walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

haunted by the chicago to NYC train idea

And no, I have _no_ mortal clue why I find this idea so fascinating. I really am a slave to random ideas that charm me into pursuing them unwisely into odd corners of data. Here I go again.

R. and I have been talking about trains. We recently managed to thoroughly confuse the Kearney Subdivision (which he knew about from a McPhee book he recently read) and the Meridian (sp?) Speedway. I had a feeling he was mixing something up, because Stilgoe hadn't been talking a lot about unit trains of coal on the Speedway and R. couldn't leave it alone. Of course Kearney is Union Pacific and the Speedway is Kansas City Southern and they aren't anywhere near each other (really), but they _are_ both triple track and move a lot of shit. Which was the aspect we were both interested in. Once we had that straightened out, we got sort of interested in triple track in general, which was a nice little rabbit hole to fall down, particularly in terms of extending the fast passenger corridor south of DC, but never mind the Fredericksburg line right now, and the hill that slows the freight trains right down because I want to think about Chicago to NYC.

The NYT has its archives (well, some chunk of them) available online and they show up on google searches, so I now know that in 1881, it took 26 hours for a fast passenger train to do that run, and in 1901, it took 20 (and it's quite charming to read how leery the Times writer was of chasing speed, even if passengers has disability/life insurance policies in case they took damage in transit). I also know that in 1922, there was a railroad strike in progress and somebody pulled a bunch of spikes from the track. A baggage train was running late and hightailing it down that line to beat the passenger train behind it, so only 2 guys died instead of coach loads full.

I know that Japanese passenger trains have been the target of terrorists, altho I seem to recall Aum Shinrikyo went after the station, and that could happen to airports just as easily. I'm a little spooked to contemplate someone removing spikes to derail a train. OTOH, how hard would it be to put all the high speed rail under automated surveillance, anyway? Is this a solvable problem? I'm also contemplating the amount of labor involved in trucking vs. trains, and thinking about all those livelihoods impacted by moving goods on the iron road instead of asphalt. You could sort of imagine there'd be an aggrieved population with motive and opportunity to cause trouble.

R. thinks that the run gets really interesting if someone can get it down a few more hours. I'm skeptical, because I think it's most appealing if you can get a little work done, two meals and a full night's sleep. OTOH, maybe you can get an evening/morning worth of family time back if you can shave it from 12 down to 8. The idea of a train averaging 100 mph for 8 hours is a little mind boggling. I don't think that's been done anywhere, but I would _love_ to be proved wrong. I'm not saying it's impossible, mind you. They're already blowing trains through the middle of Lansing at 80+ on level crossings in the middle of town.
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