This train part two


Somewhere in New Mexico, though it doesn't matter where you are so much as it is simply the feel of rolling along.

Somewhere in New Mexico, though it doesn't matter where you are so much as it is simply the feel of rolling along.

This train don't carry no con men, this train;
This train don't carry no con men, this train;
This train don't carry no con men,
No wheeler dealers, here and gone men,
This train don't carry no con men, this train.

                                              -- Woody Guthrie

Scenery is your between meal snack, and generally without road signs and billboards to cause indigestion.

Scenery is your between meal snack, and generally without road signs and billboards to cause indigestion.

 

   Carol and I were enjoying an afternoon of profound joy and utter dissipation on our third and final day aboard Amtrak's Southwest Chief, when my idle mind wandered into the devil's workshop that belonged to the new CEO of the nation's one and only long distance passenger rail service. Seems the same kind of cost-cutting mentality that would reduce the cost of a face by cutting off the nose has invaded the executive halls of Amtrak. Get this:

   One proposal to reduce operating and maintenance costs for the 2200-plus miles of the Chief's L.A. to Chicago run is to - wait for this one - split the route in half! In this Solomon-like solution (in which Amtrak's current Solomon would actually have cut the baby in half had he been there back in the Book of Kings), is to stop the train in Albuquerque, NM, discharge the passengers into buses that would take them to Whogivesacrap, KS and then eight hours (EIGHT HOURS!) later put them back on the Chief for the rest of the way to Chicago. Now is this any way to run a railroad?

The rails still go where the interstates don't anymore

The rails still go where the interstates don't anymore

   The mental giants running Amtrak have, with a straight face, explained that since the 219 miles of track along the proposed bus route are Amtrak's sole responsibility to maintain, bypassing those costs represent 100 percent savings. In terms of family economics, this is similar to not feeding or clothing your children from the age of, say, 8 - 12, as a way of reducing the costs of raising a family.

   Put in personal terms, it would mean Carol and I packing up our cozy, warm and private bedroom in Albuquerque to climb aboard a Greyhound that presumably would include the cast from a Rob Zombie movie. Instead of a steak dinner shared with members of the human race, we'd wolf down Slim Jim's and “Mrs. Wagner’s pies” as “we ride off to look for America,” drinking wine from a Pringles canister. Then sometime in the middle of the night, amidst the dry humping and meth hits aboard our Highway to Hell, we'd be rudely awakened to reboard our train presumably to find our private bedroom has already been purchased by a family of cattle rustlers from Dodge City.

Even nothing can be something aboard a "magic carpet made of steel."

Even nothing can be something aboard a "magic carpet made of steel."

   This is all still in the let's-impress-Republicans-how-well-we-can-screw-up-a-public-transportation-system talking stage, but if anyone thinks subbing bus stops for train stations is too harebrained even for Amtrak, just recall how ridiculous shutting down a government just to build a Mexican pole vault training facility sounded about forty days ago.

   Looks like this train, as has the country, may be carrying wheeler dealers and con men after all. Read more on the Amtrak to Greyhound to Amtrak proposal here, courtesy of the Albuquerque Journal.