American High Speed Rail — Past and Present

High speed rail in America in 2011 is limited. In fact the Acela Express by Amtrak on the northeast corridor of the United States is the only high speed line used in America. This was not always the case; sixty seven years ago the Milwaukee Road introduced high speed rail connecting Minneapolis and Chicago.

The Milwaukee Road ran as part the Hiawatha Line, a number of named passenger trains that connected Minneapolis and Chicago starting in 1935. The locomotives started out as steam powered but transitioned to diesel by the 1940s. The Milwaukee Road on the Hiawatha Line traveled at speeds topping 100 miles per hour (mph) and the trip from Minneapolis to Chicago took seven hours.

The train was a massive success with stories being told of people sitting on suite cases or standing during the trip. Observation and dome cars were later added along with a drawing room, swiveling parlor seats and at the rear a lounge area with a large expanse of glass windows.

Yet, with the advance of the automobile in the 1950s and 1960s the passenger train industry began to slow down. The Milwaukee Road on the Hiawatha Line took its last high speed run in 1971. Shortly after that Amtrak took over the control of the Hiawatha Line and stopped the high speed service.

Flash forward to today. The driving distance between Minneapolis and Chicago is about 410 road miles. By comparison, the driving distance from Boston to Washington DC is about 440 road miles.  The Acela Express, the only high speed passenger rail in action in the US, averages a speed of 68mph and tops out at 150mph and connects Boston to DC by high speed rail. If a traveler today was to hop on The Acela Express and travel from Boston to Washington DC the travel time by modern high speed rail is around six and a half hours. Sixty seven years ago it took approximately the same amount of time, seven hours, to travel nearly the same distance by high speed rail from Minneapolis to Chicago.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker joined other anti-HSR Republicans by killing a Federal government-financed plan to build another high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison Wisconsin, meaning high speed rail in this part of the country is, at least for now, dead. But at least we have the past.

Source: Startribune.com Photo Source: Star Journal

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. Being an Eagle Scout, Andrew has a passion for all things environmental. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail.

 

Andrew Meggison

Andrew Meggison was born in the state of Maine and educated in Massachusetts. Andrew earned a Bachelor's Degree in Government and International Relations from Clark University and a Master's Degree in Political Science from Northeastern University. In his free time Andrew enjoys writing, exploring the great outdoors, a good film, and a creative cocktail. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMeggison