A more realistic (IMO) AHC: US Metro/Regional Transit as good as in Europe.

Greater density can happen simply by having suburbanization not result in quite so much sprawl. If every new home built after WWII was on a smaller lot, if there were townhomes for those on lower incomes or with smaller households, if malls were all designed with multistory car parks for better land usage (remember that the creator of the modern shopping mall, Victor Gruen, was hoping that a mall would stop ugly sprawl by focusing commercial attention at the mall rather than all around it), if highways were covered over with developments, if commercial buildings were built with their parking lots underneath them....there is lots you can do to reduce sprawl and improve the walkability / transit ease of usage but still allow new homes to be built.
 
@deLanglade Neat idea, but I think after WWII all that would result from such a tax (if it still existed) is Detroit building smaller automobiles than the titanic land yachts of late 1950s America. That would be a good thing in a way, but stifling what would be the country's largest single manufacturing industry after about 1925 is a particularly good idea.
 

marathag

Banned
To do this, the best way is probably going to be to prevent American suburbanization. One way of doing this might be if China and India started developing far earlier than IOTL, like right after WWII (KMT victory/no partition butterflying the license raj might do it) because it would make the price of oil spike like crazy like it IOTL in the 90s to the present due to greater Asian demand. Alternatively, just a really big and long-lasting crisis in a major oil producing country or two could have a big impact. If that happens, suburbs and boat sized cars suddenly look a lot less attractive. With greater density, governments at all levels might see a greater advantage in pushing commuter rail.
The Oil Majors main problem in the 1950s was keeping the price up as MidEastern Oil came online
1616629592974.png

More demand will lead to a slight increase in price, and put more money in the US
Note Price increases also after US left the Gold Standard for good, and US Wells were starting to tap out with current methods

The only crisis that would make a difference would be the USA itself, and if things are bad enough to reverse the Suburbanization that started in 1948, well, things are dire enough there wouldn't be money for more passenger expansion on rails, either, as this would have to be far worse than the Great Depression, that didn't really change the transition away from rail
1616629992390.gif

Note blip for WWII rationing of Tires and Gasoline
 

Riain

Banned
I'd think that if regional-metro transit in the US was better the US would also have much more prevalent HSR even if it was on the lower end of the speed scale. If two cities say 300 miles apart have good commuter networks, perhaps at the FRA 110mph bracket and each reaching out 50-100 miles* in each other's direction how long before some bright spark decided to cover that gap at 110mph.

*Here in Victoria the Regional Fast Rail Project created 4 regional routes capable of 160kph/100mph: 52 miles SW, 76 miles NW, 102 miles N and 99 miles E. This is now the commuting range of Melbourne.
 
Years ago I read a book about transit corridors being build wide enough for road, electrical, water utilities, etc. When the 60s expansion happens have mandated standards that require space for a rail line, whether it is used when built or not. It might not be ideal grades etc, but at least the space will be there if someone decides to make use of it.
 

Riain

Banned
Years ago I read a book about transit corridors being build wide enough for road, electrical, water utilities, etc. When the 60s expansion happens have mandated standards that require space for a rail line, whether it is used when built or not. It might not be ideal grades etc, but at least the space will be there if someone decides to make use of it.

I saw years ago suggestions to use an existing electricity easement for a HSR route into Melbourne.
 
Except for at the time of WW2 the U.S. was the major oil producing nation. Even today the U.S. is one of the top oil producers in the world. The fields in the middle east only really started getting big after WW2 and those for the first couple of decades mostly exported to Europe. The Soviets also held large fields but those really don't matter to much to the U.S. because not exactly much access to those.

It is, in fact, the number one oil producer right now. top ten oil producers 2020. Surprised the Hell out of me too.

The Oil Majors main problem in the 1950s was keeping the price up as MidEastern Oil came online
View attachment 636040
More demand will lead to a slight increase in price, and put more money in the US
Note Price increases also after US left the Gold Standard for good, and US Wells were starting to tap out with current methods

The only crisis that would make a difference would be the USA itself, and if things are bad enough to reverse the Suburbanization that started in 1948, well, things are dire enough there wouldn't be money for more passenger expansion on rails, either, as this would have to be far worse than the Great Depression, that didn't really change the transition away from rail
View attachment 636042
Note blip for WWII rationing of Tires and Gasoline

Something like a coup in Venezuela that sends the country spiraling (not exactly an impossibility, they had three of them from 1945-1958) would still have a big impact. They were one of the world's main suppliers at that point. Ditto for Iran.

The main reason that the late-40s to mid-60s oil slump happened was because of decreased demand as Mao destroyed China, the License Raj froze India's economy in time, large areas of Europe were economically smothered by Communism, colonies and decolonized places that mostly walled off their economies failed to grow, etc. Coupled with a bunch of discoveries in the mid-50s to mid-60s and the investments made in production during WWII, there was a lot of surplus, leading to low prices.

The Middle Eastern oil producers didn’t actually become that big of a deal until the late 60s. This is Saudi oil production. Here's the U.S.'s. They were producing four million barrels per day in 1970 when we were producing ten million. Iran and Iraq were better established, but still not on the same level as today.

I'm glad marathag posted that chart because I was about to myself. You see how the price of oil consistently remained about 2-3x what it was in the 50s from the early 80s to the mid-90s, then started just skyrocketing and never came back down? That's because of increased Asian demand starting in the early 80s with the Tigers and Deng's reforms in China, then REALLY getting going in the 90s as the exponential growth just got massive and as India started really growing after they ended the license raj in 1991 (plus the rest of the world as Communism fell and free-market reforms/growth happened everywhere). But Asia was the crux of it all...the Federal Reserve estimated in 2007 that if growth in just China and India had been half what it was since 2001, the price of oil would have been 11.7% lower.

Now imagine that instead of waiting until the 80s, the KMT win in China and India doesn't go with the License Raj. In that case, it is realistic to think that they initially achieve 10-15% real GDP growth per year starting from the late 1940s (yep, China and Taiwan under the KMT both hit those numbers IOTL from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s, and they grew at 4% per year during the Nanjing Decade despite civil war, multiple foreign invasions, the Great Depression, exploitative treaties, international protectionism, no aid, etc.) and continue at a somewhat lower rate later. This is happening before the oil in Alaska has been discovered (1968), before Middle Eastern oil has really gone big time as mentioned before, before the Libyan oil has been discovered (1958), Algerian (1956), before the Canadian oil industry was really there yet (oil was only discovered in Alberta in 1947 and the boom/widespread exploitation started with the OPEC crisis in the 1970s), Angola (1955), North Sea oil (1969), Siberian oil (1960), Daqing Oil Field (1959, provided more than half of China's oil in the OTL 1960s), etc.

Imagine that for a second. The price increases would just be absolute madness; I would be genuinely surprised if oil ever got back to less than 4-5x its OTL 1950s and early 1960s prices. New supplies would undoubtedly be discovered and opened up earlier as governments and private industry frantically drilled anywhere they could to get more supply (seriously, this would make the OTL peak oil scare look like nothing), but it would be crazy out there. I've actually been planning out a TL lately that goes into the effects of this happening.

So on to how this effects trains and urbanization...basically, it would kill suburbanization as it happened IOTL. Living far away from work and driving a huge car that gets 15 mpg every day just isn't going to work with those sorts of prices. It is likely you will see greater urbanization and construction of townhouses, and commuter rail to transport them all. Every major city would have a big subway network at the very least.

Another interesting possibility is that it could give steam engines a new lease on life. I always used to think that the demise of steam in favor of diesel was inevitable, but reading on it recently, I wonder. If it sounds implausible, remember that coal is more economical for electricity generation than oil, so it being more economical for moving big things like trains and ships isn't all that far-fetched. Diesel was more competitive IOTL because the oil prices were so low, and the rise in coal prices at the end of the 1940s definitely didn't help. Even so, steam hung on into the late 1980s on narrow gauge lines in Britain, until apartheid ended in South Africa because of sanctions, and even into today in a lot of the third world. So let's say diesel prices are about 4-5x what they were IOTL. Bonus points if the U.S. decides to go for a widespread nuclear program that ends up replacing coal as well in response to the increase in electrical costs due to the oil price hikes (oil used to be a widespread way of generating electricity before the price shocks in the 1970s, it produced about 10% of U.S. electricity in the 40s and 50s). With a big increase in oil prices and a big decrease in coal prices, steam starts to look like a pretty good idea. What the South Africans achieved with the Red Devil is instructive...they were able to get 5,000 pounds of horsepower out of a modified mid-50s narrow gauge locomotive while reducing coal and water usage by 30% (for the record, the most powerful diesel locomotive ever can do 6,600 pounds of horsepower, and most 50s diesels could do about 2,000). If somebody wanted to do more R&D on steam and could get J.D. Porta to the U.S. to build a standard gauge on his principles from the ground up, great things could happen.
 

marathag

Banned
. Diesel was more competitive IOTL because the oil prices were so low, and the rise in coal prices at the end of the 1940s definitely didn't help. Even so, steam hung on into the late 1980s on narrow gauge lines in Britain, until apartheid ended in South Africa because
Steam was beaten by Diesel on lower day to day maintenance and operating costs,no need for a stoker/fireman or frequent refueling for coal/oil and especially water stops.
The cherry ontop, was with multiple unit lashups, you could just connect as many 1500hp engines together as needed for pulling longer, heavier consists, no need to shuffle engine types around, with the exception of passenger trains needed at least one 'B' unit, that some would have a steam generator for providing heat to the cars. And only the lead 'A' unit needed to be crewed.
 
Steam was beaten by Diesel on lower day to day maintenance and operating costs,no need for a stoker/fireman or frequent refueling for coal/oil and especially water stops.
However, the same thing was true of electric trains as well, which probably factors into why a lot of countries electrified instead of dieselized. The initial capital costs are a problem, but higher operating costs driven by higher fuel costs will certainly make that more viable. I can easily see Britain and Ireland electrifying instead of dieselizing here (in truth, it's strange that they didn't electrify IOTL given the nature of their networks), and probably electrification will be more widespread in the United States as well.
 
Just go electric. Particularly in an urban environment. Nobody liked smoke steam trains next to their houses every few minutes. Likewise you can electrify specific longer haul routes. Round here there are a few mine to port links that were built as electric despite diesels being plentiful.
 
Imagine that for a second. The price increases would just be absolute madness; I would be genuinely surprised if oil ever got back to less than 4-5x its OTL 1950s and early 1960s prices. New supplies would undoubtedly be discovered and opened up earlier as governments and private industry frantically drilled anywhere they could to get more supply (seriously, this would make the OTL peak oil scare look like nothing), but it would be crazy out there. I've actually been planning out a TL lately that goes into the effects of this happening.
It would be pretty crazy. Besides pushing the development of more efficient cars earlier and probably a lot of interest in "alternative" fuels and propulsion (as occurred IOTL in the 1970s and even to some extent in the 1960s), I see it as having three significant effects that are relevant to the OP without directly affecting railroading. First, the bizarre little mini-boom in oil-fueled power plants that occurred in the 1960s IOTL would certainly never happen, since the main reason for that was that oil was cheap enough that it could outcompete coal (especially when you consider the ease of handling and relatively lower pollution).

As a result, coal would remain king...at least for a while, because a second big effect would probably be that the nuclear craze of the late 1960s and 1970s is much stronger and more intense, especially if the OTL decoupling of economic growth and energy usage hasn't happened and so it looks like you're going to be getting 8% growth (or whatever it was) a year forever, without oil being able to do much for it. This would be strengthened by a third big effect, which is that all that oil exploration and drilling would mean a lot of natural gas production, and so natural gas power plants might take off sooner than IOTL

On the other hand, the growth of nuclear and gas power might be weakened by a fourth big effect, somewhat related to the OP, which is that energy efficiency would probably be promoted by high oil prices. You already mentioned that a land barge getting 15 mpg is not really viable in a world where oil prices look more like today's (at least in real values) than the OTL 1950s, but there's also going to be wider effects on buildings and industrial processes. We saw in the 1970s a lot of effort to increase the efficiency of houses and such, and I could see a lot of that here as well. Such measures as designing houses to use passive solar heat or have higher insulation values would be a lot more attractive if energy is expensive and you can't just air condition or furnace your way to comfort.

Of course, as in the 1970s, probably one big thing that this whole affair would boost would probably be...HSR, especially since air travel is still relatively small and expensive and is going to be really socked by oil price increases in the 1950s. More passengers are going to have to take trains, which means that trains probably look more financially feasible to the railroads, which means that they're more likely to invest in ways to run them fast and competitive. This would be even more true in Japan and Europe, where the train system and often the airlines at this point were nationalized so it's a fairly clear-cut tradeoff between investing in rail and in air travel.

One thing I do think is that you're probably underestimating the degree to which suburbanization can continue, just in a different form. Think of pre-car suburbs that were driven by tram lines and commuter railroads. It might not be feasible to drive the 15 mpg land barge from an outer-ring suburb to downtown, but driving it from your outer-ring suburban house to the local rail station and then taking a train downtown is a lot more feasible and still gets you all of the single-family house with lawn for your 2.1 kids that the post-war family could want. This ended up being the model for a lot of European suburbs a bit later on, after all.

In any case, it certainly is a very interesting scenario from the point of view of energy technology...I would be interested in discussing the effects of this more fully in their own thread or in PMs or something...
 
I'd think that if regional-metro transit in the US was better the US would also have much more prevalent HSR even if it was on the lower end of the speed scale. If two cities say 300 miles apart have good commuter networks, perhaps at the FRA 110mph bracket and each reaching out 50-100 miles* in each other's direction how long before some bright spark decided to cover that gap at 110mph.

*Here in Victoria the Regional Fast Rail Project created 4 regional routes capable of 160kph/100mph: 52 miles SW, 76 miles NW, 102 miles N and 99 miles E. This is now the commuting range of Melbourne.

Makes sense, and was part of my point. Whatever viability HSR has will be at least somewhat dependent on regional-metro. It is easier to sell someone on the idea of taking HSR if both ends are covered by good mass transit rather than transit where you have to wait 1/2 hour for the next bus.
 
@deLanglade Neat idea, but I think after WWII all that would result from such a tax (if it still existed) is Detroit building smaller automobiles than the titanic land yachts of late 1950s America. That would be a good thing in a way, but stifling what would be the country's largest single manufacturing industry after about 1925 is a particularly good idea.
I picked an early POD (pre-Model T Ford) for that timeline because I wanted to explore the idea of automotive innovation in the USA with some European-style constraints. Put up the guard rails early enough, you don't stifle the industry, it just grows differently.
 

Riain

Banned
Makes sense, and was part of my point. Whatever viability HSR has will be at least somewhat dependent on regional-metro. It is easier to sell someone on the idea of taking HSR if both ends are covered by good mass transit rather than transit where you have to wait 1/2 hour for the next bus.

I think that part of the issue is that the inflection point seems to be so close. Rail transit, which when it's all said and done can and should be highly efficient and effective in it's niche, spluttered and finally died in the 60s but a mere handful of years later pollution, traffic congestion and oil crises with gunfights at servos changed the assumptions that caused rail's decline. It's a bit of regret, a bit of 'wouldn't that come in handy right about now'.
 
I think that part of the issue is that the inflection point seems to be so close. Rail transit, which when it's all said and done can and should be highly efficient and effective in it's niche, spluttered and finally died in the 60s but a mere handful of years later pollution, traffic congestion and oil crises with gunfights at servos changed the assumptions that caused rail's decline. It's a bit of regret, a bit of 'wouldn't that come in handy right about now'.
Not too much regret by the average person otherwise it would have been changed. We are talking a half century or so to fix it if a significant number of people cared enough. Part of the problem is that a lot of the elites pushing for it are massively hypocritical.

The most obvious one IMO is Al Gore. He likes to talk about the environment and yet shows up to these environmental conferences after flying in by private jet as does Robert Kennedy Jr. though these events are made months in advance. They could easily go by Amtrak. They could even go in first class or business class for all I care. The fact they don't gives the message "Amtrak is for the little people, important people like us use private planes." People like Al Gore or Robert Kennedy Jr being seen to go to their Green conferences on Amtrak would give it a boost in prestige. When you complain about people driving SUVs you can't go everywhere by private jet. Having the Green Glitterati being seen using Amtrak and other public transportation would give it some glamour.
 
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Steam was beaten by Diesel on lower day to day maintenance and operating costs,no need for a stoker/fireman or frequent refueling for coal/oil and especially water stops.
The cherry ontop, was with multiple unit lashups, you could just connect as many 1500hp engines together as needed for pulling longer, heavier consists, no need to shuffle engine types around, with the exception of passenger trains needed at least one 'B' unit, that some would have a steam generator for providing heat to the cars. And only the lead 'A' unit needed to be crewed.

Or you get a steam locomotive that can do 6,600 horsepower...


This is a pretty good explanation of why diesel might not have actually been that much more cost effective than diesel, at least compared to steam’s potential. I’ve checked most of the data in it and it’s accurate.

The 1940s to 1960s were an extremely weird period in terms of oil prices compared to where they “should have been” because 35% of the world was busy committing economic suicide (China and India), Europe was wrecked from WWII (and mismanagement in Britain and Spain’s case), and much of the rest was moribund from communism, colonialism, or post-colonization closed economies. The fact that 17% of U.S. electrical generation was from oil by the end of the 1960s and was on track to replace coal if had kept growing at its pre-oil crisis rate shows that. If even part of that wreckage is avoided, the situation could be night and day different.

The advantage of crewing, particularly in early generations, is exaggerated. Early diesel locomotives needed a maintainer (basically like a flight engineer) to help work the machinery, and multiple-unit engines were pretty uncommon overall except for really long distance travel, which was a minority in terms of overall routes. So it’s close to the same for most.

Another factor that wasn’t considered early on is that diesel engines turned out to have far shorter service lives than were expected. They were initially rated for 25 years, but that got scaled back to 14 in the 50s. Steam locomotives, by comparison, can pretty much go forever.

Diesel also has higher costs in some areas as well. They need FAR more oil-based lubricant for one thing. Models from the 1950s usually carried about a quarter as much of it as they did fuel. It’s been demonstrated that that cost alone canceled out the cost of water and stopping for it. Multiplying it 4-5x would go a long way towards canceling out the rest of the cost, too, and that’s before you get to the costs of the actual fuel.

The main thing that diesel crushed steam on was time in service, they were available for wayyyy more of the time than steam locomotives because they were standardized and a lot of the maintenance was less time consuming. Maintenance costs and availability times of the steam engines would have been greatly improved, though, if they hadn’t been custom built to the railroads and instead were mass produced. A lot of the expense and time waiting around was caused by sitting while the company custom made a part and shipped it to them, which frequently took weeks. Britain mass produced theirs from 1951 onwards, so it wasn’t impossible.

However, the same thing was true of electric trains as well, which probably factors into why a lot of countries electrified instead of dieselized. The initial capital costs are a problem, but higher operating costs driven by higher fuel costs will certainly make that more viable. I can easily see Britain and Ireland electrifying instead of dieselizing here (in truth, it's strange that they didn't electrify IOTL given the nature of their networks), and probably electrification will be more widespread in the United States as well.

That happened because Britain completely wasted their Marshall Plan aid and mismanaged their economy to a degree that’s almost criminal after World War Two. The country didn’t build a single new mile of road from 1945-1950, their shipyards were still building riveted hulls into the 50s decades after welded ones were universal in the rest of the world, they were still using steam engines on narrow gauge track into the 80s...seriously, when ITALY is overtaking your economy by the 80s, you really screwed up.

Just go electric. Particularly in an urban environment. Nobody liked smoke steam trains next to their houses every few minutes. Likewise you can electrify specific longer haul routes. Round here there are a few mine to port links that were built as electric despite diesels being plentiful.

Electrification doesn’t really work in the U.S. outside of commuter lines because the distances our trains have to cover are so crazy long.

It would be pretty crazy. Besides pushing the development of more efficient cars earlier and probably a lot of interest in "alternative" fuels and propulsion (as occurred IOTL in the 1970s and even to some extent in the 1960s), I see it as having three significant effects that are relevant to the OP without directly affecting railroading. First, the bizarre little mini-boom in oil-fueled power plants that occurred in the 1960s IOTL would certainly never happen, since the main reason for that was that oil was cheap enough that it could outcompete coal (especially when you consider the ease of handling and relatively lower pollution).

As a result, coal would remain king...at least for a while, because a second big effect would probably be that the nuclear craze of the late 1960s and 1970s is much stronger and more intense, especially if the OTL decoupling of economic growth and energy usage hasn't happened and so it looks like you're going to be getting 8% growth (or whatever it was) a year forever, without oil being able to do much for it. This would be strengthened by a third big effect, which is that all that oil exploration and drilling would mean a lot of natural gas production, and so natural gas power plants might take off sooner than IOTL

On the other hand, the growth of nuclear and gas power might be weakened by a fourth big effect, somewhat related to the OP, which is that energy efficiency would probably be promoted by high oil prices. You already mentioned that a land barge getting 15 mpg is not really viable in a world where oil prices look more like today's (at least in real values) than the OTL 1950s, but there's also going to be wider effects on buildings and industrial processes. We saw in the 1970s a lot of effort to increase the efficiency of houses and such, and I could see a lot of that here as well. Such measures as designing houses to use passive solar heat or have higher insulation values would be a lot more attractive if energy is expensive and you can't just air condition or furnace your way to comfort.

Of course, as in the 1970s, probably one big thing that this whole affair would boost would probably be...HSR, especially since air travel is still relatively small and expensive and is going to be really socked by oil price increases in the 1950s. More passengers are going to have to take trains, which means that trains probably look more financially feasible to the railroads, which means that they're more likely to invest in ways to run them fast and competitive. This would be even more true in Japan and Europe, where the train system and often the airlines at this point were nationalized so it's a fairly clear-cut tradeoff between investing in rail and in air travel.

One thing I do think is that you're probably underestimating the degree to which suburbanization can continue, just in a different form. Think of pre-car suburbs that were driven by tram lines and commuter railroads. It might not be feasible to drive the 15 mpg land barge from an outer-ring suburb to downtown, but driving it from your outer-ring suburban house to the local rail station and then taking a train downtown is a lot more feasible and still gets you all of the single-family house with lawn for your 2.1 kids that the post-war family could want. This ended up being the model for a lot of European suburbs a bit later on, after all.

In any case, it certainly is a very interesting scenario from the point of view of energy technology...I would be interested in discussing the effects of this more fully in their own thread or in PMs or something...

The first commercial nuclear power plant was built in 1956. You could probably push that a lot sooner with sufficient incentive, I mean the navy’s first nuclear submarine was authorized in 1951. I would expect the country to run with that as soon as they can, basically pushing the nuclear craze back 20 years.

Yeah, “mini-boom” is one way of putting it. Oil was generating 17% of U.S. electricity and was on path to replace as the main power source when 1973 changed everything. Further underscores what a weird, not-inevitable time the middle 1900s were in terms of energy, and how completely different they could have been.

It is just really hard to make HSR work in the U.S. though because the distances are so long and the density is so low. It will probably lead to Shinkansen-level lines in parts of the U.S. like the Northeast Corridor, but outside of those few areas the cost is going to be a hard sell. Honestly, I think just high-speed normal trains might be more popular. Passenger trains back then were far faster, close to where Acela is today, and they could have been improved like any other technology at that time. That’s probably enough to cover a lot of the distances. High speed steam trains for the win!!!

More efficient energy usage would definitely happen, but the price increases would still be huge. Probably be a big boon for the anti-global warming effort eventually.

True enough, I was thinking of the really spread out ones but yeah, more constricted ones centered around trams are fairly probable. God, if this could somehow lead to huge cable car expansion in SF that’d be beautiful, but that’s probably too much to ask. Commute times and smog in California (my abode) would sure be a lot better.
 
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Electrification doesn’t really work in the U.S. outside of commuter lines because the distances our trains have to cover are so crazy long.
This is exaggerated. Distances in the Eastern United States really aren't so bad--the part of the country east of the Mississippi covers some 850 000 square miles, fairly comparable to Western and Central Europe. The overall population is lower, of course, but still comprises (today) about 180 million people and 58% of the U.S. population; in the 1950s this probably would have been just as or even more true (since the Sunbelt states hadn't taken off yet and a greater proportion of the population lived in the Northeast and cis-Mississippi Midwest). Certainly electrification of those areas is feasible, and the Milwaukee Road electrified substantial portions of their Pacific Extension so it's not wholly out of the question for even some Western areas to be electrified. Of course, the economic value of that was...questionable, but it shows that it was possible, and it would probably have been more economically feasible if diesel locomotives were less competitive. Actually, there were a number of electrified segments that were dismantled in the 1950s due to the advent of diesels that may have been retained or expanded if diesels were economically infeasible or less competitive, though many of those were for special purposes (e.g., going through a tunnel).

This also sort of answers the comment about HSR, i.e. it's actually quite feasible in the U.S. context if you look at where the possible markets are. Since we're discussing a pre-Amtrak, (somewhat) private-led system, there is not really any political pressure to create an "everywhere" network, and upgrades to the existing system are quite capable of reaching true HSR speeds, as with Acela...or, more relevantly, the Metroliners of OTL, which were intended to be able to reach 150 mph speeds, just as high as the Acelas and faster than the contemporary Shinkansen Series 0 transets (which could "only" reach maximum speeds of about 130 mph). Alas, they proved to be unreliable in practice and between that and infrastructure conditions only ran at 100-120 mph for a decade and a half before being replaced by slower locomotive-drawn trains. Still, they show that it was possible to achieve high-speed rail in the United States even IOTL with relatively minor changes (fixing up the track and catenary and introducing a more reliable Mark 2 version are not enormous changes), and with airlines taking a hit Metroliner-type projects are certainly going to look more feasible. This is not as irrelevant as it might seem to a thread specifically about commuter systems, since most of the commuter systems were run by mainline railroads and so there would not be a sharp distinction between HSR and commuter systems (in addition to the fact that many HSR systems get a fair amount of their traffic from long-distance commuter travel anyway, i.e. consider someone living in Providence and riding the HSR to Boston or New York).

(Also in this connection, note that the Metroliners were originally procured by the PRR, a mainline railroad, and SEPTA, Philadelphia's transit agency...)

The first commercial nuclear power plant was built in 1956. You could probably push that a lot sooner with sufficient incentive, I mean the navy’s first nuclear submarine was authorized in 1951. I would expect the country to run with that as soon as they can, basically pushing the nuclear craze back 20 years.
Pushing it back 20 years (i.e., the craze taking off basically in the early/mid-50s) is a bit much. There was a lot of interest in commercializing nuclear power, but it took and will take time to build test reactors, weed out bad ideas (like organic-moderated reactors), and get a sense of what works and what doesn't, not to mention that there will be ongoing shifts and realizations about plant safety that will gum up the works. Additionally, in the 1950s and even the 1960s there was a big concern about the world not having enough uranium that only really got alleviated by ongoing discoveries of new resources that could be developed. That might be sped up somewhat, but there was a lot of interest in finding more uranium even IOTL, so probably not that much. Given that coal isn't going to directly be affected by oil prices, accelerating the nuclear boom quite so much is unlikely. It will probably still take off earlier than OTL, though, but more in the mid-1960s than the 1950s.

True enough, I was thinking of the really spread out ones but yeah, more constricted ones centered around trams are fairly probable. God, if this could somehow lead to huge cable car expansion in SF that’d be beautiful, but that’s probably too much to ask. Commute times and smog in California (my abode) would sure be a lot better.
Big cable car expansion is unlikely, if only because the infrastructure burden is a little weird and cable cars are not really very good for many applications. But the Key System is unlikely to go anywhere if oil prices are 3-5 times higher in the 1950s and may be directly transformed into BART (as in, the land and some of the infrastructure reused to build a heavy rail system) instead of being dismantled and then BART built over the next fifteen years. You're also unlikely to see Marin, San Mateo, and Santa Clara withdraw or decline to participate in *BART, since the approach of expressways and cars everywhere is obviously not as workable.
 
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The reality is the US is simply to big to have good HSR. And we have to low a population density. Only a handful of locations have enough population and cities close enough to make it reasonable and the cost of building it in these locations is prohibitively expensive.
Add in that you need to get a Dallas in congress and good luck. The cost of buying off the states that won’t ever get it will basically double the cost or more. So this deal is just not happening.
Keep in mind that because of how small those countries are they basically built systems that in the US would be state or at best a couple stat system. So sort of like a New England system or a Texas system or a California System. And they didn’t expect folks living thousands of miles away to help pay for it. Germany did its system France did its system and the UK chose a different rout and no one expected the other folks to pay for it.
In the US California or New England would expect Ohio or Michigan or Florida to help foot the Bill to a system that will never do those states any good.
Do you expect England to pay for a system in Italy?

The Thing we need to understand is the US is NOT Eurpe Or Japan. It is physically much different and the way we spread out drast changes things. . Yes China is building a system but they have huge cites to connect and the government does not care what the citizens think.
So logic ly the US should have several disconnected systems that just serve a given area and a few cities. Like the system we have on the east cost. And connect those with air travel. But no one wants to pay for a system in some other state, and the states don’t want to pay for it. So it is not happening.
Keep in mind nothing is stopping Chicago and St Louis from building a HSR line, it is just that the other 40+ states refuse to PAY for it. Because they won’t benefit from it.......
 
The reality is the US is simply to big to have good HSR. And we have to low a population density. Only a handful of locations have enough population and cities close enough to make it reasonable and the cost of building it in these locations is prohibitively expensive.
Besides being of limited relevance to the thread, this is plainly not true if you spend any time at all looking at population figures and metropolitan area sizes. As I pointed out above, the Eastern United States is broadly comparable in area (850 000 versus 715 000 square miles) and population (180 million versus 312 million) to continental Western and Central Europe. Large portions are, in fact, very similar indeed. This was much more true in the 1940s through 1960s when the Northeastern and cis-Mississippi Midwestern states contained a larger proportion of the U.S. population than they did today, meaning that there were quite good prospects for high-speed rail in those areas.

So logic ly the US should have several disconnected systems that just serve a given area and a few cities. Like the system we have on the east cost. And connect those with air travel. But no one wants to pay for a system in some other state, and the states don’t want to pay for it. So it is not happening.
Well, this is simply untrue. The High-Speed Ground Transportation Act of 1965, which was explicitly intended to create an American Shinkansen and which helped to fund the Pennsy's Metroliners (the federal government provided about half of the necessary funding), passed Congress 318 in favor, 23 against, 91 abstaining (you can see that here), and subsequent Congresses have allocated quite significant amounts of money to upgrade the Northeast Corridor and enable high-speed operations. Clearly in practice those other states were, in fact, willing to appropriate funds to systems in "some other state".

More importantly, though, whether or not Congress will appropriate money for HSR is completely irrelevant considering that I was discussing the prospect for HSR in the 1950s and 1960s, when passenger operations were mostly privately run and Amtrak didn't yet exist. The PRR had a lot of problems, but whether or not Congress would appropriate funds for it to buy new railcars was not really one of them, and they certainly did not face Congressional mandates on where services would or would not run. Again, the Metroliners, developed in the 1960s and put into service in 1969, were intended to operate at 150+ mph in regular service, which is HSR under any definition, and they were funded (50%) and operated by a private company until the formation of Amtrak. That type of thing will probably look more attractive to the railroads if passenger railroading is at least approximately holding its own due to high oil prices suppressing air travel and (to a lesser extent) car travel instead of falling apart.
 
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marathag

Banned
The advantage of crewing, particularly in early generations, is exaggerated. Early diesel locomotives needed a maintainer (basically like a flight engineer) to help work the machinery, and multiple-unit engines were pretty uncommon
Most Midwestern RRs would run AB or AA in the F-unit days, all depended how much HP was required. ABBA for the big consists, A for small, or a RoadSwitcher like the Alco RS-3.
From RR Engineers I knew, the Fireman was there for an extra set of eyes(when not reading a book) or they guy to get the Engineer fresh coffee.
 
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