Steam haulage?

If an Amtrak train was hauled by steam, would you make that journey "just because"?

  • Yes, I would definitely want to ride it

    Votes: 3 14.3%
  • Not bothered either way

    Votes: 11 52.4%
  • No, it wouldn't bother me at all

    Votes: 7 33.3%

  • Total voters
    21
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GeoffM

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21 Jun 2006
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On another forum I frequent, somebody suggested that the answer to Amtrak's financial woes is to put a steam engine on the front of a train once a month. Amtrak is the Inter City of the US and all long distance routes have one train per day at best - some are three times a week only. Because of the low quality of US track and overcrowding on the rails, these trains often run late and patronage is low. Hence the financial problems.

The question is: would you want to sit inside an air-conditioned modern(-ish) car with a chuffer up the front? Would it make any difference to your experience (would you even know it was hauled by a steam engine, being encased in a steel box)? Would it make you want to ride that train more than one diesel hauled?

Geoff M.
 
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Coxster

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9 Jun 2005
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As an enthusiast it would be attractive to have a 'steamer' up front however as far as a passenger goes you wouldn't really be able to tell the difference if you're in a modern coach.
 

Tomnick

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10 Jun 2005
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Personally, the attraction of having a steam loco on the front is quite limited (and the same goes for any sort of diesel) unless it's working hard and I can hear it! The Mk1 coaches that make that sort of thing a little easier are all part of the experience for me. I just don't think it'd be the same inside a sealed box. Each to their own though - I suppose some might be tempted!
 

theblackwatch

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Just to add to this debate (and apologies for going off on a tangent a bit), is it really te case that patronage of Amtrak services is really so low? I ask this question, as a few years ago, I did the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco, a journey of two nights. Despite booking several months ahead, sleeping cars were fully booked on our first night, and we had the choice of travelling a seated passengers or not at all.
 

GeoffM

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21 Jun 2006
Messages
83
Thanks for the voting.

Regarding patronage, apart from the busiest times (Thanksgiving [November]) and summer, yes a lot of the trains do run with few passengers. Double figures minimum usually, though some trains have been known to run on occasion with passengers in the single digits for parts of their journey. My lowest count was 12 in coach (I don't know how many were in sleepers) leaving San Antonio on the Texas Eagle to Dallas and Chicago, though numbers increased further down the line.

An Empire Builder I was on (Chicago to Seattle) was overfilled up to Milwaukee and then had maybe 30 coach passengers and a dozen sleeper passengers while going through the northern plains. Considering fares are cheap, 30 passengers aren't going to generate much revenue.

The California Zephyr is one of Amtrak's busiest trains and sleepers are often sold out months ahead - it's certainly the most scenic route for a lot of people, hence its popularity.

Geoff M.
 
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