning.
In 1976 I wrote a report on a PDX <> PSC section of the Empire Builder for ODOT and submitted it to Amtrak. I left ODOT in December of that year and so did not follow it up. I did keep a copy of it and by coincidence later on I met an Amtrak planner who was interested in the idea, so I sent him a copy. I was surprised when they actually acted upon it.

Something that they didn't do was to run a LAX<>PDX<>CHI sleeper. That actually saves one sleeper, but as the schedules have evolved, there would have been too many misconnects, so it's just as well.
 
At around that time I was riding the French Train Militaire between Berlin and Strasbourg, but my dad picked up the May 1, 1971 timetable for me. As you can see when it is blown up, the SP thought it was still doing things its way with nitpicky special charges.

View attachment 36722
View attachment 36723
One of things about the startup of Amtrak is Amtrak just wrote checks. Operationally, the railroads still operated and supported the trains, just as they had the day before. The passenger services departments still ran things, the reservations bureaus still took reservations, ticket agents still sold tickets on railroad stock. Interline travel still had to be interlined and cleared between railroads. Very little actually changed on May 1, 1971 except there were a lot fewer trains.

So it doesn't surprise me SP still had its service charges. They were still running it in all aspects. Signing checks doesn't show.
 
I, too, get an error message when trying to download the "273 page 3-ring binder" from McKinsey.
There are several issues with it. One is it is PDF 1.3 which is hard to open with current PDF tools anyway. In addition to that it is trying to access something at possibly the McKinsey site which is being blocked by the Gateway to it. I read the file using Emacs and cannot figure out an easy way to work around the issues. Maybe someone else who knows more about PDF and has access to a good raw byte reading and editing tool can figure it out and fix it.
 
Two things I forgot to mention in discussing the original south line routing of Amtrak's Empire Builder through Washington. Catherine May Bedell was from Yakima, but as a Congresswoman her district also included Wenatchee. Remember, too, that the "no alternate transportation" rule didn't apply in Washington as it did in Montana, because both Wenatchee and Yakima had Greyhound bus service then.
 
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