Destination: Anywhere the train goes
Book: Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service by James McCommons (released Nov.5)
My brother-in-law, Wayne Price is a foamer. My sister doesn’t deny it, although he might. I know that he has filled an entire room with an exquisite miniature railroad, all scenery made by hand, and I know that he reads several train magazines and even wrote an article for one, but I would never have called him a foamer, had it not been for this new book. Professional railroad men designate people who are avid fans of railroads and railroading–somewhat in the nature of trainspotters in England–foamers (as in foaming at the mouth–a bit mad). This is an example of the delightful detail James McCommons entertains us with while he is educating us about railroads in the United States. You might call this a road trip for trains, and definitely a travel guide book to the best and worst of American train rides.
So naturally, when the publishers sent me a review copy of Waiting on a Train, I sent it on to Wayne for an expert opinion. As you will see in this excerpt from his note to me, he liked the book, but to prove he is a foamer–he found an error.
“The author uses a good style of relating his travel experiences and weaving in the history, both old and more recent of the particular rail line that he is riding,” Wayne writes. “He lets the reader draw conclusions about the problems with passenger rail service and how they evolved. He doesn’t really discuss his opinions until the Epilogue, although I expected the conclusions he reached. The primary reason for the declining rail service in some areas is funding and the fact that the federal government has supported air and auto travel, but not rail. This was the case before Amtrak and has generally continued since Amtrak was created during the Nixon administration.”
” There is new optimism under the Obama administration and the funds that have been allocated to high speed rail in the Stimulus package.” [Note: See tomorrow’s post here with links to several interesting train articles, including one about President Obama’s plan for trains. VMB]
Wayne continues: “Several states are ahead of the curve and ready to invest state funds, with the federal funds that that are now becoming available to create regional transit projects that will be linked by Amtrak. California, Washington, Illinois, and the Northeast Corridor are the areas with shovel-ready projects that should benefit the most. One of the best success stories related to rail travel is Amtrak’s Downeaster between Boston and Portland Maine. Patricia Quinn is the executive director of the organization responsible for the Downeaster which is heavily funded by Maine and Massachusetts. This is an example of the funding partnership that is necessary to make rail travel a viable part of the overall transportation solution.”
And here comes the kind of detail that foamers relish: “I found only two errors; on pages 98 and 261 he refers to the Richmond depot as ‘Stafford Mills’. In reality it is ‘Staples Mills’.”
Despite my kidding Wayne about his near-obsession, I appreciate very much his taking time to share his thoughts. If you are looking for a really good travel book that will inspire you to look into American rail travel, this is the one.
The Internet Review of Books has a particularly good review of Waiting on a Train, if you would like to read more about this road trip book by train. And please come back tomorrow for an update on latest news on trains and train travel. Challenge: Where does the title of the book come from?