Garl B. Latham - myProgressiveRailroading Blogs - MyProgressiveRailroading
    • 14 Sep 2012

    Bravo!

    "Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts." Bernard Baruch It often seems that proper, respectful public discourse is a thing of the past. If nothing else, our society now sits at a cyclical low point. Perhaps technology makes it far too easy to mouth off. After all, prior to the internet's rise, it was quite unusual to hear someone being...
    • 5 Jun 2012

    A world of VIAs

    Down in San Antonio, Texas, mention the word "VIA" in conjunction with passenger transportation and only a few railfans and dedicated passenger train riders will think first of VIA Rail Canada. That's because the Alamo City's public bus agency is also named VIA - and it credibly serves the one-and-a-third million residents with a comprehensive network of intracity routes and services. VIA Metropolitan...
    • 29 May 2012

    My two favourite statistics

    When I was little, the people who seemed old were those born in the 19th century. Some of them even hailed from the time during or immediately following the War Between the States. A handful of those were still vital and sharp witted. The young-to-middle-aged adults were from the generation who had seen the Great Depression and served, either overseas or on the home front, during World War II. My parents' age;...
    • 15 May 2012

    The importance of being connected (Grid and Gateway, part 5)

    Two of the vital parts of my Grid and Gateway idea involve the individual routes which criss-cross the continent (the grid) and the points at which those lines intersect (the gateways). [Makes sense, doesn't it?!] Together, they create a matrix where, ideally, between the various through services and direct connections, one might efficiently travel between any two sites found along the system. There would be a...
    • 11 May 2012

    Hallmark holidays (and other pet peeves)

    Yesterday, on the 143rd anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike (almost to the minute, interestingly enough), I ran across a sign taped to a glass door. In living colour, it proclaimed: "National Train Day - Discover the Rail Way - Come join us and celebrate America's Railroad Holiday! - ALL ABOARD!!!" Printed at the bottom of the page were locations and times for assorted events. So, why...
    • 4 May 2012

    Legislating magical solutions

    The New York Times is one of the world's great newspapers, with an enviable reputation and impressive history. Therefore, when they miss the mark - especially in such a profound way - it tends to hurt. Earlier this week, the Times printed an editorial entitled "Don't Bargain With Rail Safety," outlining the publication's unilateral support of the Positive Train Control concept. It's full of...
    • 27 Apr 2012

    The Cotton Belt: an addendum to the conundrum

    Mention the Cotton Belt Route in north central Texas and it brings to mind the St. Louis Southwestern Railway's former main traveling northeast out of Fort Worth's famed Stockyards, past the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, across Dallas' northern suburbs and into the "ArkLaTex" region. Dallas Area Rapid Transit owns the corridor from Tower 60 (North Fort Worth) to Wylie, at which point the...
    • 24 Apr 2012

    The case for time efficiency (Grid and Gateway, part 4)

    It has been true since the birth of Acela . It remained true for the entire life of Metroliner service. Even now, it's an important part of traditional "Pullman"-style transportation. The matter at hand is the efficient use of time while traveling: the way passenger train services, even those of conventional speeds, can not only tap into but help create an exclusive market. The Grid and Gateway...
    • 30 Mar 2012

    The Cotton Belt conundrum

    I really hate this. I can count on one hand with fingers left over the number of times this has ever happened to me: a passenger service initiative which I'm not only unable to support, but find myself actively opposing. Worse yet, it's a proposal that honestly looks good - at least as a line drawn on a map. I also hate it that knowledgeable planners have inadvertently worked with unknowledgeable elected...
    • 27 Mar 2012

    CorridorVision (Grid and Gateway, part 3)

    There are several fallacious arguments related to the (re)development of domestic passenger service that just won't go away. And, to be fair, perhaps they shouldn't. After all, ideas like high density development and congestion mitigation and airline-competitive scheduling certainly have merit on some level. Problem is, a lot of folks want to end the debate at that point, eschewing all other possibilities and...
    • 23 Mar 2012

    Old King Coal

    The history of coal production goes back even farther than the history of railroading. Here in North America, the first commercial mine began operation around 1730, approximately 100 years before the first common carrier railroad - the B&O - ran its first train (which, by the way, was powered by oats, not coal). Still, it's certain those two industries came to maturity together. After all, it was the power...
    • 20 Mar 2012

    Heresy! (Grid and Gateway, part 2)

    The city of Pecos recently made the news. That friendly west Texas municipality, seat of Reeves County and centre for ranching and mineral production, was categorised as number two on Forbes' list of "America's Fastest-Growing Small Towns." Famed for its canteloupes and its role in the development of professional rodeo competition, Pecos is like so many other communities scattered throughout the North...
    • 16 Mar 2012

    Making the trains worth leaving

    I spend far too much time worrying about passenger service, I suppose; but, somebody's got to do it. Besides, my biggest problem isn't losing sleep or developing ulcers. It's knowing in my heart what could be, yet is not. I recall Amtrak's first advertising campaigns. According to the newly hatched quasi-public corporation, they were choosing to keep the best of existing rolling stock. They were...
    • 7 Feb 2012

    The Grid and Gateway proposition

    I don't set out to be negative (honestly!) and I've never wished to concentrate upon what I conclude may be wrong in the world of railroading while ignoring possible solutions . No matter how badly things may be going, it's not right or fair to continually pick on others if I'm unwilling to share a few of my own proposals in a public forum. Regarding the design and implementation of new and restored...
    • 31 Jan 2012

    The definition of insanity

    In the business world, one of the classic "oops" moments of recent memory has to be the fact that, during MF Global's death throes, the financial giant seemingly "lost" (misplaced?) 1.2 billion dollars. Yes, that's $1,200,000,000.00. According to the verb du jour, those assets simply "vaporized." Most of us can't even imagine seeing such a stash of money in the form of...
    • 24 Jan 2012

    Communication breakdown

    Just the other day, I was taking a road trip, traveling west along the Sunset Route through Hondo, Texas ("This is God's Country, Please Don't Drive Through It Like Hell"), when the thought occurred to me: railroad right-of-way looks pretty barren without telegraph lines! I'm sure that's nothing but a sign of my ever-increasing chronological age. Still...sometimes, it's the little things...
    • 17 Jan 2012

    Don Phillips, Barack Obama and personal vindication

    During the late 1980s, as Union Pacific began to merge former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad operations into its growing system, I became concerned about the future of a little used ex-Katy main line in north central Texas. The route in question stretched from B-RI Jct. in the city of Waxahachie to Dana Jct. just north of Hillsboro, basically completing the Dallas (eastern) side of the Katy's primary Kansas City ...
    • 20 Sep 2011

    So, now we're partners?

    U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is back at the forefront of railroad news. Yesterday, in Minneapolis, he delivered the keynote address for the opening general session of Railway Interchange 2011. Now, I'll be honest about two things right off the top. First of all, it would have been wonderful to take part in the conference and exhibition. I can't think of anything I might enjoy more than a leisurely...
    • 13 Sep 2011

    Just like a bad penny

    Some ideas possess more lives than a cat. No matter how thoroughly defeated and deeply buried those schemes may be, they tend to rise again. In our case, we might call them the undead of domestic transport policy. A knowledge of the past tends to work wonders and should be sufficient to keep most of these misconceptions at bay. Alas, it's the very people who'd benefit most from a solid historical perspective...
    • 6 Sep 2011

    Anticipating tomorrow

    Over the past few weeks, electronics giant Hewlett-Packard has been taking a real drubbing on Wall Street. Last month's announcement by C.E.O. Leo Apotheker that his company will spin off its personal computer business in order to "sharpen its focus" has caused investors to reel in fear and customers - even committed ones - to back away. Now, I don't claim to understand Mr. Apotheker's industry...
    • 30 Aug 2011

    The invisible imperative

    I must admit, it's hard to be in two places at once. When a business (such as mine) essentially exists as a one man band, how can the opening of a satellite office be justified? Yet, here I am in San Antonio, rationalising my decision to do just that. I have a wonderful sister who's willing to keep the Dallas fires burning. Concurrently, I'm chasing some contracts down south and, all to often, traveling...
    • 28 Jun 2011

    The ultimate purpose of a railroad station

    Jacquielynn Floyd, a columnist for The Dallas Morning News , wrote an essay printed in the June 28th edition of the paper which outlined her top ten suggestions for the city's new mayor. Item number three (impressively high on the list) concerned Dallas' downtown. A "bonus hint" involved her recommendation for our Union Station (historically Union Terminal) facility. Since "Union Station is the...
    • 21 Jun 2011

    Inauguration station

    Growing up, I really don't remember much positive talk regarding passenger service, whether general system or transit. Certainly, the idea of inaugurals was practically unheard of. When passenger trains made the news, it was almost always due to the "disappearing railroad blues," untempered by faith or hope. Depots were closed, not opened. Trackage was abandoned; rolling stock scrapped. It wasn't...
    • 14 Jun 2011

    Fading hopes

    About two weeks ago, Rodger Jones, an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News and one of three staff members who ride herd on that paper's wonderful on-line Transportation Blog, posted an essay entitled "DART ridership dwindling despite rising gas prices." In it, he wondered aloud why Dallas transit usage is waning, even during a period of stabilising unemployment and strained family budgets. The...
    • 7 Jun 2011

    Abo, improved

    Not long after the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe merger was consummated, a wag told me the "BNSF" reporting mark actually stood for "Big New Santa Fe." Personally, I've never liked that definition (although the classic Santa Fe was always my fave), concerned as I am with unintentionally insulting a fellow rail. Still, the "Big, New" moniker came to mind last weekend as I was contemplating...