After studying and reading about old Amtrak service, I get the sense I was born in the wrong era to be a train lover. I also hear a lot about trains being slower today than in the past as there is more gridlock. So I wanted to find out how much a difference there is today from the past.
I will compare schedules of trains from three different years, 1979 (schedule July 29, 1979, before Carter cuts), January 1995 when I first took the Broadway Limited (schedule October 30, 1994, last full year of BL) and 2015 (Winter/Spring 2016 schedule) to see how much of a difference through the years there is.
Schedules are as always based on timetables.org.
New York to Chicago:
1979: (BL) 3:00pm to 9:05am next day (19:05) or (LSL) 6:45pm (Grand Central Terminal) to 3:10pm next day (21:25)
1995: (BL) 12:45pm to 7:55am next day (20:10) or (LSL) 7:10pm to 12:58pm next day (18:45)
2015: (LSL) 3:40pm to 9:45am next day (19:05)
Ironically it appears the LSL took longer in 1979 than it does today. Was the 1979 schedule a misprint? The BL was faster in 1979 but the LSL was faster in 1995.
Chicago to Los Angeles via SL/SWC:
1979: (Southwest Limited): 6:30pm to 9:05am 2 days later (40:35)
1995: (SWC) 5:00pm to 8:15am 2 days later (41:15)
2015: (SWC) 3:00pm to 8:15am 2 days later (43:15)
Today's train is 2 hr slower than 1995 and 2:40 slower than 1979. Pretty negligible considering a trip of 43:15 today.
Chicago to Dallas
1979: (Inter-American) 11:15am to 7:30am next day (20:15)
1995: (TE) 5:45pm to 2:24pm next day (20:39)
2015: (TE) 1:45pm to 11:30am next day (21:45)
Today's train is 1:30 slower than 1979 and 1:06 slower than 1995.
Today's train is
Philadelphia to Orlando via SS (SM in 1979 skipped ORL):
1979: 10:40am to 7:48am next day (21:08)
1995: 12:49pm to 10:05am next day (21:16)
2015: 12:35pm to 10:06am next day (21:31)
Philadelphia to Chicago
1979: (BL) 4:22pm (North Philadelphia) or 4:25pm (through cars from WAS) to 9:05am next day (17:40)
1995: (BL) 2:57pm to 7:55am next day (17:58)
2015: (NER 95/CL) 12:02pm or 12:42pm (Pennsylvanian/CL) to 8:45am next day (21:03/21:43)
A 3-4 hr. difference from the old days. I wonder why.
Philadelphia to Los Angeles:
1979: (NL/SWL): 7:00pm to 9:05am 3 days later (64:05)
1995: (BL/SWC) 2:57pm to 8:15am 3 days later (67:18)
2015: (NER 95/CL/SWC 12:02pm or 12:42pm (Pennsylvanian/CL/SWC) to 8:15am 3 days later (69:33/70:13)
A 2-3 hr difference from 1995 but a 5.5-6 hr difference from 1979 as transferring in KCY made for a quicker trip. Then again, this is 5.5 hr out of a 70 hr trip.
Chicago to Orlando:
1979: (Floridian) 9:30pm to 9:05am 2 days later (34:35)
1995: (CL/SS) 6:25pm to 10:05am 2 days later (38:40)
2015: (CL/SS) 6:40pm to 10:06am 2 days later (38:26)
The transfer added about four hours to the trip between 1979 and 1995.
Among the trains where the route is the same as in 1979/1995, there was little change in trip times. But for those trips where a transfer was added or a different transfer was required, the additional time was more significant.
As much as I complain about transfers (and wrote a post about missed connections), at the very least transfers add time on to trips. A 5.5 hr difference on a formerly 65 hr trip probably isn't that much but a 3-4 hr difference on a trip that used to take 18 hrs is making the trip about 16% longer.