Chugging toward a Better Future in the USA

Amtrak service is up and running between Norfolk VA and Washington DC. (Photo downloaded from Facebook, by Downtown Norfolk.)

Amtrak service is up and running between Norfolk VA and Washington DC. (Photo downloaded from Facebook, by Downtown Norfolk.)

Today is a big day in Hampton Roads, Virginia, which is the place I call home.

Passenger train service is finally up and running–direct from Norfolk to Washington DC.

I think this route was available long ago in history, but it hasn’t been since I moved to the region in 1998 (and also not for a long time before that). I’ve had to drive all the way to Newport News to catch the Amtrak up to now.

Long ago, the auto-making companies in the US bought up many of the rail lines. In many instances, they dug up the tracks or sold the linear lines to multiple parties–all to make the system unworkable and difficult to reinstate.

But today, Hampton Roads has overcome some major obstacles and re-upped its route.

On Facebook, “Downtown Norfolk” says “the station can be found in Harbor Park. The first train leaves at 4:50am and the station will be open at 4am. Tickets are not sold at the station and must be purchased in advance. Please contact Amtrak to make your reservation or visit www.amtrakvirginia.com“.

I have to say, though, that as happy as I am about the new train service, the photo that Downtown Norfolk posted on Facebook shows just a glimmer of hope in a very bleak landscape.

The photo is a depressing depiction of what we’ve done to the land in the USA. Asphalt. Plastic. Ugliness wall to wall.

We can, and we must, do better.

3 Comments

  1. GM famously bought street car trolley systems to replace them with buses. I’m not sure if they ever did that with heavy rail. As far as rail in Norfolk goes, the Norfolk Southern has a long history & also has its corporate headquarters there. I have been unable to find details of passenger service specifically to DC, but there was a train in the 2nd half of the 1970’s to Chicago (The Mountaineer) and the Virginia Beach library has this article http://www.npl.lib.va.us/history/history48.html about service to the beach. There was certainly service to Richmond & from there everywhere else…

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    1. Thanks for posting your research, cousin! Very interesting, indeed.

      Yes, I was referring interchangeably to the two different systems (light and heavy rail). Purposefully so, to some extent, because the two systems have to be integrated so they are useful to commuters. Getting them to connect is a real challenge for Dublin. Norfolk’s new light rail connects with the boarding point for Amtrak, although the time tables don’t yet coincide.

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    2. The Pennslvania Railroad and the Norfolk and Western ran to New York via Washington, DC- Richmond, Va. There also was a all Pennsylvania Route via Dover Delaware. And if you check out the board of directors of some major systems you will find, GM-Oil Company people on the railroad company boards. They also lobbied hard to replace the railway mail cars with trucks. This was most of the income of many trains. Mail removal resulted in the bankruptcy of the private intercity passenger rail industry. Amtrak tried mail service. But without volume they ended up with all costs. Then withdrew from the service. Those trains put on for the mail were cut by Amtrak. Like the Kentucky Cardinal to Louisville.

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