Trains, Trains, and More Trains!

Photo by Vmenkov. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Vmenkov. Some rights reserved.

In college, it was a petty dream of mine to travel across the country by train: writing by day in the cabins while America passed by in an amber blur outside my window, spending nights in the lounge car drinking scotch with mysterious strangers. Then I started to look into how much time and financial capital such an adventure would take and, well, the idea sort of fell by the wayside, and every summer I ended up traveling by car or plane, and never by train.

Recent reports on the depressing state of train travel in the U.S. only seem to confirm my fears about this outdated yet perennially romantic form of transportation. But oh, what the future may hold! Earlier this year, Grist posted a tantalizing fantasy of what a high speed, cross country rail system could look like, and boy does it look appealing. Seattle to San Francisco in four hours? Yes please! With Obama moving forward with plans to develop a high speed rail project, it does seem like there is a place for optimism regarding the future of our beloved trains.

Which leads us to Amtrak, the titan of American train travel. Earlier this year, Amtrak issued a Request for Information with the California High-Speed Rail Authority seeking to purchase high-speed trains that are currently in production, which report safe operating speeds of up to 220 mph (exactly the speed used to create the map linked to above!). While we’re still a long way from actually using said trains, it was an exciting development.

This week, Amtrak announced that they’d be replacing trains in the Northeast Corridor (by far their most popular region) for the first time in decades, with new Amtrak Cities Sprinter models that are, according to Wired, capable of speeds up to 125 mph (not quite up to 220, but getting warmer!) while pulling as many as 18 rail cars. Additionally (finally, we’re getting to the environmental stuff), these new models feature hi-tech braking systems that can return electricity back into energy, therefore saving up to $300 million in energy costs over the next two decades, according to Amtrak themselves.

These high-speed, high-efficiency trains offer exciting possibilities for the future of travel in America, especially to those young Americans with time and energy constraints who dream of a Sal Paradisian romp across this wild country.

One response to this post.

  1. […] many have expressed surprise at, considering the much higher speculative figures associated with other high rail projects currently being batted around, specifically the California high-speed rail project currently in […]


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