by David Benton
Arborwayfan wrote: ↑Fri Jun 26, 2020 4:17 pm I've always wondered what would have happened with the program if Amtrak had gone to the host railroads with a plan to haul high-priority, high-priced freight in partnership with the railroads. The railroads could have solicited the freight and just added the Amtrak trains to their list of options for shipping. Amtrak could have moved the freight between certain cities, maybe as just one of the long-haul legs of the freight's journey. Everyone could have gotten a division of the rates paid. The railroads would have had a slightly bigger incentive to keep Amtrak trains on time and could have gotten a little more revenue by luring some customers away from trucks -- by essentially hiring Amtrak to provide unit intermodal-train schedules for carload freight. Some customers might have decided to move their less urgent freight from truck to ordinary freight trains once they had invested the time and money in rail loading facilities and procedures. And either everyone could have been happy or the whole thing could have been a money-losing waste of time and died a quick death, but at least Amtrak would not have seemed sneaky and the host railroads would not have cried foul.Exactly right , been saying that for years .
As for the idea of a dedicated mail car carrying letters etc between two cities, isn't that one of the things Amtrak used to do? I remember seeing mail cars sitting in Penn Station, and maybe even being added to my train when I went through on the old Night Owl. A conductor told me they got first-class mail on that route. Same thing for Boston and Chicago, where the post offices were right there and had their own platforms. Until zip codes and central sorting facilities the mail system was a kind of web, with RPOs doing a lot of the intercity hauling and sorting a lot of the mail esp mail from smaller online towns. In the 60s the USPS moved to a more hub-and-spoke system with somewhat centralized sorting, and the RPOs no longer fit the logic of the system (NEC and Lake Winnepasuke aside). First-class mail started to go by truck for shorter distances and plane for longer ones, as it does today. (At least I think first-class mail from coast to coast and other long distances goes by plane. I suppose it could go from Indiana to Utah by ground in two days, which is about what it usually takes.) In the 80s and 90s Amtrak functioned as one of the intercity mail contractors between stations where the post office was set up to easily handle mail, just as if it was a truck. Since then, the Post Office has further centralized sorting and with it reduced the number of post offices that have direct shipments of mail between them. E.g. Terre Haute twelve years ago was a sorting center; our mail got postmarked here and sent out. I had a tour of the main PO and saw that a semi of mail was due in from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Now our mail is sorted in Indy, even if it's sent from Terre Haute to Terre Haute, because this is, or appears, cheaper. No more semis of mail from C-U to TH. Does that change make using Amtrak trains less convenient? No idea. It does mean even more mail on some routes between the major hubs, and rail is more attractive when quantities are larger. I am pretty sure some of the trucking contractors send their mail trailers on intermodal trains.