Did the Eisenhower Admin. consider dedicated Long Distance Passenger Rail

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Rover, Nov 4, 2019.

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Nov 4, 2019 #1

    Rover

    Rover

    Rover

    Lead Service Attendant AU Supporter

    Joined:
    May 13, 2015
    Messages:
    491
    Location:
    N. Texas
    Did the Eisenhower Administration consider dedicated Long Distance Coast To Coast Passenger Rail lines that could have been integrated into the building of the Defense Highway System?? Was it debated or discussed at the time??

    This was my best guess for this sub-forum for this historical question. If the Mods think it would be better served in another area, please feel free to move it.
     
  2. Nov 4, 2019 #2

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,341
    Location:
    Virginia
    My understanding is that while there may have been some folks pushing this way under Truman, in general the railroads had a pretty bad name in several areas. The service was pretty darned good and it wasn't until Japan premiered the shinkansen later in the 1950s that what we'd now call HSR was seriously considered an option. More to the point, all of those streamlined Budds that Amtrak was using up until...well, last year...were paid for by their money. So there would have been no obvious public policy reason to invest in that direction when the private sector seemed to be doing just fine at the time. Don't forget...this is still in a timeframe when the railroads could (in theory) have taken a serious run at "righting the ship" on their end (and a few did sincerely take a stab at it).
     
    cirdan likes this.
  3. Nov 4, 2019 #3

    Tom Booth

    Tom Booth

    Tom Booth

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2019
    Messages:
    24
    Absolutely agree. Also, railroads often had little flexibility in changing or dropping their routes. They needed gov't approval which, in theory, wasn't a problem. However, RR regulators were not adequately factoring in the problems posed to the RR's by the newly created interstate highway system and the increased use of planes. Thus the gov't unwittingly greased the skids for the demise of passenger rails. And this also ensured that the U.S. would become a car dependent country.
     
  4. Nov 4, 2019 #4

    Rover

    Rover

    Rover

    Lead Service Attendant AU Supporter

    Joined:
    May 13, 2015
    Messages:
    491
    Location:
    N. Texas
    Yes, the Admin., the Govt. surely knew how commercial aviation would expand with the coming jet age. Did they just not care about that, and expected everyone to migrate to roads and planes?? Someone was out to insure that passenger rail travel, especially LD, would just go away. Why?? Who pushed for this?? Who are the culprits?? Do we know??
     
  5. Nov 4, 2019 #5

    ehbowen

    ehbowen

    ehbowen

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2011
    Messages:
    2,136
    Location:
    Houston, Texas
    [Unsuccessful attempt to insert Devil emojis]
    Oh, and his agents from General Motors...
     
    Pere Flyer likes this.
  6. Nov 4, 2019 #6

    Tom Booth

    Tom Booth

    Tom Booth

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2019
    Messages:
    24
    I'm not so sure this was conspiratorial or even intentional. But it certainly wasn't farsighted. Gov't just went with the flow of technological change, amd maybe pushed by GM and the oil industry. There was little push back in the late 1950's and 1960's.
     
    cirdan likes this.
  7. Nov 4, 2019 #7

    MikefromCrete

    M

    MikefromCrete

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2009
    Messages:
    2,559
    Location:
    Crete, IL
    As far as I know, the Eisenhower administration focused on the Interstate highway system. Since the railroads were privately owned, they were left to their own devices to provide the passenger trains they were required to run by the Interstate Commerce Commission. Many railroads tried hard to compete, but the lure of the Interstates and later jet airplanes was too much. The removal of mail from the rails was the last straw and cut, cut, cut was the mode everywhere, which eventually led to the creation of Amtrak.
     
    Dakota 400 likes this.
  8. Nov 4, 2019 #8

    cirdan

    cirdan

    cirdan

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2011
    Messages:
    2,324
    I think from the perspective of the time, it looked as if railroads were in a long term decline with no hope of recovery.
    Sometimes such thinking can become a self fulfilling prophecy.
    I don't think there was an intentional malicious attempt to kill them but just the belief that they didn't figure in future transportation scenarios, and just weren't worth discussing any further.

    A bit like planning for future communications infrastructure today without considering landline telephones. Is that a conspiracy or just bowing to the obvious?
     
    jiml likes this.
  9. Nov 4, 2019 #9

    LookingGlassTie

    LookingGlassTie

    LookingGlassTie

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2016
    Messages:
    467
    Location:
    Portsmouth, VA
    I agree with this.

    Also, as far as the oil industry goes, I'm pretty sure that it was pushing the automobile really hard. But I think it was more because that's the mode of ground transportation that consumers in general were seeking. Would the oil companies have profited from passenger rail service if that's what the people wanted instead? I"m almost certain that they would have, given that passenger trains use petroleum in some form or another. In short, whether the average Joe wanted a car or to ride a passenger train, the oil industry was probably going to follow that trend because that's where most of its profits would come from.
     
    Pere Flyer and cirdan like this.
  10. Nov 4, 2019 #10

    John Bobinyec

    John Bobinyec

    John Bobinyec

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2009
    Messages:
    1,692
    Location:
    CYN
    I can recommend an interesting book about the creation of the Interstate Highway System:

    "Divided Highways"
    By Tom Lewis
    Penguin Books

    jb
     
    Pere Flyer likes this.
  11. Nov 4, 2019 #11

    John Bredin

    John Bredin

    John Bredin

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Messages:
    661
    Location:
    suburban Chicago (Buffalo Grove)
    I would add that, as new superhighways (freeways, expressways, tollways, etc.) opened in the 1950s, commuters in metropolitan areas shifted in droves to the highways. They were new and relatively traffic-free, while commuter trains often used hand-me-down equipment from intercity trains going streamliner: non-air-conditioned coaches from the 1920s pulled by dilapidated steam engines.

    However, by the mid-1960s -- after Ike, of course -- those highways were no longer quite so traffic-free within those metropolitan areas, and people started to regret putting all the government's eggs in the highway basket. Federal efforts at funding transit projects (notwithstanding New Deal-era projects) started in the mid-60s. As I recall, Federal intercity passenger rail infrastructure projects (again, not including the New Deal) also began in the mid-60s. In other words, I don't think the government was anti-rail as much as it was slow and fitful in taking up any pro-rail policies, and definitely not until the Johnson Administration.

    The classic example is the North Shore; that is, the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee interurban. Between the Edens Expressway and some improvements to the Chicago & North Western commuter operation, the North Shore bled passengers in the 1950s and 60s despite the postwar development of the North Shore suburbs. However, not long after the North Shore railroad ceased passenger operations, the Federal government contributed funds for the Chicago Transit Authority to buy the last few miles of the North Shore line leading into the CTA trackage and operate it as the Skokie Swift, now the CTA's Yellow Line. Some still look with regret and ask wistfully what if the North Shore had held on until then, maybe more of it (or even the whole thing as it existed by the 60s!) might have continued in operation with some government help.
     
    Pere Flyer, Tom Booth, cirdan and 2 others like this.
  12. Nov 5, 2019 #12

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

    OBS Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2004
    Messages:
    720
    Location:
    QB 101
    As noted by prior respondents, there was no national 'foresight' into creating some kind of national LD network while they were creating the Interstate Highway system. Even by the mid 1950s, trains were in a downward spiral. The newest and latest, greatest 'gadget' was the Interstate. And remember it was intended to facilitate military transport in emergencies, much like the railroads did in World War II. It also opened the era of relatively cheap, reliable truck transport of goods that today remains the best in the world.

    Perhaps the only rail travel foresight in the 1950s and 1960s that happened was that of Richard J Daley who was mayor of Chicago from 1955 until 1975 or so. His 'vision' was that as they were designing the Interstate highways into and out from Chicago, leave a right of way in the median for rapid transit. Today, there's rapid transit down the middle of almost all of Chicagos' freeways carrying thousands and thousands of commuters each day. Interestingly, I was just in Denver a couple months ago and discovered they are now have freeways with rail transit alongside the freeways. Mayor Daley had his faults, but he certainly did right for Chicagos' commuters.
     
    Pere Flyer, Tom Booth, cirdan and 2 others like this.
  13. Nov 5, 2019 #13

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,341
    Location:
    Virginia
    I think there's also a hidden unintended consequence from the ICC system: Railroads couldn't just trial a new service and kill it if it didn't work out (either repurposing the equipment for that service or selling it to someone else), meaning that I suspect as early as the late 1940s railroads had some impressive trains planned that they simply didn't roll out lest they get stuck with money-losing premium trains that they had to battle to discontinue. The Chessie comes to mind, and there was another Rock Island-SP California train that ran into the same fate when the 79 MPH mandate hit them on the head.

    Also, the 79 MPH mandate seems to have been one of the more impressive cases of agency mismanagement. The ICC had been pushing railroads to pursue something akin to ATS/PTC as late as the 1920s and required a bunch of them to "trial" it on at least one line. However, almost nobody "bit" beyond that. When that crash happened in Naperville (one train rear-ended another), the ICC imposed a 79 MPH speed limit on unimproved routes after X date, expecting the railroads to pay for the improvements. Instead, they mostly just cut speeds/padded timetables. Gee, a safety mandate gone wrong...who would've thunk it? ;-)

    Pull that one (sincerely well-intentioned) mandate away and let railroads plan to run at 100-110 in the 1950s and 1960s and I suspect things look a lot different. GM may have done a lot of bad stuff, but this particular mandate, which basically forced railroads down to highway speed, probably did more damage than anything else since it made it effectively impossible for railroads to keep reducing runtimes. Don't forget that the Pennsy and NYC were still trimming runtimes on the Broadway Limited and Twentieth Century Limited until the mid-1950s (the Broadway bottomed out at 15:30, I believe). Absent that mandate (and the resulting wreckage) it isn't hard to envision some further timetable massaging that could have forced the Broadway down to 15:00 (which would, incidentally, start to make a NYC-Chicago day train a viable option). I suspect there's a pretty good case for the railroads and Budd, Pullman-Standard, and ACF to have put some effort into something in that vein if they could avoid the "lightweight problem", but the speed limit arguably put that out pretty hard.
     
    daybeers, Pere Flyer, Rover and 2 others like this.
  14. Nov 5, 2019 #14

    Tom Booth

    Tom Booth

    Tom Booth

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2019
    Messages:
    24
    Thanks for that. I hadn't known about the 79 mph and the consequences it wrought. A lot of unintended consequences.
     
    daybeers likes this.
  15. Nov 5, 2019 #15

    jloewen

    j

    jloewen

    Train Attendant

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2009
    Messages:
    37
    As late as the late 1960s, maybe later, the IL Central (and maybe early Amtrak) ra two trains between CHI and NOLA that were (tied) for the title of the second-fastest passenger trains in the US. (Ironically, the Santa Fe Chief, CHI to LA, was fastest.) Between Centralia and Mattoon, IL, they were scheduled at 81 MPH. Once I was aboard when it made up 15 minutes on that stretch. I did the math; we were traveling between 100 and 115.
     
    Pere Flyer and Tom Booth like this.
  16. Nov 5, 2019 #16

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7,350
    Location:
    South Florida
    I wouldn't blame GM entirely...after all, Their 1947 "Train of Tomorrow", showed the railroad industry what a "state-of-the-art" long distance passenger train could be.
    And their EMD division repowered the nationwide fleet of passenger trains into the twentieth century...
     
  17. Nov 6, 2019 #17

    Anderson

    A

    Anderson

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2010
    Messages:
    9,341
    Location:
    Virginia
    True, but this is also from a time when it was easy to just disable the speedometers if a train was late. I've heard anecdotal stories on this front regarding late trains in Florida.

    Also, don't forget that the Southwest Chief has also generally has had the ability to do >79 in parts of the west.
     
  18. Nov 9, 2019 #18

    Woodcut60

    W

    Woodcut60

    Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2015
    Messages:
    242
    Location:
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Very interesting read, this thread, for a history buff like me. Thanks.
     

Share This Page



arrow_white