Yes, save the trains!

Narp launched a “Rally for Trains” campaign that saw events last month across the country, from Portland, Oregon, to Miami, Florida, via Wausau, Wisconsin.

One rally was in Alpine, a west Texas town of about 6,000 people in Brewster County – an area bigger than Connecticut that gave 53% of its votes to Trump in the 2016 presidential election. A Trump-Pence Make America Great Again poster is fixed to a balcony above a store opposite the station along one of Alpine’s main drags, which could pass for a western film set but for a Thai food truck.

Inside the smart waiting room – which has a mural of a ticket office window in lieu of an actual ticket office – Gwynne Jamieson wielded a placard that read: “Trump promised more infrastructure, we get less? Save Alpine’s Amtrak!”

Yes.

The next nearest Amtrak station, Sanderson, is 85 miles away. The loss of a service used by about 5,000 people a year,

Ah, well, umm, no actually. What are we talking about, 10 people a day or summat?

Close the damn thing.

40 thoughts on “Yes, save the trains!”

  1. Lefties love trains. It appeals to their “you’ll go where we tell you, when we tell you” mindset (I had one train-nerd argue that cars were “inefficient” because people could go where they wanted when they wanted), and they are massive money sponges ripe for a bit of public subsidy.

    Also, in the UK of course, they’re still heavily unionised…


  2. Philistine. Railways are the bedrock of western civilisation.”

    They may have been back in the day, but their role in passenger transport in the US has shrunk massively since the dawn of cheap air travel. Out in the “great wide open” most rail is for gargantuan freight services, not the minuscule number of passengers who may be waiting.

  3. In my world it’s always a foggy November evening, down in the street chestnuts are roasting on glowing braziers, paper boys are inviting passers by to “read orl abaht it” and Holmes and I are booking a special.

    Obviously in the US it’s Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda and some bloke with a mouth organ.

    The real world is far too depressing these days.

  4. I found train stations to be staffed by bitter shits who regret that they missed the chance to be in the gestapo by a few decades (oh, what could have been…)

    Won’t voluntarily use one these days

  5. I was on a long platform when a short train trundled by and stopped at the other end.
    Granny and me hobbled along to get on said train, which left as we approached.
    Gestapo wannabe (had been standing next to train, watching us) says ‘train left on time… sir’
    That’s only the most egregious, now I can choose, wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire.

  6. The loss of a service used by about 5,000 people a year

    You are assuming they make one trip a year. It might be 5,000 every weekday, commuting.

  7. @Rob – these stats are normally number of journeys, with one person commuting every working day counting as “240 passengers”.

    5000 per day would be a very busy station indeed…

  8. Rob – true but even then it’s only 20 passenger-journeys per day, not enough to sustain the service.

  9. Having travelled across the US on Amtrak, its customers are 80% tourists, 10% Pennsylvania Dutch (who can’t fly for religious reasons) and 10% aerophobes. Because freight trains get priority (as their parent companies own the tracks), if the Amtrak service misses its slot for any reason, it has to wait at every siding (many lines are single track) for mile-long freights to pass. As a result, they’re frequently many hours and sometimes days late. The only (potentially) viable passenger service is on the Bos-Wash corridor. plus commuter trains round the big cities.

    But (if you have the time) it’s a wonderful way to see the flyover states, and meet interesting people. Plus it brings home the vast size of the continent in a way that a 5-hour flight never can.

  10. The ORR does stats for passengers of British stations. Hawarden Bridge and Ardlui both have about 5,000 uses a year. It’s nice to have these places but they should be paying most of their way.
    Plenty of towns from Daventry to Blyth have no trains at all.

  11. I’d be in favour of improving the train services, if only to provide competition for the airports. Not the airlines – those are already ruthlessly efficient – but the airports, which in the U.S. are largely horrible.

  12. Then should say 5000 journeys a year not 5000 people.

    Very confusing when people change usage for people in figures. A charity I used to work for conned the big lottery fund out of over £100k by doing that, a small drop in centre had more homeless in 3 years than Britain did in a decade.

  13. Come on, Donald. Just don’t cut the train subsidy, and they’ll love you!

    Wait . . . what? Oh, yeah, they’ll still hate your guts. You can’t cure hate with a train subsidy. Mr. Donald knows it.

    Presidents face a never ending parade of troughers.

  14. There is something about trains that causes seemingly intelligent people’s brains to turn to shit. Coyote has regularly posted on America’s super efficient freight trains and Japan’s failure to ship stuff by rail, therefore USA Ra Ra etc.

    I’ve pointed out some of the following. Japan comprises a set of coastal enclaves separated by mountains. Bulk stuff (iron ore, coal) comes in by ship and products (steel, Toyotas, Nissans) go out by ship. This applies to internal as well as export trade.

    The shinkansen system (mostly) excepted, all Japan’s railways are narrow gauge with a restricted loading gauge. That is, you can’t fit standard containers around the curves and through the tunnels. As above, bulk stuff goes in and out by ship, and high value and perishables by road. I think he needs to get his fresh seafood by rail having spent a week travlling by freight train fom Washington to Nevada.

    However, Coyote is American and therefore The US rail system is the worl’d’s bestest. Now, where was I?

  15. And by chance I’ve just taken a TGV over the past week between Bordeaux and the Pyrenees. Gorgeous trains , prompting my colleagues to to demand we have them and me to respond “somebody is pay g for this you know, it’s xalled subsidy. Durong our week there another colleague was taken to a local hospital in an ambulance, at a cost of €62. “Which do you want to be subsidised?” I asked, “trains or ambulances?”.

    It also struck.me how efficient UK airports are in comparison with so many European destination and hoany food outlets they have etc.

    I like the way we do some things here.

  16. They’re protesting about closing a station 85 miles away?

    What sort of journey by rail makes sense when it needs a 170 mile round trip by car just to catch the train?

    Either it’s close enough that you might as well carry on and drive all the way, or it’s far enough away that flying makes sense.

  17. I travelled between Hendaye and Bordeaux last month – the average speed of the ‘TGV’ was about 45 mph. As the Bordeaux LGV wasn’t yet open, it was Tours before anything much over 100 mph was achieved.

  18. They’re protesting about closing a station 85 miles away?

    No, if/when the station at Alpine closes the next nearest one is 85 miles away. Which gives you some idea of distances in Texas between (even very modest) townships. As you say, that would make passenger journeys unviable, but as I pointed out above, they’re already unviable for most purposes except tourism.

  19. That’s the big problem with papers like the Grauniad discussing transport issues. As far as they’re concerned the whole world is like London, so anyone who doesn’t use public transport is a total mentalist and climate criminal.

    What happens then of course is they move out to the countryside and start moaning about how the buses and trains only run twice a day (and not at the same time) and they then contort themselves in to justifying buying a car…

  20. Amtrak is dying because it stops at Alpine, TX.

    As it’s two hours to Sanderson (over 90 miles away) and nearly 4 to San Antone (over 200 miles and a different timezone), I’m not sure you can accuse Amtrak of stopping too frequently 🙂

  21. Hey, Gwynne, how about you activists tell the government YOU will pay to keep the station open, coz it’s that important to you.

  22. That’s the big problem with papers like the Grauniad discussing transport issues. As far as they’re concerned the whole world is like London, so anyone who doesn’t use public transport is a total mentalist and climate criminal.

    This.

  23. Problem is the radical People’s Party (Populists) in the States started with attacks on the private railroads and then the banks. There is a tradition of this kind of thing over there.

  24. Rhyds–“That’s the big problem with papers like the Grauniad discussing transport issues. As far as they’re concerned the whole world is like London, so anyone who doesn’t use public transport is a total mentalist and climate criminal.”

    As with Rob –seconded.

    The well off MC/CM London Bubble crew and the Boss Class at their core all think the poxy London Underground extends to the entire UK.

  25. However, Coyote is American and therefore The US rail system is the worl’d’s bestest. Now, where was I?

    I have no idea who Coyote is, but having lived in both places, it seems to me that the American railway system is well suited for America and the Japanese railway system is well suited for Japan.

  26. Rhyds,

    “Lefties love trains. It appeals to their “you’ll go where we tell you, when we tell you” mindset (I had one train-nerd argue that cars were “inefficient” because people could go where they wanted when they wanted), and they are massive money sponges ripe for a bit of public subsidy.

    Also, in the UK of course, they’re still heavily unionised…”

    They’re convinced that big government running things works better.

    Rail vs bus is a really great example of pitching state run monopolies with markets. Bus is cheaper, gets no hidden subsidies, has more features like wi-fi and e-ticketing and makes a profit. And it’s not just “cheaper” like a bit cheaper, but a whopping load cheaper. £6 from Swindon to Oxford compared to £16.

    It’s the eyewatering costs of rail that always get me. It’s not just a bit more expensive. It’s totally mental. HS2 is estimated to cost 7 times per mile what motorway costs. How? Fucking how? I get there’s signalling and electric stuff to do, but is that really tens of billions? It’s not far off the per-mile cost (in today’s money) of the Channel Tunnel. A fucking tunnel. How? Fucking… HOW????

    Then you look at how much train carriages cost. Every carriage costs about 10 times what a bus carrying the same passengers costs, and that includes an engine, gearbox and all that stuff. Drivers salaries seem to be about £50K. About double what a bus driver makes.

    I would cut every bit of rail subsidy. Every hidden bit of subsidy. Learn to use fucking Skype you fucking luddites. Rest of the time, drive. If you’re disabled, we’ll shovel some money your way for Uber cars.

  27. Anyway, who else in the current climate of hysteria first read “Rally for trains” as “Rally for trans”?

  28. Meanwhile, in the land of rail perfection that is La Belle France, Gare Montparnasse (whence high speed trains leave Paris for destinations between Brittany and Biarritz) has been closed for a couple of days following a major signalling failure. For UK readers, imagine Euston or Kings Cross being closed.

  29. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Bloke in Swindon: last time I went from Southampton to Edinburgh the cost to fly was a quarter (a quarter!) of the rail fare, with no struggling across London with luggage in the middle of the day, which adds an hour and £20 to the journey. Even with checkin and baggage claim we saved about five hours. It took longer getting from Cowes to the airport than the airport to Scotland. Never mind bloody Crossrail and HS2 to knock 6 minutes off Birmingham to Manchester. The fact there isn’t high speed track between Stevenage and Peterborough is a scandal. And try going Bristol to Brighton in under half a day.

  30. Meanwhile, in the land of rail perfection that is La Belle France, Gare Montparnasse (whence high speed trains leave Paris for destinations between Brittany and Biarritz) has been closed for a couple of days following a major signalling failure. For UK readers, imagine Euston or Kings Cross being closed.

    Rather a shame it wasn’t Gare du Nord due to an atom bomb, I was there last night – jeez, it’s a dump.

  31. Hawarden Bridge may only serve 5k users a year, but the marginal cost of having it remain open as a station on an otherwise existing line is going to be approaching nil – it’s only a platform with a bus shelter at which some trains stop (on request iirc).
    There would be little point to closure, which will be why closure has never occurred.

    Generally the problem with UK rail is it’s too safe, and too regulated. Essentially the whole industry is now targeting zero accidents under any circumstances, and the marginal cost of achieving the last 0.01% of this is pretty crippling.
    It’s also becoming an industry where things like rolling stock utilization is increasingly poor – trains can have an inherently long lifespan (British Rail followed by privatization got 40-50 years out of a good deal of 1950s-1960s built stock), and there are still some 1960s built locos hauling passenger trains now. At the same time, a good number of newer units built after privatization are stored unused or have gone for scrap – small batches, built in electronic obsolescence, incompatible couplings (easily the most stupid part of the whole privatization saga is that while new vehicles are required to pass all sorts of standards, they aren’t required to meet a common coupling and control system standard) and shoddy build quality has seen a huge “investment” in rolling stock which doesn’t really deliver value for money.

  32. @Bloke in Costa Rica, July 31, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Similar when I was doing Edinburgh-Bristol.

    Train fare was 500% more than air fare and took iirc 17 hours with 3 changes.

    Plane was direct, under 1 hour, airline unsubsidised & profitable.

    HS2 is an EU Directive and should be binned.

    Edit: Edinburgh-Aberdeen flight was also faster & cheaper than train.

  33. @TimN

    Gare du Nord is a disgrace – and has been for at least a couple of decades. There’s a ‘rear entrance’ in the r. de Maubeuge which takes you past the back of the local cop shop. Lots of policiers smoking and drinking coffee, but none at all at the front of the station to keep an eye on the assorted pickpockets and other ne’er-do-wells.

  34. Rather a shame it wasn’t Gare du Nord due to an atom bomb, I was there last night – jeez, it’s a dump.

    Fucking horrible. Distinct atmosphere of imminent crime being committed, and this was during the daytime. Can only imagine how bad it is at night.

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