Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 16, 1974 · Page 31
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 31

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 16, 1974
Page 31
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Page 31 article text (OCR)

In aaeient coach cars with mw cosmetic refurbishing or brand new turbotiners, passengers are traveling on the nation's railroads. What is the ride like today and what lies in the future? Amtrak says improvements are stow, but sure. Amtrak: Sloouvw, Sure.... ? to play chess. By JAY PERKINS The Associated Press The train still was feeling is way through the cavernous underground of New York City when the young man pulled out his pocket- sized chess set. "We've got two days, ' ' he said, turning to his friend. "I can teach you tnnlav pnocc " on a country road and the missed notes and hesitant chords of the piano player in the orange and deep purple bar car did little to drown out the clatter of iron wheels on neglected track. The ride would get better as the night progressed. The piano player would not. Soon he would give up. At one end of the car, the bartender stood gazing out the window, his back to the bar. There was no table service. Beer cost 65 cents -- 75 cents for premium -and the probable loss of your seat while Just a few seats up the aisle, passengers struggled to hoist baggage onto overhead racks and children squealed at the lighted concrete pillars slowly slipping through the darkness outside the windows. Several passengers sat quietly. Others searched their luggage for a book to read in the long night ahead. The Broadway Limited was under way. Its 16 newly remodeled cars with carpeted ceilings and chrome trim had left New York on schedule, pulling away from the drab concrete depot below Madison Square Garden shortly before 5 p.m. Tomorrow morning it would arrive in Chicago. » A YEAR AGO, only slightly more than half of the 456 spaces on the Broadway would have been taken. This trip, almost . all of the seats were filled. Since the start of the fuel shortage in. November, the number of persons riding the nation's rail system has increased dramatically. Amtrak, the nationwide, government-run rail passenger corporation, says passengers from January through April 1973 totaled 4,495,210. During the first four months of 1974, there were 6,.: 193,233 passengers, an increase of 37.77 per cent from the previous year. Much of Amtrak's fleet is like the Broadway -- aged equipment recondi- · tioned with largely cosmetic repairs. Yet the corporation is moving to. modernize its fleet. : :': ' The trip on the-Broadway was part of a journey to see what type of transportation Amtrak currently is offering and to deter; mine what trains in years to come will be like. " , . · ; · , . . . ; The journey included trips on two older trains -- the Broadway and the National Limited -- as well as trips on Amtrak's high speed electric Metroliners and gas turbine Turboliners. ; Nothing approaching the luxury of trains of old or the efficiency of such.trains as Japan's ."bullet train" from Tokyo to Osaka was found. .... But things a similar survey discovered three years ago -- cars that stank of sweat and unflushed toilets, air conditioning that didn't .work and employes who didn't care -- were gone. NOW IT WAS LATE afternoon, the darkness of underground New York had turned into the hazy daylight of New Jer-. sey. The Broadway was roiling along at slightly over 50 miles per hour. . The car was shaking like a pickup truck TRAVELING FAMILY GETS A FRIENDLY WORD Conductor Harold J. McGraw Adds Personal Touch you waited for change. Mixed drinks were $1.40 each, soft drinks 35 cents. Smoked almonds in foil packages were free. Most passengers in the car came to ELEGANT BUT NO^LUXURKHJS Etertrr, Gleaming, and Blah? drink, to stretch their legs or to play cards. Kathy came seeking refuge from the children in the coach seats behind her. "I think a lot of people ride the train for the nostalgia," she said. ."Also, you don't have that feeling of imminent annihilation on a train. It's easier to relax:" »· KATHY AND HER BOY FRIEND travel by train often. Cost is a major factor in their choice of transportation. It costs about $43 for a coach seat from New York to Chicago, compared with $69 for an airline coach seat. This trip on the Broadway, she said, had been pretty good so far. She recalled other trips where the air conditioning didn't work and she said, "If you're a creature · of comfort, you just shouldn't take the train. There are some things you just can't get on the train." It would take a later ride on the National Limited to fully understand her comment. The National runs from St. Louis to Washington and New York. It costs $95 for first-class service with a private room- mette between St. Louis and Washington and $43 for a coach seat. There was no bar car -- four tables in the dining room doubled as a bar and waiting area for dining car patrons. Restaurant service was slow, waiters inefficient and unfriendly. It took over two hours to eat each meal. Some items on the dinner menu -- notably steak -- were exhausted before everyone was fed. Yet all of the equipment worked -- except for a one-minute power failure that plunged the dining room into darkness. The toilet and wash basin in the roomette's private bathroom were clean. The foldout bed had clean sheets and blankets and two pillows. It would have been comfortable if the ride had not been so rough. Several passengers said rough roadbeds are a major problem Amtrak faces. Major problems surfacing from complaints of riders and Amtrak's own assessment, are passenger service or lack of it. delays in getting through' to Amtrak reservations, the poor on-time performance of long-dist ance trains and the problem of keeping aging equipment running. Amtrak is moving to solve these problems, but some solutions could take years. * THE CORPORATION HAS W million available this fiscal year to build roadbeds and upgrade track, but it has not an- f-winced any plans for spending the money «i its 24.000 miles of track. Some of the ZIPPING ALONG ON CLEAR INFINITY-BOUND TRACKS Engineer Ed Berberet Also Sees Empty Highway, courtesy of Gas Shortage A second improvement is expected because of an Interstate Commerce Commission order setting minimum train passenger service standards. This order requires, for example, that Amtrak give passengers free room and board if they miss a connection because of a late train. Amtrak has moved to upgrade its on- time performance and maintenance of equipment through a new contract with the Penn Central railroad. The contract may serve as a model. It covers payments Amtrak makes for Penn Central's train engineers, firemen and repairmen and calls for bonuses or penalties, depending on the job the railroad does. Amtrak hopes the program will help extend the life of its conventional coach fleet. In the meantime, it has started purchasing newly designed and built coach cars and train engines. The cars that will form the bulk of Amtrak's future fleet probably will be similar to those used today on two routes -- Washington to New York and Chicago to St. Louis. ELECTRIC HIGH SPEED Metroliners have been operated by Amtrak on the Washington to New York run for several years. Cars are lighter and ride better than conventional coaches. Amtrak last year ordered 57 new Metro- liner-type coaches and expects delivery later this year. These coaches will not be self-propelled, however, allowing their use on lines that are not electrified. - Amtrak is expected to announce in the near future purchase of up to 200 new coach cars and 20 turbine-powered trains. The rail corporation has been operating two gas turbine trains between Chicago and St. Louis on an experimental basis for less than a year. Built for the French railroads, these trains have a much better ride than conventional trains. During the five-hour ride between Chicago and St. Louis, the top speed of the train is 80 mph, although engineer Ed Berberet says the train could run more than 100 if track signals at railroad crossings and sidings were reset. S u n day G aze tie- £ vX'- /', f f f '·· i '''," ' f t%\ /' "i*"'' f " " " /* 't. 1 ,. "J'} Mail worst track in the Midwest and Northeast is so bad that the Federal Railway Administration forbids passenger trains from running over it at speeds over 10 mph. Amtrak expects on-train service to improve since it has taken over employment of waiters, porters and bartenders on its trains. In the past, these people were employed by the 12 railroads over whose tracks Amtrak operated. Char Page 1C June 16. 1974 There's no dining car, but half a coach car on the five-unit train has been converted to a cafeteria. Passengers select prepackaged meals from racks on one wail. Cafeteria employes heat the selections in microwave ovens, pour coffee and keep the car clean. Passenger reaction to this train was good on one trip. Janis Pattison of Chicago used to ride the train often when she was in school at Bloomington, 111. Now, after an absence of nearly two years, she is riding the trains again. The Turboliner, she says, is "a lot smoother ride than the old train. I really like it." Doug Loper, an oil company distributor from Milwaukee, was playing cards in the next car. "Gee, I haven't been on a train in years," he said. "It sure has changed from the old milk runs." Loper and his friends were on their way to a meeting in St. Louis. They took the train because it gave them time to enjoy the trip. "For all of us to go, it's a nice experience," explained Mario DeMaria of West Allis, Wis. "It's also not so exensive. Besides, we've got time." Homage to Fathers Only a Dummy on One Count L.T. Anderson Huntington publisher N. S. Hayden, possibly because he had access to advance Associated Press copy on a proposed gambling casino in Atlantic City, offered as his contribution to the state's economy a casino to be built at some unspecified site in Putnam County. Hayden couldn't possibly be unaware of the temperament of Putnam County voters who, not many years ago. rejected with righteous bellow and snort a proposal for a race track where the jockeys would sit right up on top of the horses. To believe these same Godly people would accept a gambling hell is to embrace visions. But Hayden isn't a dummy. I'll rephrase that. Hayden isn't a dummy except on one count. He subscribes to the curious notion, apparently commonplace in Huntington. that Charleston smolders with hatred for his city. He occasionally voices the warning that the "feud" can only be harmful to both communities. THE ONLY THING wrong with this reasoning is that no feud exists. At any rate, it doesn't exist in Charleston. It might pain Hayden even more grievously if he knew the terrible truth: the people of Charleston rarely think about Huntington. Anyway, why would an atmost-always bright fellow like Hayden seriously offer up a gambling casino in Putnam County? Those unfamiliar with his fancies would wonder immediately why he didn't place the casino in Huntington. where, presuma- bly, its economic benefits would fall directly to the people of Huntington. He gave it away down about the fourth paragraph where he noted in passing that, of course, the casino wou'd have to be served by an airport. It is safe to say. I believe, that lie was referring to the Midway Airport, which has existed in the minds of Huntington business and professional leaders for a number of years, and which, they are convinced, would become reality if it weren't for the alleged feud between Charleston and Huntington. »· THE MIDWAY AIRPORT was never built because the idea was rejected in Kanawha County. If was favored by voters who lived in the western end of the county who would find the location convenient. It was turned down, understandably, by a majority which found the existing Kanawha Airport to be convenient. No hard feelings were iovdthe Daily Mail was opposed to Midway. The Gazette favorod it. The vote ended the Midway discussion, apparently, as far as Kanav;hj County residents are concerned. But the proposal is revived intermittently in Huntington. where little children are taught to believe it is a beautiful story which will come true some bright morning. And it may very well. But it betrays an unseemly desperation to tie an airport to a gambling casino, or. as the Putnam County preachers might say. by appealing to rrwn's base instincts. ,

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