America’s Railroads: Saving Lives, Oil, Pollution & Time
By James P. Tucker Jr.
The more that American railroads are used for transporting people and cargo, the more lives, oil and time will be saved. Passenger train travel was popular prior to World War II when cozy “sleeper cabins,” rolling restaurants and fancy “club cars” made travel a pleasant experience.
With construction of the Interstate Highway System under President Dwight Eisenhower, passenger train travel dropped off. But with millions more automobiles on today’s highways, the Interstate system—which needs constant, costly maintenance and repairs—has become cluttered, reigniting the use of passenger train travel. Rail travel is popular not only for its ease and reasonable speed but also for its views.
On pre-Interstate highways, Americans enjoyed the scenery while traveling: Reading the advertising signs, watching cows graze and admiring big red barns. On passenger trains, they again can enjoy such scenery.
Our highways would be noticeably relieved of excessive traffic if rail transportation of goods, as well as passengers, could be more widely used. An automobile would have to get more than 300 miles per gallon to use energy as efficiently as rail. One train can take as many as 250 to 300 delivery trucks off the road.
What is more efficient than a steel wheel on a steel rail?
Last year, federal authorities said that just under 34,000 Americans died on the highways (somewhat down from previous years). Several hundred thousand are injured on the roads each year. Increased passenger-train usage will save lives and reduce injuries, especially if more railroad overpasses are built so the trains can be routed over roads and highways and not intersect directly with automobile traffic.
Reducing highway traffic, over time, could significantly help the United States reduce its dependency on foreign oil, too. Overcoming the overly zealous restrictions on offshore drilling and allowing more onshore drilling in vast, oil-rich parts of Alaska and at greater North Dakota’s Bakken Formation, to name just a couple examples, would complete the job. Nor would it hurt to use more bio-fuels from various sources.
Radical environmentalists advocate clean air, but they seem blissfully unaware that today’s trains do not emit pollution like they did when Jesse James robbed them. Every mile that today’s low-pollution, diesel-electric trains travel reduces air pollution by cars and trucks. Some train systems, like the inter-urban South Shore Line that connects northern Indiana with Chicago, are purely electric.
Train enthusiast Patrick Lawless noted that today’s commonly used diesel-electric engines caught on in the late 1930s: “At this time many cities had started fining the railroads for excessive smoke production.
All the smoke from steam engines really made life difficult for inner-city dwellers and workers. After they had run . . . diesel switchers for a while, they started to notice the economics of these engines. . . .”
In the 1950s, I traveled by train from Washington, D.C. every March for the important mission of reporting on the Washington Senators baseball club during spring training. Credit cards were not so common, so newspapers gave you advance expense money in cash. Reporters would reserve a seat only, not a cabin with a bunk, so they would have more bucks to spend frivolously.
After boarding, reporters would go to the club car to imbibe and swap lies. Without fail, a reporter would be offered a free bed by a man traveling alone who had a double-decker cabin. Ah, how I yearn for the good ol’ days.
AFP editor James P. Tucker Jr. is a veteran journalist who spent many years as a member of the “elite” media in Washington. Since 1975 he has won widespread recognition, here and abroad, for his pursuit of on-the-scene stories reporting the intrigues of global power blocs such as the Bilderberg Group. Tucker is the author of Jim Tucker’s Bilderberg Diary: One Man’s 25-Year Battle to Shine the Light on the World Shadow Government. Bound in an attractive full-color softcover and containing 272 pages—loaded with photos, many never published before—the book recounts Tucker’s experiences over the last quarter century at Bilderberg meetings. $25 from AFP. No charge for S&H in U.S.
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(Issue # 46, November 15, 2010)