US Rail System Transportation?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Modern Imperialism, Apr 30, 2019.

  1. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    I live in Wis and I can tell you most of the state is very hilly. It doesn't have any mountains, of course, but it has tons and tons of hills.
     
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  2. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    All that is still intracity not intercity. Intercity is simply too expensive in the US. Even CA couldn't pull it off and it is the most populated state in the Union.
     
  3. SsgtC Ready to Call it a Day

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    With the highest taxes as well
     
  4. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    Could it be sold as a "chokehold" but not a "strangling"? That is, regulations to require improved service & lower prices. Or would that be seen as insufficiently punitive?

    Edit:
    IMO, HSR's advantage in avoiding weather delay is a big one. There's also an issue of airline overbooking which rail seems unlikely to suffer. Plus, rail won't suffer baggage fees, unexpected maintenance delays, or long waits for takeoffs (& the inability to get off if they happen:eek: ).

    It also seems to me some are missing the point a bit. HSR doesn't exist in a vacuum. Rail passengers using HSR from (frex) Detroit to Chicago won't get on a bus to Seattle, Denver, or San Francisco: they'll get on a (slower) train. (Yes, they may chose to fly, too.:) ) IMO, freight is likely to see a comparable benefit. Speeding up part of the system should benefit all of it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2019
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  5. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    Yep, if CA can't do it no one in the US can. Not only do they have the largest population they generally don't worry about wasting money. For CA to give up the money waste must really be epic!
     
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  6. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    Isn't that a really good excuse to do this? Eisenhower supported the IHS as a way to move armies, but the truth was, more would be moved by rail than road, & faster. So isn't supporting a national HSR system as a national defense project a sensible proposition? Forget if it will make money (tho it will in places, if not right away): it will get troops & equipment where they need to be faster (& cheaper) than roads.

    If that is the model, IMO, the fastest possible trains are the goal--which coincidentally benefits commercial viability. It might even lead to a regular upgrade. It almost certainly overcomes problems of track straightening: it's being built by USG use of eminent domain. Nor is cost a factor: it's a defense project.
     
  7. dmg86 Well-Known Member

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    The issue that a lot of people haven't realized is that one of the reasons the IHS was made was because the existing roads were nearing capacity. Railroads had the opposite issue.
     
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  8. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    Isn't the Depression a really good time to do it? As a job-creation program, the same way as building airports, parks, & other stuff. Besides which the material was cheaper than. And more people would be bankrupt, or nearly so, & so more willing to sell out for straighter right-of-ways.
    Edit:
    If HSR is built entirely from scratch in 2019. If, as the OP seems to be suggesting (but critics seem to be ignoring), it wouldn't be. It would be built (or upgraded) well before that. IMO, doing it during the Depression, as a stimulus for the economy, would be the ideal time. At that time, FDR could have gotten away with damn near anything.

    How many jobs would building an HSR system (even if it was only, say, 100mph) have created in 1931-9? How much would improved rail service have stimulated the economy?

    Would an HSR system have helped prevent the destruction of urban tram systems?

    Might it actually have delayed the development of transcontinental air service? (Bear in mind, in 1935-50, it was still slow.)

    How does price of travel compare? It's not entirely about travel time.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
  9. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    It's happening now, & no force is involved. It's called urbanization. It's been happening for over a century.

    Subsidizing public transit is the other Republican bugaboo: Socialism.:eek::eek::eek::eek:

    I'd say something about the Greens & their desire to compel people to move out of cities onto unproductive farms, & their willingness to subsidize public transit, not to mention a willingness to use (genuinely) totalitarian methods to achieve their "sustainable" society, but I'm already across the line on political commentary...:eek:

    That being true,;) I might as well add, tram systems were replaced with buses in some places because trams allowed access by blacks to (middle-class) white neighborhoods, & buses didn't, so white voters preferred buses.

    Edit:
    Some interurbans in the '30s did carry freight for overnight delivery (at night, they could run faster). It helped keep them out of bankruptcy.

    AFAIK, nobody suggests interurban/radial trains for door-door delivery.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
  10. Dan1988 Vamos abrir a porta da esperança!

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    Here's the thing, though - HSR as a modern concept dates from after the expressways start getting built, with few exceptions such as Italy. So it's only theoretical. In the NEC, HSR could only really work on the cheap if the system gets rationalized and modernized. It would probably mean something a Beeching which would force more cars onto the roads, but that would mean plenty of spare capacity to get HSR going as well as focusing on bringing non-HSR/non-long distance services up to snuff. It should be mentioned at this early stage that the few commuter rail services in operation were heavily patronized and hence good steady income for financially-strapped passenger rail divisions. It's in these services that rail's future will ultimately be, and those can be (re)created anywhere, even in Alaska (never heard of the Alaska Railroad before?), and scaled up to fill some of the gaps. Granted, it's not the hotel on wheels that the long distance services are, but in order for rail to survive requires not only some creativity as well as coexisting with both aircraft and cars/buses (or even outright take part in the airline industry, which was the genesis of Northeast Airlines before it merged with Delta). So HSR at this stage is not a solution, but addressing everything else not long distance would. The main problems to making it work, apart from finances and political will, were infrastructure and old equipment. Also, remember that this is before we get to the ICC (which needs to get with the program) and that most of the impetus would be from local and state governments anyway, not the Feds.
     
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  11. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Part of the issue was that railroads saturated the country by 1930, causing the demand for steel to level, aggravating the Depression. The thought process at the time was to build parks, roads and dams. With some rail lines already tuned to average 60 mph in places, the notion of doing much better was secondary. I do agree that it would have been a valid goal in the fifties to debottleneck parts of rail lines so more sections could run at 80-100. By then, the conversion to diesel was complete. What was missing was any incentive to link new air travel with shorter distance ground travel.

    You have a point there, as the closure of passenger railroads corresponds precisely to the biggest moves in civil rights. (Of course, we can’t forget trucks, highways and the postal service.) Another issue is that many communities were glad to see curtailment in railroads. I live in such a town. I moved to Quincy, Illinois in 1979 and people born in the thirties spoke of a raucous “little Chicago” reputation of the rail town. There was an attitude of “good riddance” as the hobos and red light districts disappeared. Other towns shared similar feelings. In 1978, movie producers wanted to make a film about Chicago and gangsters set in the thirties. They wanted to film in Rock Island, some 130 miles north. Rock Island said “no,” they worked hard to dispel that reputation. Movie producers managed to find a town in Canada. [That same year, the University of Missouri and City of Columbia said “no” to Hollywood as their choice to film “Animal House,” sending the project to second choice, Eugene, Oregon.]

    A very temporary concern, as there was no problem in building airports and Interstate highways decades ago, not to mention dams, the space program, etc. Please, keep the thread alive by avoiding current politics.
     
  12. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

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    USA hit peak Rail trackage in 1913, it's been mergers and consolidation ever since, as only the best Right of Ways were retained.
     
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  13. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

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    HSR and High Speed Freight, as is needed for moving armies to and fro, two different animals.

    For moving heavy freight fast and efficiently, that's where the USA is today, USA is at the top of the world for that, from piggyback trailer service that started in the '30s, to today's doublestack containerization that started in the mid '80s.

    European rail regulations (as well as physical gauge and height limits) means no doublestack 40' containers, plus European couplers are physically weaker than the North American AAR couplers. European freight consists would break apart if they were to try to match a US heavy freight consist. These limit overall train weights to around 4000 tons. Standard AAR coupler limits are 31,000 tons, but there are heavy duty versions that allow over 90,000, but rarely used in mainline operations, due to rail, roadbed and bridge limitations.
     
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  14. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    A lot of the interstates were built where rail is impractical. As pointed out earlier you need very flat land for railroads while you can build roads almost anywhere. The places where rail was practical already had rail.
     
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  15. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    During the GD HSR didn't exist. The best you could maybe do the 100 MPH rail you suggested but I doubt it would have a huge impact. The time the people would save on the trip could well be lost by getting to the rail station, waiting for a bus or tram, traveling on that and walking to where you need to be.
     
  16. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Railroads 1900.jpg This map shows the intensity of rails around 1900-1910, before motor vehicles were a factor.
     
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  17. Johnrankins Well-Known Member

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    Certainly, intracity rails are much more practical and give you more "bang for the buck". At the very least you need to pick the "low hanging fruit" first. Why do HSR when building more trams, buses, subways and elevated trains will solve the problems people here are talking about much more efficiently? I think a lot of people are picking "flash" over substance. An ultra-modern HSR is flashier than a bunch of boring diesal buses or trams so they pick that
     
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  18. Devvy Idiot. Donor

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    The cities along the North East Corridor would beg to differ? The NEC is a profit generator for Amtrak, effectively cross-subsidising their other routes? So intercity and high speed rail can work, at least operationally, in at least some areas of the US?

    Not entirely disagreeing, but the TGV routinely has gradients of 3.5%, and gradients of 2-2.5% are hardly uncommon across the British rail network. Especially for passenger operations, which can use quite light trains at higher speeds, gradients create less of a problem then for freight.
     
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  19. Marc reformed polymath... Donor

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    Another challenge is recreating train terminals and stations for a whole host of small to mid-sized American cities that effectively lost theirs. As we all know it isn't just a matter of how fast we get there, but where we end up.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
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  20. SsgtC Ready to Call it a Day

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    That was just an upgrade of already existing track. Doing things like extending electrification and eliminating grade crossings. All of the proposed systems since require building a completely new Right of Way. That balloons the cost enormously. It's really Apples to Oranges.

    And interstates in the US routinely have grades of 5-7%. Even the "flat" areas have a mass of hills with grades of 4% or more.
     
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