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May 04, 2008

Slow train trip to St. Louis

Recently, my granddaughter and I took Amtrak to St. Louis for a family event. It’s a darned good thing we weren’t in a big hurry.

By the grace of God and the tender mercies of the Union Pacific, it only took us six hours and 35 minutes to get from Independence to Kirkwood. We arrived an hour and 40 minutes late. By my calculation, we averaged a ballast-scorching 38 miles per hour between our state’s two major metropolitan areas.

I would suspect that 60 years ago someone would have found themselves called on the division superintendent’s carpet for taking the currently scheduled time of four hours and 47 minutes with one of the Missouri Pacific’s Eagles. The consequences of the time it took us would have been too terrible to contemplate.

If gasoline approaching $4 a gallon is a problem, the passenger rail service is not a very good solution.

Ross Warnell


Stifled Freedom

Every form of transportation is going to slow down. People will drive slower to save gas. We saw today in the news that airlines are slowing the planes to save fuel. High fuel is putting the sloooooow down on all transportation.


I took Amtrak to Chicago last fall and absolutely loved it. Took about the same time as driving, but a LOT more comfortable. Only about $50 one-way. By far the most comfortable way to travel.

Missouri just approved some money to improve the Amtrak route to St Louis. I think it was about $8 mil, which is a JOKE compared to the $4 Bil we spend on roads, but it's supposed to address the issue with the track from KC to St Louis. It would be nice if they'd just pony up the money for an additional track so Amtrak wouldn't have to yield to freight trains, but it'll probably take $10/gal gas before that's a real possibility. So I guess I'll just have to wait a year or two ;-)

Chris, I understand your point about our low population density, I used to use that argument myself when I was against expanding rail. The thing is, rail is already cheaper than air or trucks for hauling cargo, and it was cheaper in many cases even when oil was $20/barrel. The main problem with rail is they've never lobbied as successfully as the airlines and automotive companies. Nobody can know this for sure, but my best guess is that if we poured $100 of billions/yr into subsidizing rail travel instead of highway travel, we could have a system superior to the European rail network. If people could hop on a bullet train in KC and be on either coast in 4-6 hours (without all the hassle involved with flying, security check points, cramped conditions, etc.), I don't think a lot of people would miss our current system.

Maybe I'm just naive to think Americans can design a rail system as well as the Europeans.


I've taken this same train before, and I probably won't do so again. It is more pleasant than flying and more relaxing than driving, but the time it takes just makes it impractical. I don't know if trains and the wide-open spaces of the Western US will ever be a viable travel option.


Passenger trains must give way to freight trains on all tracks. Be prepared to take awhile if you ride Amtrack.


If it were me, I would savor that extra hour and forty minutes with my granddaughter. Trains are no longer operated for passenger travel. I recently took a bullet train in France at 160 mph. I can't tell you anything special about the trip except the blur of the countryside that looked like an impressionist painting. Relax, you'll get to your final destination soon enough.


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