Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

The death of rail advocate John Mills

Gene Poon reports the sad news on another site. I believe I met Mr. Mills once and he certainly had a wonderful mind for good transportation and passenger rail service. I am sorry to see him go and glad that he will not have to endure the slow undoing on Amtrak at the hands of political bullies whose only interest is their own small-minded power trip.

This man stood up to opposition from Amtrak management and the political opportunists who are always working to favor the transportation special interests. John Mills, well done!

John Mills, tireless passenger rail advocate and retired Amtrak manager
(placed in the sequence that he himself saw fit) died today in Little
Rock, AR.

To quote Marc Lowrance of Arlington, TX, in another discussion board:

> Mr. Mills joined Amtrak in the early 1970’s and was assigned to Fort
> Worth, Texas as district supervisor. He annoyed staff members in
> Fort Worth by insisting that they park their cars in the station’s
> north lot to preserve the front of the station places for paying
> customers. He met and walked through every train that passed through
> FTW, and was not afraid to deal with dirty conditions or lazy
> on-board staff.
> His pride was the reinstatement of service between Fort Worth and
> Laredo, that led to the full “Inter American” service from St. Louis
> to Laredo in 1974. When unreliable equipment, slow operation speeds
> over the then Missouri Pacific, combined with blisteringly hot Texas
> summers threatened the success of the train, John worked to solve
> the problem. Paying no attention to Amtrak bureaucracy, he worked
> directly with board member Charlie Luna to secure former Southern
> Pacific train sets that could handle the slower speeds without
> losing power (and air conditioning) until Amfleet equipment came to
> the route in 1977. John’s direct, opinionated style and ability to
> get things done did not go over well many Amtrak executives.
> John moved to Little Rock briefly as supervisor before being
> transferred to Topeka, Kansas where he became supervisor of stations
> in Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico. In the 1980’s John
> became the Senior Quality Control man for Amtrak and spent much of
> his time in Vermont. There, he was the purchasing agent for the
> entire Amfleet II car order, as well as some Horizon equipment and
> Bombardier-built second generation Superliner cars.
> After retirement he remained in Topeka as an outspoken proponent of
> passenger rail. John moved home to Little Rock after the death of
> his longtime wife, LaVern several years ago.

I knew John Mills in his last years with Amtrak and during an
incredibly productive retirement.

His inspiration drove passenger rail advocates to
great things, accomplished by hard work even in the face of
opposition by Amtrak. In the dark days of 1997 when Amtrak was bent
upon killing several long distance trains, John Mills’s proteges did
things that amazed many, and…face it…outfoxed Amtrak. It would
not be a stretch of the truth to say that had there not been a John
Mills, there would be no Texas Eagle today. Significantly,
Amtrak has not since tried to massacre so much of its long distance
service in one swoop.

Farewell, John. You have done very well indeed.


My friend and fellow Arkansan, Dr. Bill Pollard, gave this reaction to the terrible loss.

first met John Mills 45+ years ago, when I was still in high school and he was bitterly contesting Missouri Pacific train discontinuances at ICC train-off hearings in Little Rock.

Exactly forty two years ago to this day, April 30, 1971, John refused to even acknowledge, much less ride, the last run of Missouri Pacific passenger service in Arkansas – such was his determination that the service would return. Within days of the time that Arkansas fell into the freight-only ranks, Mills was plotting strategy with J.O. Powell, editorial page editor of the late, great Arkansas Gazette, the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi. The Gazette’s involvement brought immense credibility to the cause, and the newspaper’s constant litany of pro-passenger train editorials helped to persuade two members of the Arkansas congressional delegation (Senator John McClellan and Congressman Wilbur Mills, collaborating with Texas Congressman Jake Pickle) to demand restoration of passenger train service between St. Louis, Little Rock, Dallas and Laredo. Without the relentless involvement and the congressional testimony of John Mills, it is very doubtful that passenger service would have been restored over what was historically the most heavily traveled route between St. Louis and Texas.

The Inter-American, predecessor of today’s Texas Eagle, began service on March 13, 1974. I was the ticket clerk on duty when the first train arrived in Little Rock. John hadn’t conducted my employment interview, but I have no doubt that he helped influence that decision. By that time, John was an Amtrak manager in Fort Worth, but that didn’t stop him from publicly lambasting Mopac for operating the Inter-American at 60mph maximum on track that was easily good for 79mph. Long after retiring from Amtrak, John continued to produce a barrage of letters promoting passenger rail and, when necessary, chastising Amtrak for what he viewed as various shortcomings.

We have lost another tireless advocate for the cause, but along the way, John Mills did influence a lot of other people across the country to get involved. The battle for more and better intercity passenger rail service will continue.

Bill Pollard

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

FRA Not Cooperating on Acela-2 | Systemic Failure

As a wholly-owned subsidiary of the trucking and highway interests, do you think the Federal Railroad Administration wants high speed rail to operate in the USA? Case closed. Read a great post here.

FRA Not Cooperating on Acela-2 | Systemic Failure.

Filed under: Amtrak, International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail

5 top issues between Amtrak and House GOP – Burgess Everett –

In other words, things have changed not one little bit since Amtrak was formed as a centerpiece of Nixon’s corporate welfare. Good outline.

Former House transportation committee Chairman John Mica is putting everything on the table for Amtrak reform. That includes a cup of coffee and a hamburger.

Mica’s long-standing complaints about losses on the railroad’s food service produced a tense exchange between him and Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman during a subcommittee hearing Thursday. And it provided an example of the host of issues Congress must haggle over as transportation leaders work toward passing a new passenger rail bill.

In addition to Mica’s objections to the cost of a cup of joe and his push for private-sector competition, the list of contentious issues includes stemming losses on coast-to-coast routes, getting states to share Amtrak’s cost burden and deciding the future of high-speed rail. But even with that litany of controversies underway, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and railroads subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) exude nothing but confidence that they can get a bill done by the end of September.

Denham told POLITICO after the hearing that he wasn’t dissuaded by some of his subcommittee members’ entrenched positions — and the work is really just beginning.

“I would say it’s what we expected,” he said.

Boardman said he’s encouraged by Denham and Shuster’s approach. “They’re trying to be thoughtful,” he said.

Here’s a quick glance at the items members are expected to concentrate on:

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

In ‘Keeping Them Honest,’ truth not necessary to ‘report’ on rail – From the Editor’s – METRO Magazine

For your consideration, follow the link below for the entire story.

April 12, 2013

In ‘Keeping Them Honest,’ truth not necessary to ‘report’ on rail

By  Nicole Schlosser

While the typical griping continues in California over its plans for high-speed rail, projects across the U.S. were subject to a recent hatchet job, ironically, by CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360◦” in the segment, “Keeping Them Honest.”

The story, “High-speed rail Boondoggle,” claims to be about how $800 million in federal funds was spent only to take 10 minutes off a rail trip between Portland, Ore. and Seattle, while promising high-speed rail. However, it was really just making out the concept of bullet trains in the U.S. as a waste of money for something nobody wants without sharing any facts.

“Investigative Correspondent” Drew Griffin begins spinning his colorful yarn about how the public is supposedly being cheated with a really premature statement: “The dream, shared by those who stand to make money from high-speed rail, is turning into a pipe dream.”

He goes on to oversimplify the situation with this generalization: “Four years and $12 billion later, scattered projects across the country that slow trains moved just a little faster.” Griffin also implied that there was no other work being done to complete the projects nationwide.

Throughout the story, Griffin gave the false impression that building an entire high-speed rail program, basically from scratch, would or should only take four years, as the U.S. High-Speed Rail Authority pointed out in a release responding to the show.

In ‘Keeping Them Honest,’ truth not necessary to ‘report’ on rail – From the Editor’s – METRO Magazine.

Filed under: Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

National Association of Railroad Passengers – President Pushes Bold Plan for Passenger Rail

$40 billion for passenger rail over 5 years. This must not stand! Surely there is some developing nation we can bomb back to the stone ages. That is a far superior use of taxpayer money.

The Obama Administration released its budget request for Fiscal Year 2014 today, and the President has once again put forth a bold plan for transforming and expanding train service in the United States, with $40 billion in passenger rail investment over the next five years.

The Administration’s budget allocates $6.6 billion to the Federal Rail Administration for fiscal 2014, with increasing amounts each subsequent year through 2019, then decreasing amounts to 2023. The request will be a boost for Amtrak, coming a day before the House Committee on Transportation holds a hearing on the railroad’s FY 2014 budget.  The hearing, Amtrak’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget: The Starting Point for Reauthorization [which can be streamed live] will address Amtrak’s funding needs, as well as the coming rail reauthorization (the current law will expire at the end of this September). Amtrak announced yesterday it had set a new ridership record during the first half of this fiscal year, and will be looking to translate its steady increase in popularity into an increase its funding for badly needed equipment purchases and infrastructure upgrades.

Here is a link to the rest.

National Association of Railroad Passengers – President Pushes Bold Plan for Passenger Rail.

Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, United States High Speed Rail

Place of Dallas area high-speed rail stations debated | Your Commute | News from Fort Worth, Dallas,…

There is an interesting Little Rock angle in this very interesting story. Did you know the Wright Amendment expires in October of 2014? Changes coming for Southwest and cities it serves in neighboring states.

One of the partners in this private enterprise project is Central Railway of Japan. Of course, the usual opponents of good transportation can be expected to rise up against it, but one should watch anyway. Here is the link.

Place of high-speed rail stations debated | Your Commute | News from Fort Worth, Dallas,….

Filed under: International High Speed Rail, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy, Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

Blog Stats

  • 497,186 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,430 other followers

wordpress stat

Top Clicks

  • None
August 2021