Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Call for better passenger rail advocacy

Jim Cameron, up in Connecticut, relates his recent experience addressing a gathering of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. I could not agree more with his desire to see a more inclusive broad based representation of this essential transportation segment.

I dearly wish I had the financial capacity to work on this full time because we, as advocates of good ground transportation, have been segregated into the slums of public policy with a bunch of pass riding, sentimental, blowhards that reflect nothing of the people on the trains. Amtrak’s customer base includes students, business people (even in the middle of America), minorities, and women with their families.

NOTE: It was too harsh. I apologize sincerely.

Let me add that the current deplorable situation is not NARP’s fault. They, like all the rest of us, have their hands full. I come from a railroad family (GM&O) and I know the difference between history and nostalgia. I recommend you read “Advocacy” above (and I am sure it could use some improvement).

The other main contributor to this endeavor, Logan Nash, is a college age man who is perfectly tuned in to the culture and issues. He gives us a real”edge.” I think an internet community can more easily reach out to people of different age groups and backgrounds and include them in the national discussion. That is what Trains for America is about.

Here is part of what Jim had to say and a link.

Rail advocates must be taken seriously, not seen as eccentric hobbyists. And NARP should do more to really represent all rail passengers, not just “foamers”.


Filed under: Administration, Amtrak, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

19 Responses

  1. Carter B. says:

    This “bunch of pass riding, sentimental, blowhards that reflect nothing of the people on the trains” happens to have advocated better and more trains for America since A-Day. To ‘name call’ those of us who have long supported rail initiatives is not only disingenuous, but pits one group of rail supporters against another. I suggest you lay off the “foamers” and concentrate on real progress.

  2. Spokker says:

    Carter B. I completely agree. Those rail nerds were keeping the rails warm while everybody else forgot passenger rail.

    Let me ask the authors of this blog post, do the people who advocate widening freeways and building more roads diss the guys who show off their Mustangs at the local car show? I doubt it.

    Yeah, I agree that chasing trains is a little weird, but when a guy does that just to get a picture of some Amtrak locomotive it says to people, “These trains still matter. These trains are still important.” And the fruits of their labor are sometimes beautiful. I invite you to browse some rail photography and see it for yourself.

    The author of the blog you link to laments that someone pulled out a historical timetable at a NARP meeting. You know why that guy did that? Because that timetable is from a time when taking the train MATTERED. This month Trains magazine has a two page spread about commuter rail in Chicago. In the 1950s over 100 trains were operated by 13 railroads. Today 3 railroads operate less than 100 trains, and many places that once had service lack it now.

    Remembering the past is important. Preservation is also important. I applaud people who take on those endeavors to preserve and remember our rail history, just as I applaud those who are looking to the future.

    Pitting advocates against each other this way is really disgusting and I cannot express how disappointed I am at this blog for this post.

  3. MarB says:

    Add my voice to the prior two.

  4. patlynch says:

    First of all, at a highway meeting, the fix is already “in.” There is no serious opposition to whatever “pie in the sky” nonsense the truckers demand as an entitlement.

    I have been to the same kinds of meetings of rail advocates. It is a fact that we have got to quit talking to ourselves and find creative ways to include women, minorities and anybody under 50.

    TFA always makes the distinction between nostalgia and history. The latter is essential to make our case and to restore some consciousness of the tremendous loss suffered by this coutry in the destruction of its inter-city passenger rail system.

    I meant to get people thinking seriously about our situation. I did not intend to organize an circular firing squad.

  5. Spokker says:

    “I meant to get people thinking seriously about our situation.”

    The rail enthusiasts you wish to demonize have been thinking about our situation since Amtrak’s inception and even before that.

    “It is a fact that we have got to quit talking to ourselves and find creative ways to include women, minorities and anybody under 50.”

    That’s great, but why demonize rail enthusiasts in the process? Jesus, I’ve voted yes on every rail initiative I was able to. I wrote my representatives in Congress to support mass transit funding. I tell anybody who is willing to listen how much more we have to invest in passenger rail transportation.

    Having done all that, why can’t I let my mind wander into the good old days and let myself imagine what railroading was like when passenger rail mattered? Why can’t I get lost in a good book about steam locomotives?

    This sentiment that train enthusiasts aren’t real advocates is elitism, plain and simple. You’re the selfless advocate, not them, we are to believe. I don’t buy it at all.

  6. Spokker says:

    By the way, I will be volunteering on National Train Day at Union Station with a non-profit advocacy group getting the word out about mass transit issues in Southern California. If I want to take a g-d picture of a train on my way are you going to say I’m not a good little advocate for trains?

  7. Spokker says:

    Having seen the edit, it doesn’t exactly change my mind that your effort to marginalize the advocacy of railfans, train enthusiasts or train nuts, whatever you want to call them, is a big mistake.

    I will go back to what you said here:

    “I think an internet community can more easily reach out to people of different age groups and backgrounds and include them in the national discussion.”

    I can only speak for myself, but please consider this. When my girlfriend needed to go into Downtown LA for a work related matter, she took Metrolink. Now whenever she has to go downtown, she’s on Metrolink. Guess who got her on the train? That’s right, the train nerd, me.

    When my dad, a Hispanic man who never took mass transit in his life, wanted to see San Diego, he took the Surfliner to get there and the San Diego Trolley to get around. Guess who got him on the train? Me, the train nerd.

    When a Hispanic female co-worker was complaining about her ridiculous commute to Los Angeles, she decided to take Metrolink and is elated that she can sleep or read on the train on her way to work. Guess who got her on the train? That’s right, me, the a-hole with a Trains magazine subscription.

    There are other stories in my quest to encourage others to take the train. Some stuck with it, others went back to their cars, but the point is that they made the effort with a little encouragement. And there are others like me who do the same exact thing.

    These people would have never otherwise considered a train, be it intercity, commuter or light rail, on their own. It took a person who didn’t forget about passenger rail travel. Just because we like to look at pictures of trains and some of the more OCD-afflicted among us like to memorize timetables from fifty years ago for God knows why doesn’t make us any less of an advocate than you.

    I’ll keep letting the people I know, including women, minorities and anyone under 50 about passenger rail travel and the issues surrounding it, but I won’t be sending them your way.

  8. W. Walther says:

    Even with your edit, I am disappointed with your thoughts on this. I am new to trains, having taken my first long ride as an adult in late 2007 (I am 60 years old). I realized that I had been missing a great asset for most of my life. I then started using the Internet to find out more about the state of affairs for passenger rail in the United States. It is depressing, at best. That said, I am enjoying being able to read the articles and view the pictures/videos produced by the “enthusiasts” over the years. You are trying to suggest that these people are to passenger rail what Star Trek fans are to space travel and I think you are wrong about that.

  9. John Bredin says:

    I recently attended the Chicago meeting of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association and the NARP region and, with all due respect to Mr. Cameron, it bore little resemblance to what he described in the linked story.

    While a majority of the attendees were indeed white males, there were considerable numbers of women (NOT button-holed wives and girlfriends) and minorities, the latter including NARP and MHSRA officers.

    More importantly, the meeting included people of all ages and most definitely included businesspeople. The attire was at least business casual, with many suits and ties despite the Saturday meeting, with no flannel shirts or pin-covered overalls in sight. :^)

    The meeting was addressed by a representative of the Spanish Trade Office and an Illinois legislator as well as representatives of Amtrak. The presentation on the California High Speed Rail plan was by Rod Diridon (as in San Jose Diridon station) himself. The agenda was very much focused on what will or should be and not what was.

    On the other hand, I remember MHSRA meetings about a decade ago that superficially resembled what Mr. Cameron described: mostly white guys where as a thirtysomething I was one of the youngest attendees, with lots of photocopies of old railroad timetables and maps floating around, lots of attendees chatting about railroads and trains gone by, and lots of the aforementioned flannel shirts and pin-covered overalls. :^)

    However, to echo some of the sentiments in these comments:

    1) even back then, the nostalgia was a pleasant side-line. The focus of the meetings was, just as much as last week, on what we wanted passenger rail to be and how to achieve it; in other words, advocacy.

    2) there were always concretes effort to reach out to the general public, including pamphlets in rail stations, tables staffed with volunteers at events, e-mail lists, etc.

    3) even back then, legislators and public officials addressed some of our meetings, showing that we were taken seriously and considered political advocates rather than hobbyists.

    4) As the organization grew, our venues grew and improved from a free union hall to the Union League Club and downtown banquet halls and hotel ballrooms. This was at least partially because our sponsors became more prominent, including the Quebec and French trade offices, showing that they thought the attendees could achieve something that could bring business to companies like Alstom or Bombardier (or Talgo when the Spanish trade office attends).

    5) The original core of members from those meetings a decade ago have not been replaced but supplemented by younger members, businessmen, etc. The old “die-hards” are still attending meetings and donating time and money.

  10. John Bredin says:

    concrete efforts, not concretes effort. :^)

  11. patlynch says:

    Spokker, concerning the people you will not be sending here. The internet is a big wide open world, you are not the gatekeeper.

    I do appreciate all the response, but note that other posts of more substantive content have no discussion at all. I don’t know what to make of that.

    I do appreciate every reader on TFA. Thank you all.

  12. Spokker says:

    I never said I was the gatekeeper, far from it. I meant that since you believe I and others like me would embarrass you and hurt your cause (despite the fact that I and others like me care deeply about passenger rail issues), so why would I go where I’m not wanted?

    “I do appreciate all the response, but note that other posts of more substantive content have no discussion at all.”

    Again, why would I go where I’m not wanted?

    How long has your page on advocacy included the phrase, “Pass riding freeloaders?” Maybe it has something to do with your insistence to divide passenger rail advocates for reasons I cannot fathom.

    Yeah, Amtrak has struggled because those who support it know a little too much about timetables from the 1920s.

    $8 billion for HSR, Amtrak funding beefed up, many rail initiatives passing around the country. I’d like to think every person who cares about mass transit in this country can share a little bit in that accomplishment, every person who has kept the dream of passenger rail in the United States alive.

    When it comes to advocating the expansion or upgrade of our nation’s passenger railroads, not everyone is on board. You need all the friends you can get.

  13. Spokker says:

    Let me correct myself, *WE* need all the friends we can get. I thought we were all in this together, whether or not we agree on the exact details about how to beef up the passenger trains in this country. But apparently not.

  14. Greg says:

    I understand what your trying to say, as a supporter of the second amendment, I struggle too to get people to see a wide cross section of people who own guns, and not just your stereotypical gun owner.

    It would be great to get the people you describe into transportation advocacy and I def support your efforts to do that. Just remember that in every group you have your devoted base and you just can’t afford to offend them, like you did here in this article.

    But apology accepted, we all misspeak.

  15. Carter B. says:

    Mr. Lynch,
    If you want “substantive content” I suggest you not just ‘line out’ the offensive thoughts but redo the entire lead editorial. None of the ‘anti railfan’ dribble is ‘substantive’. Let’s start all over again and state content we can all agree with, or at least eliminate faction attacks.

  16. patlynch says:


    Thanks for the note and your suggestion is reasonable.

    If I had done as you suggest, however, I might reasonably be accused of covering up history and editing myself favorably, as if the words were never spoken.

    So, I figure let sleeping dogs lie.

    Besides, blood and guts obviously sells. This post has gone worldwide and brought TFA countless new readers. Damn shame, but I will take them where ever I can find them.

    And welcome everybody.
    Pat Lynch

  17. Don says:

    Talk about a blowhard! he’s too funny!

  18. Jeff E says:

    I have an actual question, if anybody is listening.

    I am looking to hook up with advocates for pods. I don’t see anybody talking about anything other than faster, better standard locomotives pulling standard long coaches, or electrified trainsets. But there are real concepts out there now for workable personal pods that run on STANDARD RAILs, and I am convinced that is the way to go. You can take people between maillines and local light rail. Computerized RF switching. Policymakers need to be talking about this stuff. Where are they???

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