If you follow the old highways of the midwest you get into farm country pretty quickly, and you will see the infrastructure used to supply energy. It’s not oil and gas lines I speak of. You see instead rail lines, switchyards, and depots used to supply the older forms of energy: food from grain and animal crops, and coal to power our industrial processes, towns, and cities.
The tracks snake for millions of miles across our landscape, but they are largely forgotten, or thought of as quaint. They are however a fundamental part of this nation, and not just in memory. If the trains stopped tomorrow we would be in a world of hurt. Without them bulk goods don’t go very far, and there aren’t enough Peterbilts and Macks to carry the freight they do. Without the daily bulk runs of dirty coal cars our nation would fall so far behind on the energy curve that we would quickly degenerate to third world status.
Our rail system is antique, here you can see my great grandfather and his engine, and sad to say, the basics of rail technology haven’t changed much at all since he retired back in the ’60s. I would not be surprised to find the engine you see him standing on in 1969 still in service.
It’s time to build modern 21st century rail, we need a high speed coast to coast freightline and while we are at it one for passengers too. It’s time to create a new coast to coast rail right of way and make it serve triple-duty as a power intertie and high speed fiber route as well. What would it take?
Congress creating that coast to coast right of way is the first step.
2 thoughts on “Red State Rails”
It’s really frustrating reading about 21st century innovations and how other countries are using them to advance their nation but we are stuck with a Congress that only knows how to tell us what we can’t do.
This summer I participated in a bicycle ride across Iowa. We pretty much followed the Union Pacific line from west to east. Trains were running about every 20-30 minutes. Almost every town still had their grain elevator right next to the double tracks. It was impressive seeing the tracks being used to transport goods instead of rusting from abandonment. Every so often I can catch the Amtrak Silver Star leaving Tampa or cars loaded with phosphate.
Tampa is also in desperate need of a light rail system. The mayor has been visiting similar sized cities to see how Tampa could implement it. High speed rail pops up on the ballot every few years but last time it was between Tampa and Orlando and Disney wanted no part of it unless Disney parks were the only stops.
I hear you Aknot, it’s like some people want to keep the US in the mid 20th Century .
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