What train discontinued before Amtrak would you like to see brought back?

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jis

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Then again, there has been a lot of political capital and energy put into the re-extension of the Sunset Limited into Florida and they don’t even seem to be able to do that.
There are absolutely no plans being worked on to extend the Sunset Limited to Florida at this time.

The current plans are for a short shuttle service between New Orleans and Mobile. And eventually an overnight service between New Orleans and Orlando, which is explicitly not going to be connected with the Sunset Limited. It may be connected with the City of New Orleans, at least in equipment rotation if not in a through service.

The primary owner and driver of this entire Gulf Coast project is the Southern Rail Commission. Information is available at: http://www.southernrailcommission.org/gulf-coast-rail , including a pointer to the extensive study done by Amtrak for the SRC, which forms the basis for the plans being worked on.

Please stop misleading people by talking about re-extension of the Sunset Limited. That is not happening, as things stand.
 

VKurtB

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The route I’d like to see rejuvenated is the Broadway Limited. This would “kill two stirds with one bone”. It creates the desired second daily Harrisburg to Pittsburgh train, and by departing quite early westbound out of New York, combined with running the Pennsylvanian a bit later than it presently is, westbound, they’re not stumbling over each other.
 
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Maybe the Milwaukee Road would never have been "net profitable"; it might have ended up needing state support, as many railroads did (including literally every single railroad in the Northeast). Probably it would always have done worse than the BN -- I don't really care. But the management decision to keep the financially-worst parts of the railroad and dismantle the financially-best parts of the railroad is what doomed it to scrapping, rather than shortline or secondary line or mothballed-by-UP status. The management actions would be analogous to Penn Central dismantling the Water Level Route and the Broadway Limited Route while retaining all the commuter branch lines -- but Penn Central knew better.

Maybe you didn't understand what my point actually was. Since I've made and proved my point, but you seem to think I was arguing something else.

My point is they scrapped the part of the railroad they should have kept, while keeping the part they should have scrapped, largely because their accounting was all wrong. It would be very desirable if Amtrak did not repeat this mistake.
Well, if you think actual operating expenses of the Milwaukee Pacific Extension compared to that of the competition is irrelevant, it is no wonder you have come to the conclusion you have.

The accounting aspect is debatable, regardless of what you think. There are plenty of arguments both ways, so that's why the best measure of the railroad's viability is just to stick to the facts:

1. Unlike many Rock Island routes - many of which were in worse shape than the Milwaukee - were acquired by other railroads and upgraded. Strong routes survive. The Pacific Extension wasn't and didn't.

2. The argument that "they kept the part of the railroad they should have scrapped" is not born out in history. Thirty-nine years after the abandonment of the Pacific Extension west of Miles City, most of the railroad that was retained east of there continues to be used today. Of course there are small sections of track that were abandoned since 1980 east of Miles City/Terry (and even some retrenchment of the few lines which were kept west of Miles City), but overall core routes in South Dakota, between the Twin Cities and Chicago, Chicago to Kansas City (with some modification), and other routes in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota remain intact. Their continued presence after 39 years proves that people with foresight knew they were worth keeping, and they are.

3. The supposed "profit" of the Pacific Extension completely overlooks what would have been needed to keep the railroad viable if it was profitable. The millions of dollars needed to rehabilitate the deteriorated infrastructure notwithstanding, if a company is to continue into the future, it must have infrastructure to allow it to compete. Lack of CTC, power switches, signals, lineside inspection and warning devices, and lengthening of sidings were just some of the things that were needed to compete. Without addressing these important shortcomings, "profit" is relative and irrelevant.

4. Someone like you might say that it's all about accounting. Someone like me might say that operating folks were looking ahead to pending deregulation and how high cost routes would be even at a greater disadvantage. The facts and constants of the history of the Pacific Extension are that its horrible profile and circuitous routes always made it the high cost route - an untenable situation.

While I totally get your frustration with Amtrak accounting. But there is no intercity rail passenger service alternative to Amtrak. There were better alternatives to the Milwaukee Pacific Extension so the Pacific Extension is gone and the rest remain. Complaining about alleged accounting shenanigans and mismanagement can't overcome these facts.
 
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I believe rebuilding the PCE is a good idea that would be good for the country but, unfortunately, also a very expensive idea. Surely the states would have to help some. But if given the alternative of rebuilding the PCE or adding more lanes to Interstate Highways, I think that would be a good way to go as well.
This is ridiculous. Say you have two factories, each producing widgets. One produces them for 30 cents each, and the other for 50 cents each. The cost for each widget reflects the production cost of each factory. Because of its inefficiency, the factory with the 50-cent widget closes because it cannot compete because people are buying the 30-cent widget.

Then say years pass and the demand for widgets increases and the demand is expected to remain constant or increase. Do you reopen the high-cost widget factory or expand the low-cost factory...especially if the cost to reopen the high-cost factory is greater? The answer is obvious.

I would definitely like to see our governments support railroad infrastructure in the same way they support infrastructure for all other modes. But whether this is done by private railroads or in the public domain, it will clearly be cheaper to add capacity to existing railroads....ESPECIALLY in the case of the Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension where the operating profile would result in additional perpetual higher long-term operating costs due to its being the high-cost route. The exception, of course, could be over Snoqualmie Pass for westward trains, but to subject this tonnage to the grades at Loweth, Pipestone, St. Paul, and the Saddle Mountains versus existing railroads has no merit. It is infinitely less expensive (and more efficient going forward) to add capacity to the lower-cost route(s).
 
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west point

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There are several routes needing more service in the east. Another NYP / Wash - CHI. one or two additional NEC to Florida trains. One or two additional NEC - ATL trains with one thru Raleigh. Reopening the "S" line important with the Long Bridge expansion complete.

Of course that means enough equipment available , reasonable fares, and seats for current and new trains that does not artificially limit number of riders.

All of the proposals in this thread has to recognize that enough reasonable priced seats are always available.
 
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sttom

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There are several routes needing more service in the east. Another NYP / Wash - CHI. one or two additional NEC to Florida trains. One or two additional NEC - ATL trains with one thru Raleigh. Reopening the "S" line important with the Long Bridge expansion complete.

Of course that means enough equipment available , reasonable fares, and seats for current and new trains that does not artificially limit number of riders.

All of the proposals in this thread has to recognize that enough reasonable priced seats are always available.
What is the S line?
 

keelhauled

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The S line in this context is the ex-Seaboard Air Line route between, roughly, Richmond Virginia and northern North Carolina. It is abandoned but the right of way is still intact, and there have been plans on the drawing board for quite a while to rebuild it for passenger use as part of broader southeast high speed rail dreams.

Amtrak currently uses the A line (ex-Atlantic Coast Line route) south of Richmond, which is both CSX's frequently delayed primary freight route from the Northeast to Florida, and also requires a sort of dogleg back north for the Silver Star and Carolinian to reach Raleigh. An S line reactivation would solve both those problems.

The S and A line designations can refer to the entire ex-Seaboard and ACL lines in their entirety from Richmond into Florida, but they have long been officially superseded by CSX subdivision names, and generally the terminology is used to refer to the routes in southern Virginia and northern North Carolina these days.
 

Anderson

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This is ridiculous. Say you have two factories, each producing widgets. One produces them for 30 cents each, and the other for 50 cents each. The cost for each widget reflects the production cost of each factory. Because of its inefficiency, the factory with the 50-cent widget closes because it cannot compete because people are buying the 30-cent widget.

Then say years pass and the demand for widgets increases and the demand is expected to remain constant or increase. Do you reopen the high-cost widget factory or expand the low-cost factory...especially if the cost to reopen the high-cost factory is greater? The answer is obvious.

I would definitely like to see our governments support railroad infrastructure in the same way they support infrastructure for all other modes. But whether this is done by private railroads or in the public domain, it will clearly be cheaper to add capacity to existing railroads....ESPECIALLY in the case of the Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension where the operating profile would result in additional perpetual higher long-term operating costs due to its being the high-cost route. The exception, of course, could be over Snoqualmie Pass for westward trains, but to subject this tonnage to the grades at Loweth, Pipestone, St. Paul, and the Saddle Mountains versus existing railroads has no merit. It is infinitely less expensive (and more efficient going forward) to add capacity to the lower-cost route(s).
Though I read your point, I'd say that it depends a lot more than you give it credit for. For example, does reopening a second factory give you supply chain resiliency or potentially political leverage (e.g. negotiating for tax credits or with the union)? Is the first factory's location badly constrained? Have demand patterns (or supply patterns) shifted to affect those costs? All of these questions have valid, serious analogies in the context of railroads...some routes simply can't be expanded (or can't be expanded at a reasonable cost) due to geographic and enviromental issues. Having network redundancy is a good thing (and something that the railroads have been ignoring in the chase to slash costs). And so on.
 

Seaboard92

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Wow this thread has so many things I would like to get in on so where should I start.

1. The train I would like to see back is the Southwind or some variant of the Southwind with the Dixie Flyer. That way you add Nashville into the network and get a second train into Atlanta.

That would greatly speed up several city pairs from the Midwest to the southeast and my regular trip to the PNW.

2. As many of you know I’ve been working on creating an interactive map of the 1952 Official Guide (which is nowhere near finished) but from that you can see the nations primary railroad hubs which I’ll break down by region.

-Northeast
A. New York, NY/Northern NJ
B. Buffalo, NY
C. Boston, MA
D. Philadelphia, PA
E. Pittsburgh, PA
F. Washington, DC

Southeast
A. Atlanta, GA
B. Nashville, TN
C. Jacksonville, FL
D. Montgomery, AL
E. Birmingham, AL
F. New Orleans, LA

Midwest
A. Chicago, IL
B. St Louis, MO
C. Saint Paul, MN
D. Detroit, MI
E. Cincinnati, OH
F. Indianapolis, IN
G. Kansas City, MO
H. Omaha, NE
I. Denver, CO

Texas
A. Houston
B. Dallas/Fort Worth
C. San Antonio
D. El Paso

West
A. Portland, OR
B. Seattle, WA
C. Oakland, CA
D. Los Angeles, CA

3. The primary route of freight from the Midwest to the southeast depends on the carrier. CSX sends stuff from Jacksonville to Chicago via Waycross, GA, Atlanta,GA/Montgomery, AL, Nashville, TN, Evansville, IN. NS will send stuff down the rathole from Cincinnati via Knoxville, Chattanooga, Atlanta.

4. I believe the Pacific Extension should have been saved strictly because the PNW needs the extra capacity at times. As the closest mainland US port to China it sees significant intermodal traffic. Stevens Pass is limited to two trains per hour last I’ve heard, stampede pass gives some more space. And the Columbia River Gorge does as well. But there is only so much capacity you can have short of double tracking that route the entirety.

5. The S Line is any former Seaboard track. The mileposts for former Seaboard lines on CSX begin with S. For instance the Monroe/Abbeville subs (Hamlet-Atlanta) are SG. While the Eastover sub from Columbia to Sumter is AKA.

Who wants to see the work in progress map? Right now it’s missing the CNW, Soo, MP, and most of the Texas roads.
 
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post: 803639 said:
Though I read your point, I'd say that it depends a lot more than you give it credit for. For example, does reopening a second factory give you supply chain resiliency or potentially political leverage (e.g. negotiating for tax credits or with the union)?
If the "second factory" is the Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension, definitely not. No "supply chain resiliency" when you're adding a high-cost route. No leverage with any union because everyone knows that little or no traffic could be lost to the high-cost route because no one would want to pay to use it, especially when the lower-cost routes expanded to compete.

post: 803639 said:
Is the first factory's location badly constrained? Have demand patterns (or supply patterns) shifted to affect those costs? All of these questions have valid, serious analogies in the context of railroads...some routes simply can't be expanded (or can't be expanded at a reasonable cost) due to geographic and enviromental issues. Having network redundancy is a good thing (and something that the railroads have been ignoring in the chase to slash costs). And so on.
Redundancy is never a good thing. Adequate capacity is a good thing, and I hope that's what you meant. Yes, some routes have limitations on where they could be expanded, but the reality is that Snoqualmie Pass (Easton, WA to a connection to BNSF east of Auburn) would be the only location on the Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension that would qualify as being a palatable alternate route to a current route which could not be easily expanded. And one only hears these fantasies of rebuilding the Pacific Extension during times we hear of capacity issues on existing lines, but that has been far from continuous since the Pacific Extension went away in 1980. In fact, during most of the 1980s traffic was generally light, and even beyond that, the existing capacity has more often than not been adequate. This country should have a national transportation policy which includes adequate railroad infrastructure, but even if it did exist, it would be inefficient, costly, and ineffective for this policy to include maintaining or upgrading high-cost routes, and the Pacific Extension would be the epitome thereof.
 

Anderson

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Redundancy is never a good thing. Adequate capacity is a good thing, and I hope that's what you meant. Yes, some routes have limitations on where they could be expanded, but the reality is that Snoqualmie Pass (Easton, WA to a connection to BNSF east of Auburn) would be the only location on the Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension that would qualify as being a palatable alternate route to a current route which could not be easily expanded. And one only hears these fantasies of rebuilding the Pacific Extension during times we hear of capacity issues on existing lines, but that has been far from continuous since the Pacific Extension went away in 1980. In fact, during most of the 1980s traffic was generally light, and even beyond that, the existing capacity has more often than not been adequate. This country should have a national transportation policy which includes adequate railroad infrastructure, but even if it did exist, it would be inefficient, costly, and ineffective for this policy to include maintaining or upgrading high-cost routes, and the Pacific Extension would be the epitome thereof.
What I mean by "redundancy" is "dividing capacity in such a way that you reduce the risks of a single point of failure, probably involving a modicum of extra capacity that can be activated in a pinch". On the one hand, doing so generally carries an inherent inefficiency with it insofar as a single facility would often carry economies of scale. On the other hand [1], it avoids supply chain meltdowns due to anything situational. Also, having only "barely enough" capacity can easily lead to situations where something goes wrong and you're totally screwed, so there's something to be said for having perhaps 110-120% of "needed" capacity available. [2]

For Amtrak, the best examples of this would be maintaining a second major east-west gateway in the Midwest (St. Louis is usually mentioned as the second choice here). Yes, such would arguably be "redundant" with Chicago, but I think that history has shown that while there are benefits to consolidating operations into a single place, you accrue a large number of risks running from weather meltdowns that effectively kill the network for a few days at a run to problems surrounding the yards themselves in Chicago and labor issues with said yards.

It is true that you can't avoid all such risks (for example, there's no good way to have an alternative to some closely-located routes, such as the Salt Lake-Reno line or the Salt Lake-Las Vegas line, so a bridge washout or a "regional" problem there is a problem no matter what), but having such risks is never desirable.


[1] And avoiding a rather aggravated discussion of "irrational rationalization".
[2] It may be marginally more profitable not to have it, but not being able to "adjust fire", so to speak, can leave you up a creek.
 

Seaboard92

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Here is a great example of a railroad saving an out of service line just in case it’s needed.

Look at Norfolk Southern‘s ex Saluda Grade (Spartanburg, SC-Biltmore, NC). The steepest mainline grade of any railroad in the United States. Currently the center segment from Landrum, SC to somewhere a few miles south of Hendersonville, NC is out of service. While the areas north and south are in service for local freight. The reason NS is holding onto this is in case Old Fort (Salisbury-Asheville) has a major problem in the loops they can reactivate Saluda. A washout or major derailment in the loops would be hard to reach, and time consuming to repair. Whereas Saluda just requires turning the signals back on, and fixing one washout. The next reason they keep it they own a fiber optic cable under the rail line that is profitable.
 

neroden

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Most of the Milwaukee Road's eastern granger lines were, in fact, scrapped after the bankruptcy. I have a rather nice map of all of the ripped-out lines.

The Snoqualmie Pass route is absolutely what which would have been valuable. Nobody's ever going to add another track to Stevens Pass, and the Stampede Pass route once it gets out of the tunnel... well, um. Circuitous, isn't it? Good enough for slow freight, I guess.

But the value of the alternate route does extend all the way east to Montana. You may not realize is that it's becoming impossible to add another track to Sandpoint, where all the existing lines funnel together. The Milwaukee Road route wasn't the only alternative to Sandpoint, but the other alternatives were ripped out too. Freight is now diverted via Pocatello.

(The severance and demolition of both of the non-coastal routes north of Seattle (SLSE, NP) to the Stevens Pass makes the Stevens Pass problem *much* worse, of course. The coastal Great Northern route is a goner, doomed, no chance, and that will kill the utility of Stevens Pass.)
 

tomfuller

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Before Amtrak i remember going with my dad to go pick up my great aunt in Elmira NY. She got on the Phoebe Snow at the Port Authority in New York. I believe the train went onward across southern New York state to Buffalo. Phoebe wore white gloves because the locomotive used hard coal that burned clean.
The Phoebe Snow also had a stop in Scranton PA.
 

Seaboard92

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Fun fact the two observation cars from the Phoebe Snow are owned by Metro North and make up two of the three car office car special of theirs.
 
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What I mean by "redundancy" is "dividing capacity in such a way that you reduce the risks of a single point of failure, probably involving a modicum of extra capacity that can be activated in a pinch". On the one hand, doing so generally carries an inherent inefficiency with it insofar as a single facility would often carry economies of scale. On the other hand [1], it avoids supply chain meltdowns due to anything situational. Also, having only "barely enough" capacity can easily lead to situations where something goes wrong and you're totally screwed, so there's something to be said for having perhaps 110-120% of "needed" capacity available.
I agree. The problem is that we have no national transportation policy to facilitate this. Freight railroads are private infrastructure that costs money to maintain, so there is little incentive to keep extra capacity (i.e. no return on investment for stockholders). But say that there was some kind of entity that would maintain infrastructure like the Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension "just in case" (or "in a pinch" as you stated). Until "just in case" - with the exception of Snoqualmie Pass - it would not ever be used because the cost of operating over it when "just in case" is not occurring is too high. So someone would have to pay to maintain it to standards that would allow this "just in case" traffic to be handled "just in case." Then there would the really expensive proposition of repositioning and qualifying crews when the "just in case" happened, if it ever did. So, not a palatable situation (and really expensive). Overall, it would probably be more desirable to pay the low-cost railroad to operate a certain amount of traffic via the high-cost Milwaukee Road route just to have a crew base and other necessities in place "just in case." This all gets to be a pretty expensive and dicey proposition. The "just in case" scenario has merit IF the alternative is not a very high-cost route. Otherwise, it's just too expensive overall and would require a major shift in American transportation policy that we will like not be able to change. In the mean time, it's simply logical to add a capacity to low-cost routes. The good news is that things have changed a lot from even 40 years ago when there was a major wreck, and the notification went out to "Call the Hook" in reference to on-track derricks necessary to rerail heavy equipment. Nowadays, even the most nasty derailments are open within 24 to 36 hours which equates to the cost in delays being much less than maintaining a higher-cost route in perpetuity "just in case."
 
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Most of the Milwaukee Road's eastern granger lines were, in fact, scrapped after the bankruptcy. I have a rather nice map of all of the ripped-out lines.
I have a large collection of Official Guides from the 1980s back to the 1940s, so I am very familiar with the devolution of the Milwaukee Road and other granger lines that abandoned many many branch lines in the Midwest. But your original statement was that the Pacific Extension was the part that should have been kept instead. The reality is that the core part east of Terry, Montana that was kept after 1980 is pretty much still in use today. The "eastern granger" routes that were abandoned would have been gone regardless of other circumstances surrounding the Pacific Extension, much in the same way large swaths of the C&NW, CRI&P, and even CB&Q in Missouri and Iowa disappeared.

The Snoqualmie Pass route is absolutely what which would have been valuable. Nobody's ever going to add another track to Stevens Pass, and the Stampede Pass route once it gets out of the tunnel... well, um. Circuitous, isn't it? Good enough for slow freight, I guess.
Snoqualmie Pass is indeed the lone part of the Milwaukee which should have been kept. Indeed, it is good enough for "slow freight." And also for heavy freight, which is more of a priority than "fast freight" though the Milwaukee's infrastructure wasn't really great for that, either. That's why in 1961, the NP North Coast Limited and MILW Olympian Hiawatha were scheduled to depart Missoula at the same time (well, 1 minute apart) and though the NP route was 99 miles more, the North Coast Limited still was faster between Missoula and Ellensburg. Circuity can be an observation by looking at a map, but actually operating characteristics are all that matter.

But the value of the alternate route does extend all the way east to Montana. You may not realize is that it's becoming impossible to add another track to Sandpoint, where all the existing lines funnel together. The Milwaukee Road route wasn't the only alternative to Sandpoint, but the other alternatives were ripped out too. Freight is now diverted via Pocatello.
You might not realize that BNSF is going full steam ahead to add another track across the lake at Sandpoint. I have no idea about the Pocatello comment other than UP's route to the Pacific Northwest is easily competitive with that of the Milwaukee, as is the UP-CP route via Eastport/Kingsgate, which is used to move products like North Dakota grain and crude to the Pacific Northwest also on a much operationally-superior route to that of the Milwaukee Road.

(The severance and demolition of both of the non-coastal routes north of Seattle (SLSE, NP) to the Stevens Pass makes the Stevens Pass problem *much* worse, of course. The coastal Great Northern route is a goner, doomed, no chance, and that will kill the utility of Stevens Pass.)
Goner? Doomed? No Chance? The Bellingham sub can see 20+ trains a day and that BNSF has raised the clearances in the tunnels south of Bellingham to eventually take some Deltaport container business away from CN and CP means that someone at BNSF thinks Stevens Pass still has utility, especially as they also explore technologies that can ameliorate some of the tunnel flush issues.

Beyond that, I agree in general that truncating the ex-NP between Black River and Sedro-Woolley was stupid. But its proximity and operating characteristics are much different than the Milwaukee Pacific Extension. In other words, and staying "on point": The discussion is not that all abandonments were justified, but some were, with the MILW Pacific Extension being a prime example.
 

Rover

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I'd like to travel by train from DFW to Galveston Island.
 

neroden

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I did leave information out.

The water level route north of Seattle is toast. BNSF, Sounder, Amtrak, and the state are still in denial, but it's hopeless. The continual mudslides are bad enough, but sea level rise dooms it. It is basically built on the beach, at the bottom of the cliff, with no room to move it horizontally.

The Hudson Line has similar issues but it's a river so it is above sea level; same with the lines which parallel the Mississippi. The NEC has a few trouble spots but they could be moved inland or elevated. The Coast Line to San Diego is mostly at the top of the cliffs and a lot of it is inland, and it is being raised.

The line north of Seattle is simply going to be in the ocean, and it will make no sense to try to build a gigantic causeway in the middle of the ocean. It is sunk within 20 years, and it will be interesting to see how they try to reroute the freight. Probably to trucks. That's what happened to New England when the last railroad bridge across the Hudson south of Albany burned. Or maybe to Stampede Pass.

Passengers will most likely go via Portland, which is all at higher elevations.


BNSF's new Sandpoint track is probably the last possible; environmental clearances for it were not easy. Of course this is also putting all eggs in one basket. PacNW traffic to Montana can be severed entirely in preety much one spot.

Of course, none of this was known during the abandonment era, and even if known, private company management would not have cared about it, so I agree with you that some long term strategic national thinking should have been happening. And was not.

From a private management POV, the MILW had not yet ditched all the no-good eastern branch lines when they broke their connection to the West Coast. Maybe this was the vagaries of the ICC, or maybe it was the management, but it was the wrong priority order.
 
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Tirnipgreen

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I would love to see train service from Atlanta to Orlando. Orlando (Disney) is the #1 family vacation destination on the planet and Atlanta is the largest city in the southeast. Maybe Atlanta to Macon to Savannah, then transfer to Silver Star / Silver Meteor...? I can dream, can't I...?
 

Tirnipgreen

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Greensboro / High Point to Asheville. The State of North Carolina promotes rail travel and the service is wonderful. I see real potential in service to the Asheville / Biltmore area.
 

Seaboard92

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If they wouldn’t have downgraded the NS S line to 25 mph that would have had potential. And the state of NC was working on it for some time. Now they seam to be only focused on the Piedmont corridor.
 
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