Amtrak, Frankford Jct, and the Laws of Physics

Amtrak Train 188 carrying 238 passengers and five crew derailed late Tuesday night, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The train was traveling 106mph when it entered a 50 mph curve at Frankford Junction, the NTSB said.

Amtrak Train 188 carrying 238 passengers and five crew derailed late Tuesday night, May 12, 2015, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The train was traveling 106mph when it entered a 50 mph curve at Frankford Junction, the NTSB said.

Well, I guess we know enough that we can talk a bit about the Amtrak wreck in Philadelphia. I note that lack of knowledge hasn’t really stopped anyone else, who seem to mostly be special pleaders for increased Amtrak funding. Well, guess what? I’m not.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Amtrak. I tend to take it east about once a year. But that’s a planned trip, and I have the time, and I enjoy the relaxed pace. If I have to go any other time, or on a schedule, well, I fly like everyone else.

Here’s the thing, in the northeast corridor, given it clientele, which is business travelers, going downtown to downtown, there is absolutely no reason Amtrak can’t make a profit. It’s basic fare should be based on flying between Washington, New York, and Boston, including surface travel from the airport to downtown on both ends, because that is the service it provides. Last time I looked it was slightly cheaper than the bare airfare between those points, therefore it is enjoying an unfair advantage in its fare structure. I’d bet that if you’re going downtown in those cities, it’s also faster, especially the Acela service, so it should command a premium price.

Understand rail service has costs that others don’t. Nobody who can add two plus two really thinks that gasoline taxes fund all the road building and repair that we do, they likely collect enough but far too much gets siphoned off. Neither does air travel pay for all the infrastructure involved. Railroads are expected to maintain their own rights-of-way and that’s not overly fair until the other modes do as well. But, I personally, am not willing to talk about increased subsidies in the corridor, until they are willing. to charge a fair price for the service they provide. Do that for a couple of years, and then we’ll see.

That’s the corridor. I see no reason at all, except perhaps an unwillingness to anger its supporters amongst the elite for Amtrak not to make a profit in the corridor. That’s a political decision, and a poor one, in my mind, if you can make a profit, well, why not?

Outside the corridor, it’s an entirely different ball game. Like I said, I enjoy taking the train but, it’s neither efficient, nor cheap, nor convenient. Out here, I drive almost as far to get the train as I do to get on a plane (also subsidized) and once I do, it will take me about 36 hours to arrive, if it stays on time.

Frankly the diner sucks, it’s better than the airlines, which is not much of an accomplishment but, not as good as say Perkins. Back in the day, eating in the diner was a fine dining experience, I doubt I’m the only one who had his first really good food on the train, so it can be done but its not being done, probably because it’s not demanded. The cafe car/lounge car/snack car really sucks, unless you have a liking for microwaved frozen pizza to go with a six dollar can of Budweiser.

The thing is, a bank of vending machines would be as good, with a couple of microwaves, there must be a vending machine that can read an ID for controlling sales of beer and such, instead of paying somebody (and to be honest they are nice somebodies, I’ve yet to meet one I didn’t like) around $40/hour to send that car.

That’s true incidentally for all the train service people, I’ve absolutely nothing bad to say about them, nice people doing their best. But long distance train travel in a country this big just doesn’t make economic sense, it perhaps did, when we shipped the mail this way (mail service was better then too, by the way) but without that, it can’t possibly make money, it hasn’t since about 1900 in fact, and the railroad tried hard for most of the twentieth century..

But by comparison, even out here on the prairie, I’m nearly as close to an airport (the time of day is more convenient as well) and my trip takes about six hours, and that mostly because I have to change planes in Denver, and yes, it also costs less. Quite a lot less, in fact. And so, as much as I enjoy taking the train, I’m considering giving up and flying as well.

This particular wreck increasingly looks like it was simply a case of the engineer speeding, something like 107 mph in a 50 mile curve, that would make it completely analogous with the wreck of the Lake Shore Limited on the New York Central on Gulf Curve in Little Falls, New York back on 19 April 1940. You just can’t break the laws of physics, and when you try, people tend to get hurt and die.

You just can’t fix stupid, not even with tax money.


About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

10 Responses to Amtrak, Frankford Jct, and the Laws of Physics

  1. the unit says:

    Something like 238 rescued from this (accident?). I haven’t read of any particular rescue, but I can imagine. Laws of Physics needs Jaws of Life sometime. 106 or so in 50 mile per hour zone? Stupid is as Stupid does. I guess more facts will come out…maybe engineer got cramp in leg while asleep and put the petal to the metal. (I get those in the night sometimes and it forces my foot and toes straight with my leg. And the heck to massage out.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Yep, I get ’em too. No doubt eventually we’ll here more but, he’s lawyered up. I can’t really say i blame him though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        He’d have to wreck a train load of lawyers to get them off his trail, both offense and defense. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Yeah, whatever his excuse, i don’t think it’s gonna be good enough, even for the union. You said it, you can’t fix stupid, and not paying attention is simply stupid.


        • the unit says:

          I heard he voluntarily gave a blood sample and his cell phone. Hopefully it wasn’t an Obamaphone and the blood test checks for that mental disease…liberalism.

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Indeed so. I’m glad I don’t have to live with his conscience.

          Liked by 1 person

        • the unit says:

          Right. No excuse will suffice if he’s sane. Not like when I was a kid and my foot slipped off the bike petal, and it was a boy’s bike. Painful, but I got over it time and time again. Then again it was the republicans fault my foot slipped. Poor petal design due to budget cuts.

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          You betcha 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Article Read (5-14-2015) | My Daily Musing

  3. the unit says:

    You may fly instead of Amtrack. I’ll keep driving a Boondoggle car I guess that gets me to the Post Office and the drug store, and for a fast food lunch and to Winn Dixie for a pack of cube steak I like to cook up fried with flour for a sandwich or even supper when she works late substitute teaching. I don’t really have to go anywhere my wife says I don’t need to go to.
    I do have to accompany her for her root canal treatment next Wednesday, so I’m informed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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