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Samsonian

join:2007-06-15

1 recommendation

reply to patcat88

Re: Did McSlarrow sleep through history class in Junior High?

said by patcat88:

But 80 years later they destroyed/reduced to mass bankruptcy the industry that they regulated.

It's a sad story, and not one many seem to know about either.

The railroad barons were hardly innocent (they weren't called barons nothing), but what the government did to railroads in the second half of the 20th century was unconscionable.

We once had world's greatest rail system. It had over 300,000 route miles, and reached every major part of the country. And with the exception of a lot of free land to build it out (not that big of a deal, those areas gained far more value by receiving rail service), it was paid for with largely private money. Railroads are the only form of transportation to pay their own way.

Today we only have about 147,000 route miles, and much of what remains is in piss poor condition. Think about that, almost half of the rail network since its peak has been abandoned. Branch lines jettisoned, communities no longer receive service. All those important rail corridors are gone for good. We'll never have a rail system that big again.

Much of this is due to ICC/STB rules and federal law concerning railroads, but also unprecedented government intervention in the market. The Federal, State, and Local governments have collectively spent trillions of dollars over the last 60 years financing, building, owning, maintaining, and subsidizing an aviation and road system.

No privately owned mode of transportation can compete with that. Why would anyone sane person replace the most efficient form of transportation ever created and paid for itself with private dollars, with something that was less efficient, had higher environmental and financial costs, and required untold public subsidies?

No other country has done anything quite like this. Most other countries publicly own their railroads, and its considered a first class mode of transport along with aviation, roads, and waterways. And thus, deserving of capital investments by the public.

Europe and Japan had their rail systems destroyed by WW2. Yet they systematically rebuilt their rail system, while we dismantled ours. As a result they have extensive electric high speed rail lines throughout, and we don't. All in the name of progress.

China is going through the biggest rail boom in the world in over a century. They're spending ~$1 trillion building about 10,000 miles of new rail lines over the next 20 years, including thousands of miles of high speed rail (HSR). Their HSR network will reach almost all their major regions, and will soon have more miles of HSR than the rest of the world combined.

It makes me wonder what could have been.

Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
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Sadly the Cold War was a major cause of the failure of the US Railroad System. General Dwight Eisenhower spent a lot of time in Germany after WWII and saw the advantage of the Autobahn. When he became President he remembered of how the Nazis used the Autobahn to move troops and munitions efficiently. Railroads were easy to disable, roads on the other hand were not. In the event the cold war turned into a hot war, the government could nationalize the airlines and use the highway system to move troops and munitions where needed.