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Self has noticed that in the past 9 months, he's ridden Amtrak more than in the past 9 years or so.  As it turns out, today is National Train Day, which you might not have realized, understandably so given the many recent other goings-on in the world.  The key cities for Amtrak-mediated celebrations of National Train Day are focused in Chicago, LA, Philly, and Washington, DC (though interestingly not NYC - go figure).  There are Train Day events going on at the STL and Kirkwood Amtrak stations today (though 3CM, typical loser, is unable to attend either).

In one sense, it's a good thing that National Train Day is just 6 years old, because had there been such a day 20 years ago, here in STL, the locale would have been embarassing for hosting any sort of get-together.  Back then, the Amtrak station was so minimal that it had the nickname of the "Amshack".  I first took a train from the Amshack in the mid-1990's.  I only recently took the next train trip from the downtown station, but did so twice in about a month.  Things at the station have improved since then, fortunately.  More below the flip....

This 2003 Riverfront Times article by Mike Seely gives a good, if ever so slightly snarky, overview of the tale of the Amshack, which he summarized as:

".....a temporary facility with an intended shelf life of three years, erected when Amtrak pulled out of Union Station in 1978. It is, according to rail-association members and local officials, easily the most embarrassingly pathetic big-city railroad station in the country...."
Just as bluntly in the same article, local Tom Shrout described the Amshack thus:
"'It's a piece of cr-p.  You don't even have to compare it with big cities'. Kirkwood's got a better station; Washington (Missouri) has a better station; Irvine, California, has a better station.'"
I've never actually used the Kirkwood station, but just even looking at it from a distance, that evaluation was actually true.  However, in 2008 (1 year later than planned, but whatever), downtown STL got a new train station to replace the old Amshack.  Certainly nowhere near like the opulence of the old (and barely functional otherwise, that I can tell) Union Station, but the Gateway Transportation Center is definitely an improvement.  Aimee Levitt of the RFT had this 2008 blog post on the then-new facility, where you can see pictures of the GTC.  It's very conveniently connected to the MetroLink station at the Civic Center, and as noted, for those who ride Greyhound, the Greyhound stop is in the same facility.  Granted, the GTC is pretty spartan, but at least it looks reasonably respectable.

Unlike Levitt's offhand comment at the end of the article about the on-time performance of the Chicago-St. Louis line, I guess I must have caught some decent karma, for once, since both times I've taken Amtrak recently on the STL-Chicago route and vice versa, all the trains were on time.  Part of this route is actually single-track, so that it's obviously necessary at some points to wait for a given track to clear going in the opposite direction before the train that one is on can proceed.  I've heard stories from others about delays on the route that are exacerbated when the train leaves STL late, for example.  But again, for whatever pure luck reason, I didn't have to endure that in my recent journeys.

As well, on the most recent trip, it was heartening to see that the train was full in both directions.  In this instance, it was probably due to the fact that ComicCon Chicago was the same weekend, so obviously loads of convention-goers were returning from the proceedings.  But even going up to Chicago that Saturday, when any ComicCon attendees were already up there, the train was pretty much booked solid.  My traveling companions & I booked fairly early, so we got pretty good prices, certainly much cheaper than Southwest, though not as cheap as MegaBus (which, to be honest, I've never ridden from STL), to be sure.  But there's a lot more room to stretch out and relax on the train compared to a plane or a bus.  I was also prepared with books to read.

So on a microenvironment level, just from the few trips that I've taken on the STL-Chicago route, things look good for Amtrak at least there.  The big picture, of course, is not nearly so rosy, as a cursory perusal of articles just from the NYT, for instance, can indicate.  Ron Dixon has been the main reporter there, with a sampling of his articles as follows:

(a) 5/30/12, problems with WiFi (note that there was only 1 comment)
(b) 8/3/12, problems with restaurant car finances and business performance
(c) 8/15/12, increased NE Corridor Amtrak business last summer due to problems at the airlines, but with qualifiers (Dixon seems rather good at that)

Amtrak still has more than its share of troubles, not helped by the cabal of jerks known as the Republican Party, which wants to destroy Amtrak and anything reeking of the common good, of course, but as noted, Amtrak isn't a model of 100% performance perfection.  

It admittedly took the most recent plans for the trip with my traveling companions to really get me thinking more about using Amtrak, to the point that I signed up for their frequent traveler program.  I honestly doubt that I'll use it as much as when I fly Southwest, which I've been used to doing for weekend trips to Chicago and such.  But for Chicago trips now, I like to think that I'll have it more on my transporation radar.  Of course, sooner or later, late performance on one of my excursions will have to occur, just by the laws of statistics.  But if you're into trains, then today is your day.

So with that, time for the usual SNLC protocol, namely your loser stories of the week, which may or may not involve trains, as is your wont.....

Originally posted to chingchongchinaman on Sat May 11, 2013 at 04:27 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  yes, 3CM knows this one is early, but at least.... (21+ / 0-)

    .....it's not an autobot posting, for once.  Not that anyone will notice, of course (typical loser, that 3CM).

    So, from here; had a coupon for a $7.99 haircut at the local barber shop, which had an expiration date of earlier this week.  Went to get it, and ... I ... couldn't ... find ... it.  So full-price loser was I for a haircut this week.

    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

    by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 11, 2013 at 04:27:22 PM PDT

  •  Porftland's Union Station held an open (8+ / 0-)

    house today, but I didn't attend due to the heat.

    SOS - Save Our Sigs!

    by blueoregon on Sat May 11, 2013 at 04:33:59 PM PDT

  •  Used to take Amtrak from Lee's Summit to Kirkwood (9+ / 0-)

    back when I still had a railroader's discount pass. It's a beautiful trip and was convenient when with my toddler son to visit family in STL.  Also traveled on the business car hooked up to Amtrak from Mpls to Seattle - a stunning trip through Glacier Park and the Cascades. We don't have much service here in Ohio, but I'd love to see that change.

    Wifi on the train? That's great!  I've also heard the City of New Orleans is a great trip, it seems to get booked up pretty quickly.

    "If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze and then vote against them, you have no business being up there."

    by Betty Pinson on Sat May 11, 2013 at 05:02:48 PM PDT

    •  I've heard that the westward routes really hit.... (7+ / 0-)

      ......some nice scenery.  There was a Brit documentary on PBS back in the 1980's, with Ludovic Kennedy taking the train to LA, which I guess started in Chicago.  I just looked up the MSP to Seattle route, which takes 37 hours or so.  Sounds nice if you have the leisure time :) .

      According to the one NYT article, Amtrak WiFi can be pretty erratic, but then since I don't have a smart phone or iPhone, it's not an issue with me.  I can see why business commuters would be snippy about not having it, though.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 11, 2013 at 05:21:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've never been on a real train. (8+ / 0-)

    The closest I've been to that is when I was a kid and rode the steam locomotive train at Knott's Berry Farm.  My grandmother was with us.  (She wasn't my real grandmother, but we always called her that.  She was from the USSR and came here after WWII.)  

    When the train robbers stopped the train, she didn't realize it was a put on and became very distressed.  I remember my mom trying to explain to her that the train wasn't a REAL train that went anywhere, and the robbers weren't REAL robbers.

    •  hmm; I assume you've at least been on..... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shari, Dumbo, Youffraita, RiveroftheWest, koNko

      ......commuter trains, perhaps.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat May 11, 2013 at 05:41:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  nope. (6+ / 0-)

        I live in southern california.  

        •  I thought there was some sort of..... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko

          .....rail thing between LA and San Diego now, but that's obviously the coast and not inland, if it's true.

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 12:41:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Plenty of trains in Southern California (4+ / 0-)

            Amtrak has had several LA-San Diego trains a day for many years. There are also Metrolink commuter trains that go to Lancaster, Oxnard, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Oceanside. Metrolink has been in operation since 1992.

            •  Are the Amtrak lines doing good business there? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Zack from the SFV

              One would think that with all the industry along the corridor there, train traffic would be decent.  However, I would think that car culture is pretty deeply ingrained, and thus that would limit commuter train business.  I don't know about the Metrolink like in CA.  (We have a MetroLink in STL, just 2 lines, mostly used by personages of a certain demographic.)

              "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

              by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 08:05:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Amtrak between La and points south sells (2+ / 0-)

                lots of tickets.

                •  in other words, Amtrak does quite well in.... (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Zack from the SFV

                  ......the blue states.

                  "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                  by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 10:54:54 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I attribute it the the grim prospect (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Zack from the SFV

                    of L A traffic. And the beautiful along the coast.

                    •  AMTRAK service also to SLO (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      oculus

                      and points in-between.

                      I grew up inn LA in the 60's-mid 70's, and returned for a 3-day environmental training session at MTA's offices about 10 years ago.  I stayed in Little Tokyo and ate sushi/Japanese for 4 nights, and walked a few blocks across the Harbor Freeway and through Union Station to get to the MTA offices.

                      When I was in college (1972-77), I took the express bus from Claremont (east edge of LA County) into downtown LA to the SCRTD terminal, then transferred to my bus home in the San Fernando Valley.  Took nearly three hours total to go 50 miles or so.

                      When I walked through Union Station in 2002, the schedule board was full, with people bustling to and fro, announcements constantly on the PA, etc.  This was so different from my childhood growing up inSo Cal.

                      YES, there are trains, and LOTS of them.  An extensive system.  How could you not have taken a train inOrange So Cal yet?

                      MTA website:  http://www.metro.net/...
                      There are five Light Rail Transit lines, two Bus Rapid Transit lines and one heavy rail line (Red).  And LOTS of bus connections.  Beats driving any day.

                      Metrolink website: http://www.metrolinktrains.com/...

                      They run 7 commuter rail lines throughout So Cal, from Ventura County to San Bernardino/Riverside to Oceanside in San Diego County.

                      AMTRAK California: http://www.amtrak.com/...
                      Fairly frequent service (12 trains a day each way) from San Diego to San Luis Obispo.

                      I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

                      by tom 47 on Mon May 13, 2013 at 07:18:07 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  it's actually...... (0+ / 0-)

                        ......Dumbo above (not oculus here) who hasn't taken SoCal trains yet.  He may just be far enough away that it's not convenient.  Still, after the car industry destroyed LA public trains in the 1930s, nice to know that modern vestiges are about.

                        "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                        by chingchongchinaman on Tue May 14, 2013 at 05:17:16 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  "Vestiges"? Maybe not as extensive as 70 yrs ago (0+ / 0-)

                          but the services for transit in SOCal are:

                          MTA: 8 lines, 88 miles of service, 390,000 avg. weekday boardings; 183 bus routes, 2,228 buses, 1,153,849 avg. weekday boardings

                          Metrolink: 7 routes serving six counties; 388 exclusive route-miles, 512 miles including shared (CalTrain/AMTRAK),  avg. weekday ridership 53,000+

                          I'm just sayin'.

                          I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

                          by tom 47 on Wed May 15, 2013 at 07:04:17 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  STL used to have more as well (0+ / 0-)

                            In public transportation near Wash. U., for example, the reason that The Loop has that title was the old trolley line that used to run along the street.  Joe Edwards, who is probably the biggest civic booster in that area in terms of getting businesses started, even wants to revive a trolley that would run from The Loop to the History Museum.  Of course, we already have MetroLink that runs near there, so not sure if this idea is actually reality-based.

                            "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                            by chingchongchinaman on Thu May 16, 2013 at 09:27:12 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

        •  Gesh, I live in China and I have taken LA trains (4+ / 0-)

          Amtrack from SF to LA, LA to Santa Ana or San Deigo, and even the LA Metro line.

          What I found strange on the Metro is buying a ticket. First you put money in a machine to buy tokens. Then took the tokens to a second machine to buy a ticket. "??????", thought I, "this must have been designed by a change machine company".

          But I understand it has more recently been simplified.

          Try it.

          And I visit the Bay Area frequently and always take Bart and/or the costal line of Amtrack.

          My BART rail pass is the one at the top.

          In order, Top to Bottom, my stored value tickets:

          BART (Ca, USA)
          JR Suica (Japan)
          Guangzhou Metro (China)
          Shenzhen Metro (China)
          Shanghai Metro (China)
          Hong Kong Octopus (Hong Kong SAR, China)

          BART is magnetic, remainder are NFC/Smartcard.

          400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

          by koNko on Sun May 12, 2013 at 09:20:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  the trains in China must be packed (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            koNko

            I've never been to the mainland, so I wouldn't know.  Have been to Taiwan, but I have hazy memories of trains, presuming that I did indeed take them there.

            "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

            by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 08:10:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Depends on line and when (0+ / 0-)

              ALL are packed during Lunar New Year, LOL. And stations.

              Few trains I have ever taken in China are less than half-full, except late at night.

              My daily Metro commute from the M7 Changping Road Station in the inner ring of Shanghai to M9 Song Jiang Xinchang Station (Western suburbs) and during rush hour they are fully packed where I start and transfer, but at my end station there are a few empty seats (but only because the previous station dumps off a lot of college students.

              I also use HSR (CRH) to travel from Shanghai to Suzhou about once every couple of weeks on the Shanghai-Nanjing Line, starting about 7:00 and returning about midnight. The morning train is packed but the return about half full by the tie it arrives at Shanghai (North) station.

              I have not taken the Beijing-Shanghai CRH yet but hope to next month when I visit, it's about 5 hours trip, pretty similar to flying, but only half the cost (2nd class).

              I visited Taiwan my first time 2 years ago and took the Taipei Metro around town and then the HSR between Taipei and Hsinchu, it was great.

              I was very impressed with Taiwan, friendly people, beautiful countryside, great teahouses and excellent bookstores!

              400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

              by koNko on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:09:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  well, until the idea of car culture gets fully.... (0+ / 0-)

                .....exported to China, hopefully train culture will hold out there.

                "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                by chingchongchinaman on Tue May 14, 2013 at 05:18:18 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  Me too. But my favorite way yo go to (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dumbo, chingchongchinaman

          a concert at Walt Disney Hall is Amtrak from Solano Beach to Union Station. Very relaxing.

  •  hi (5+ / 0-)

    Hubby brought in some lilacs and they smell good.

    It is going to get cold tonight and tomorrow night here in Michigan so hubby covered his two tomato plants.  He won't plant the rest for a while.

    I would like to wish all moms, aunts, and pet moms a Happy Mother's Day and {{{{{{HUGS}}}}}} to all who are missing their moms or mothers-in-law.

    Best wishes to all here!

    Next week we will be crazy busy with grandbabies and not home until evening on Sat. so I am sure I will just have to crash and burn.  I will add good wishes, now, for next week.  :)

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Sat May 11, 2013 at 05:57:39 PM PDT

  •  Well.... (7+ / 0-)

    I am a train-o-holic, I admit it.
    My preferred method of travel is the train, and has been for quite some time now.
    I consider the extra time whenever I plan a vacation, it's actually part of the vacation.  Getting there is half the fun.  Even when my vacation time is over at my destination, the vacation isn't really over because I still have the adventure of going home.  
    Stations differ across the Country, some cities where you'd expect to have large bustling stations have little 'shacks' and other places which are mere dots on a map have wonderfully eclectic stations open 24/7.  One of my stops on a visit to my family in Texas was a scene reminiscent of 'North By Northwest' when Cary Grant gets dropped off by a bus in the middle of nowhere.  The only difference was no crop-duster came after me.  And my family did pick me up.
    I had planned on doing something today on National Train day, but nothing was going on anywhere near where I am.  Boohoo.

    I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose....AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

    by Lilyvt on Sat May 11, 2013 at 06:50:14 PM PDT

    •  Yes! I love trains too. (5+ / 0-)

      They're pretty comfortable, they can pass some great scenery, and if the rails have been properly maintained, they can chug along pretty quickly.

      For travel in the Northeast Corridor, they're way better than cars (too much traffic) and planes: by the time you get to the airport, get through the screening, and put your socks back on -- not to mention flight delays and getting a cab to your destination after deplaning -- you could be there already if you'd taken the train.

      Usually, anyway.

      Plus you can get up and walk through the cars. There's usually at least a cafe car where you can play cards if you're traveling with friends. Try that on a bus or plane!

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Sat May 11, 2013 at 09:54:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  one concern about travel in the...... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koNko, Youffraita

        ......NE Corridor is security, or indeed anywhere along Amtrak.  Granted, with the train conductors using iPhones or whatever gizmos to scan the codes of the eTickets, it's easy to get records of who's on which train.  But the benefits that you mentioned are hard to beat.

        "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

        by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 12:53:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  along the STL-Chicago route..... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko

      ......it is interesting to note the small towns along the way, as well as Springfield, with the state capitol building just a long stone's throw from the station and very easily visible.  It also sort of reinforces the fact that I couldn't live in a small town, even if in many ways, STL is a very large small town.

      I definitely got the train bug from European travels.  It's been nice to ride Amtrak and chill out during transport, certainly compared to flying.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 12:50:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yup.... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        koNko, chingchongchinaman, oculus

        Many small towns along the way are pretty far away from anything.
        We had a long engine repair stop in El Paso, TX on one trip from Texas to LA, it was just before New Years and the city was having a New Years holiday ball in the station.  The station was absolutely beautiful.  The layover in El Paso was unexpectedly (and happily) one of the high points of the trip.  Not that El Paso is small (or just a dot on the map), but it was an unexpected delight.

        I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose....AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

        by Lilyvt on Sun May 12, 2013 at 06:38:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  it makes one appreciate how much it means..... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Zack from the SFV

          ......for people in IL small towns to get away to Chicago for a weekend, at the risk of sounding patronizing.  Granted, in many ways, STL is a long distance cultural suburb of Chicago, which perhaps explains why the train route from STL to Chicago seems quite popular, and it's necessary to book well in advance.

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 08:34:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is quite remarkable. CCCM had (6+ / 0-)

    companions for his train trip!

    Wi fi plus plugs on Amtrak between San Diego and LA. And beautiful stations in Santa Ana and L A.

  •  My experience of Amtrak porters is positive. (8+ / 0-)

    I put Mother on one a few years ago to Indiana with sleeper car tickets. I told the porter that she had enough Lincolns to give one to each helper and when she got back she still had a few.

    She is demented and it was her last solo vacation.

    Everyone won.

  •  Griffith Park (5+ / 0-)

    my memories of trains are the little ones at Griffith Park in LA. A huge hobby for grownups and they were fun to ride.

    With hope, one day we'll have high speed trains crossing all of CA. Such resistance here in CA.

    •  there is the extra challenge of earthquake..... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shari, koNko

      ....resistance in designing CA lines, to be sure.  Certainly here's hoping for more extensive rail networking there.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 01:26:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In 1999, I lived in San Diego and took..... (6+ / 0-)

    ....the train all the way from San Diego to NYC, with stops in Portland and Spokane and Chicago,  to be there for the Millenium.

    It was an amazing trip. I think it was 5 days. Flew back. Sprung nt from Spokane for a sleeping cabin for me and my former partner. The service on the Coast Starlight (LA to Portland, I think) was excellent.

    The ride was less elegant from Spokane to Chicago (The Empire Builder) and there were delays, as we waited for the freight train to pass. The accommodations and services were not up to the level of the Coast Starlight. And yet, the ride was scenic and the people in that part of the country are very down-to-earth and genuine. We met some very nice people.

    The ride from Chicago to New York bumped the amenities back up....I remember we had music and we rolled into Grand Central Station to Frank Sinatra singing, you guessed it, New York, New York.

    I am so glad I took that trip and so America the slow way, getting to know your fellow Americans along the way. It is the train trip I remember best, and not standing in frigid time square as the ball dropped on a new millenium and a new century, in which those towers would drop and America would elect a black President, and the knives would come out for Amtrak.

    I know live in Hawaii where there are no trains I am aware of! I do wish there was a bridge from my island to Oahu (where Honolulu is located) with a train on it so I could catch a show there and I wouldn't be such a Saturday Night Loser!

    If you hate government, don't run for office in that government.

    by Bensdad on Sat May 11, 2013 at 09:23:46 PM PDT

    •  Sounds like a wonderful trip! (4+ / 0-)

      Wow, you were only a few blocks from me when you watched the ball drop in Times Square! I lived on 9th Avenue near 42nd St. in an old walk-up apt.

      Although that particular New Year's Eve I was ten blocks north at my friend's walk-up, watching it on TV.

      Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

      by Youffraita on Sat May 11, 2013 at 10:01:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  great story, and train trip (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko

      I suppose that if I live long enough to retire, I can take those longer and more leisurely rides across the country by train, for vacation.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 01:24:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  National Train Day at Cininnati Union Terminal (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, chingchongchinaman

    Spent Saturday taking the grandkids to Cincinnati's magnificent Union Terminal. It's always a grand experience to enter the front doors and marvel at the beautiful mosaics adorning the walls of the half-rotunda, as well as the yellow and orange colors on the curved ceiling.Showed them the waiting room, where bags of train-oriented activity books, whistles, stickers and pins awaited. There were displays of the terminal layout and proposed improvements. The hosts were pleasant and helpful. Disappointed, though, that AMTRAK did not have a rail car or two on display like I heard were available in Toledo. We went up to the old control tower and watched a few trains rumble through the yard, including one coming over the Ohio River bridge. They loved it and are pumped up for a real train ride.

    After we finished the National Train Day activities, we spent the rest of the day wandering through the children's, history and science/natural history museums in the terminal's underbelly. They especially loved the cave, the old Cincinnati model city (including Crosley Field) with streetcars, trains and inclines running, the ice age and glacier walk, the riverboat and, of course the play activities in the children's museum section.

    During my attendance at University of Cincinnati in the early 70s, there was talk of demolishing Union Terminal. In 1972, a classmate and I were assigned the task of putting a presentation together on possible future uses of the structure. It included two slide shows running on both sides of a Super-8 movie we filmed while roaming in, around and through the building. One slide show presented pictures and art depicting the terminal under construction and its heyday, while the other showed possible uses of the terminal in the future. That was so much fun and made me really appreciate its magnificence and the need to preserve it.

    I am so glad the museum option was chosen and AMTRAK moved back to Union Terminal from that nasty little shack down by the Ohio River. And the mosaic murals in the now-demolished concourse were able to be preserved by moving them out to the airport. Can't wait to vote Kasich out in 2014 for killing Ohio's High-Speed Rail program.

    There has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. - Sun Tzu

    by OHeyeO on Sun May 12, 2013 at 04:17:53 AM PDT

    •  I lived I. Cincinnati in 1966. How (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chingchongchinaman

      did I miss the train station?

    •  how busy is the Amtrak traffic at Cincy's...... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Zack from the SFV

      .....station?  I've never been to Cincinnati (have heard the symphony once at Carnegie, though), so I've no idea of how bustling the area is, or isn't.

      Good luck voting Kasich out.  I'm not at all sure that next year will be a good one for the Dems.  Of course, the same was said of 2012, but given the Repuke hate machine and all the money behind it, not to mention the general laziness of US voters in midterms, it's not going to be fun.  Of course, I'm biased that I live in a dumb state with dumb Repukes who care more about guns than people in the supermajority in the legislature.  How curious that we were smart enough to keep Todd Akin out of the US Senate, but not smart enough to keep the equivalent local Todd Akins out of the state house.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 08:50:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm big on rail (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chingchongchinaman, Justus, oculus

    Which is not hard where I live (Shanghai) but I try to maximize rail in my travel and would like to offer my take.

    Train stations are important but really secondary because they can be upgraded or rebuilt. What is most important is trains, preferably on schedule and not too far between (or close together).

    Although many Asia, Europe and some American cities have great, functional and beautiful train stations, big and small, you need customers to sustain that, so once you get out of the big cities to secondary small cities or towns, stations tend to be smaller, simpler and older.

    If we consider countries with great rail systems, surely Japan tops the list, but looking at most of their stations (even in Tokyo) you would find them functional and bustling but old and often in need of repairs or makeovers. In fact, many of the stations in Japan are simple platforms with small terminal building constructed from worn rails (railroads own a lot) cut, bent and welded to construct a skeletal building clad with corrugated steel. But no one cares because:

    a) Trains run on time so you don't spend much time waiting
    b) Always some reasonably priced restaurants and shops inside or outside.
    c) Connections to feeder line busses, metro or taxi.
    d) At least one hotel across the street.

    And that is the formula for success. In and out quickly, and someplace to rest if you have the time.

    So I think your old and new stations are fine, and your good experience riding the trains speaks for itself (notice your ridership is increasing).

    If Amtrack can keep on track (and it does seem to be improving) later you may outgrow the present station and get something grander.

    400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sun May 12, 2013 at 08:59:31 AM PDT

    •  I've not seen Japan's rail stations, but one..... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko

      ......would think that Europe's rail systems would really be near top of the tree, not to be overly Eurocentric or take anything away from Japan, but it's just that Europe's systems have been around longer.

      With STL's Union Station, the idea seems to be more to use the train platforms for private lines rather than Amtrak.  Given how dead Union Station looks as a shopping venue the few times I've been there over the past few years (admittedly not during happy hour or some other peak period), any sort of stimulus would help.  But again, I'm not holding my breath.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sun May 12, 2013 at 08:47:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Japan's trains probably go faster. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        chingchongchinaman, koNko
      •  If you compare the best of the two (0+ / 0-)

        I would say some European stations are the best in terms of basic design and architecture, old or modern, but Japan also has some great stations.

        But in small stations, Europe has some pretty crappy old stations too.

        One thing Japan does better is ticketing because that is one unified system, so you can go to virtually any JR ticketing outlet or internet and book virtually weeks of tickets if you want to, then you need to be on time because they run within 5 minutes of schedule, worst case and within 30 seconds generally, it's pretty amazing. Going country to country in Europe still requires multiple ticketing, which is surprising, but there is now a company building an internet site to integrate most of Western Europe so should get better.

        400ppm : what about my daughter's future?

        by koNko on Mon May 13, 2013 at 06:21:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  true, one country vs. a whole network..... (0+ / 0-)

          ......of nations is a factor.  I can certainly imagine some European stations as a bit long in the tooth, but I've generally seen only the fairly major stations, in Western Europe, to be sure, rather than the older ex-Soviet satellite east.

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Tue May 14, 2013 at 05:21:34 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I visited Eastern Europe in the early 1990s. (0+ / 0-)

        I'm sure the eastern european trains are much better now, but they were hilariously Soviet when I was there.  As in; open the lid of the latrine, er I mean toilet, on the train and you were looking at the tracks below. The stations were all the beautiful old stations predating communism, but the trains were vintage Soviet Bloc "quality." The nice thing about the trains was that most of the cars were compartment cars. Great for traveling with a group of friends.

        But the western German ICE bullet trains were awesome.

        Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!

        by bigtimecynic on Mon May 13, 2013 at 11:02:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I remember seeing in the lockers in..... (0+ / 0-)

          .....the Holesovice station in Prague having instructions in Russian, obviously hold-over from Soviet era times.  That latrine situation that you mentioned on the train definitely was the case on one line that I rode from Budapest west.

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Tue May 14, 2013 at 05:22:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Our local service club has adopted a section of (3+ / 0-)

    the rail-train in our area that is now converted to a walking/bike path, connecting much of  Central Indiana.  Where once magnificent steam engines ran from Chicago to Cinnciiatti or Louisville the rail-train called The MONON TRAIL is accessible across most of the state.  

    Our service club is planning to create a native plant exhibit along the little section which passes through our town

    •  oh, OK, so that path is retired from use with..... (0+ / 0-)

      .....actual trains.  Getting away from Amtrak, one stretch along the Bi-State MetroLink route has a bike trail associated with it, described here.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Tue May 14, 2013 at 05:28:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Who knew? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chingchongchinaman

    I had no idea that today was National Train Day.

    As I write this, I am lying in bed in a converted passenger rail car, one of about 30 or so that are part of the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel complex, a visit which was a birthday present for my girlfriend who had always wanted to spend the night on a train. We had planned this back in February around her actual birthday, but we both came down with a nasty stomach bug the day before we were supposed to leave and postponed our reservations.

    This place is cool beyond belief. It is a member of Historic Hotels of America. We're tickled to learn we're here on National Train Day, especially since both our grandparents worked for railroads.

    •  interesting idea for a hotel (0+ / 0-)

      I know that some moored boats in Stockholm have been converted to hotels, or "botels", as I think the abbreviation is.  Makes sense for retired train cars as well.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Tue May 14, 2013 at 05:24:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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