Gadfly wrote:passenger trains are a losing proposition.
What fascinating stories about the Southern Crescent- I'd definitely like to hear more some time! That was the first train I ever took, all the way to Route 128 in the mid-'70s.
Maybe we're talking past each other? If I were Norfolk Southern, I'd definitely not run my own passenger trains for my own profit and loss. I'm not talking about running another intercity train as a Norfolk Southern train.
Rather, I'm talking about bidding on a contract issued by a commuter railroad or the like by which the commuter railroad pays a private operator cash to staff and run the commuter railroad's passenger trains, like CSX apparently does for Virginia Railway Express. The MBTA in Boston also contracts its trains out to for-profit operators. The risk of any losses, as far as I know, is not on the private operator; it's on the commuter railroad.
There are plenty of Norfolk Southern routes used by commuter trains and the like- including some NJ Transit lines and parts of the Piedmont route in North Carolina. It might be a tough battle, but I'd think that Norfolk Southern could approach NJ Transit and the NCDOT and say, "pay us $x and we'll staff and operate your commuter trains for you, using your equipment and under your logo, for less than you're spending now."
Thanks. It's just that I *lived* it and was fortunate enough to be a part of what was a tough, but interesting railroad which, of course, survives today in partnership with NW. We know it as Norfolk Southern. Part of that career was within NS and it became much more brutal and hard-nosed as it progressed. I worked under people who got their tails chewed raw by DW Brosnan! And Brosnan's hand (or influence) was still clearly there even in the early 80's with people like John Stubbs, Superintendent, Maintenance Equipment. I found Southern's discipline to be strict, familarly militaristic, but fair. So long as you did your work, stayed busy, produced results, you would never hear a word out of him. Yet, you just knew
by his demeanor that he meant what he said, and that he'd "gitcha" if you messed up.
Part of a very diversified career was spend at Southern's Roadway Shops where many innovations in track technology were developed. it was nothing to see men like Mr Jack Parks (another Brosnan prodigy) down on their knees with lumber chalk drawing out diagrams for track machines. This occurred in the back shop floor where they experimented with automation and changes to Tampers, Track Brooms, Ballast Regulators. They would set barrels around these "works of art" and woe be unto anyone who happened to drive over one with a fork lift or tow tractor!!! They'd try a new thing, and if it didn't work, they went back to their knees, in the backshop floor, and tried something else. Parks knew track machines like the back of his hand! He was a walking encyclopedia of track machine technology and was part of the original team that developed many of the track machine improvements that were developed in the 50's-60's era. I knew most of those guys. And was SCARED of most of them!
Jack really got on me one time, but it was more irritation about something that was going wrong, not really something that *I* had done. But that's another story....................................................................
The Crescent was part of my early career. One of the nice things was "trip passes". I didn't have enough time in for a permanent pass, but I could ask my supervisor for a trip pass and go anywhere on the Crescent route for free. So my wife and I would go up to Washington, DC, catching the train in Gastonia, NC and spend days sightseeing. All it cost us was food and incidentals, bedroom extra. Half the time, and if a "strange" trainmaster wasn't on board, the conductor would ignore me and not even ask for my pass: after all, they knew I was an employee so why bother. Sometimes I would go all the way up to the engines into the cab and ride over my Division.
The point of all this is, yeah, it was fun, interesting, and I was able to arrive at a time in the industry when I was able to experience a dying part of railroading: passenger trains. In that twilight, I handed up orders, handled baggage, rode the trains, ate in the dining car with crisp linens and fancy china, saw dignified waiters with towels over their arms, rode in sparkling green 'n gold E8's (just a big Chevy really), held my ears as I walked thru the engine rooms (LOUD at 79 MPH!). And I wouldn't take anything for the experiences. But passenger trains, along with those memories, are DEAD. You can FORCE anything into being if you want it bad enough, but is it REALLY worth the effort? Is it that a few of us think that passenger trains, except for the highly populated northeast corridor, are truly needed? OR is it actually what I think it is: the irrational love of trains that would have us run almost empty trains over long distances simply so a foamer can stand out there and watch 'em by? People don't RIDE trains in sufficient numbers over long distances to justify them! Local commuter in population-dense areas? YES! They are already doing it. Long distance? NO! it is simply a political football.
Let the freight railroads decide if they want to foul up their lines with passenger. They WON'T so long as they can HELP it. And, btw, Norfolk Southern is by no means "poor"; they do take advantage of "other people's money" if offered. Who wouldn't? But I know NS pretty well, too. They are just as likely to tell the government to go **** themselves, too! They don't NEED anybody's "help"!