Saturday, July 7, 2012


I've spent a while getting acquainted with railroading. Around the web there are calls for renewing and upgrading the US rail infrastructure. There are many projects going on around the world and in the US there are also some initiatives.Some are talking of building a network for HSR (high speed rail) that would be faster or equal to those in Europe or in China (or the one the Japs built). This is clearly impossible due the poor economy (republicans), freight bulk rail (republicans), continued subsidies for inefficient transport (republicans) and the bloody-mindedness of some southerners who shoot curious moving objects on rails (republicans, trains). But there are other reasons too.

1.The competitive nature of US railroad system

2.The vast distances between major traffic areas

3.Difficult terrain on locations (well this applies world-wide)

 4.The differences between freight and passenger traffic

 5.The lack of standards applied on selected routes. (or rather, there are too many of them)

 Now, US is a railroad country. US has plenty railroads (wikipeedia states 226097km, but this would reach over five times round the globe so I doubt the number, possibly this is the total amount of installed tracks (incl. sidings). The routes are also plenty, see for example the route map of seven largest companies. Then there are plenty smaller companies some of which hold important connecting lines and get their revenue partly from trackage fees. Class III railroads do the same if they can, though many of them are more sort of a train assembly lines for larger railroads.

But if one wants to have intercity and long-distance passenger traffic, the distinction here would be that an intercity might travel by night but the long-distance has to, there has to be some common rules on the routes used. One simply cannot do a complete separation of passenger and freigth traffic on a country as big as US. Well maybe on selected corridors. The man on DailyKos (BruceMcF) has diaries that would convince me of his expertise. But all the same, on all locations these two cannot use the same tracks. Passenger rail depends on passengers thus it might be helpful to know where there are people. Wikipedia has a great map on this. The only problem with it, it hasn't got the terrain features such as Appalachians, Mississippi and Rockies (and Sierra) which present some great difficulties for rail transport and travel, if one doesn't mind the scenery.

Well I'm not that interested in getting involved with this (at least what it comes to US) so I just stack the images I made. These are probably nothing new for railroaders but might be interesting for those who don't know about anything of this ecologically pretty friendly way of travel (Click for larger versions).

I made a bit more serious attempt to find out where there might be Intercity passenger traffic in the US, after I found a proper system map of Amtrak. Attempted to connect major cities with relatively straight routes. Some new track should be added at least to Indiana-Ohio southern border. This centers around St.Louis, Atlanta and Dallas, in order to not congest Chicago area more. Upgrading to class 6 track all around this system is of course costly, but it would take US to European standard level of speed. Of course on locations the terrain (thus track geometry) prevents these speeds. True high speed is costlier.

Late addition: One may of course go into details, and find out many things are not quite that simple in practise:
which is near impossible to build without disruption to freight traffic.
Attempt to make some sense in the situation in East St.Louis (Cahokia)

(3.5.2014)It looks like this has become an occasional pasttime to try to figure out how to fit various structures in already built environments. This time some demolition happens in Louisville, Kentucky. In fact, our main station might be good for this location (it's yellow though, and not a trapetzoid), and it's becoming obsolete since the plans of multimodal station may well go ahead in the near future (as has been the last 15 years :-D). However I try, no more than six to seven platforms is possible allowing one to two through-tracks on this location. Not much if this city ever considers commuter trains and many long-distance routes. Maximum length of platforms in this desing is about 350 meters which is good enough, if there is a need for longer passenger trains these can be assembled in two adjacent tracks.
playing with image-processing software and google streetview, the rectory of the church would likely survive though...
yes there's room... this spot might still be in the approach underpass though the station is close to the correct position


  1. yes, there are errors on the us railroad map and the late addition is also a bit flimsy, there are two big cities along Mississippi, Memphis and St.Louis, where the 110mph express intercity passenger traffic could cross the river. i might have selected the wrong one. Anyway, the river is quite in the center of the US and in boarding a train in either of them, after twelve hours one might find himself anywhere east of the rockies. so, board a train at 7pm, get sleep, refresh yourself at the destination and find yourself looking either the Rockies at Denver or Manhattan in NY.

  2. along central mississippi, of course...

  3. some speeds (own definitions...)
    bullet train (>146mph)
    express inter city (tops at 110mph)
    regional inter city (82,5mph)
    express freight
    regional train (62mph)
    fast freight
    commuter rail (46,5mph)
    normal freight
    suburban rail (34mph)
    bulk freight
    car (in congestion 15 mph)

    It's not an easy task to fit all of these, even in a large system.

  4. immediately after posting the new image noticed an error, others are likely present...

    Minneapolis-Winnipeg goes best via Fargo, and Thunder Bay - Minneapolis would on the shore of Superior.

    The additional track is (at least according to BingMaps is between Dayton and Indianapolis. The southern gap between Knoxville and Nashville is a +20mi. gap on mountainous area where it's difficult build a fast track, but maybe a scenic slow route.

  5. List of Routes in the imagined track map:

    Chicago north:
    1.Chicago – Portland, Oregon/Seattle via Minneapolis–St. Paul, Minnesota (Empire Builder)

    2.Chicago - Green Bay - SaultSteMarie (new)
    3.Chicago - Rockford - Madison (new long commuter)

    *branching north
    4.Minneapolis - Thunder Bay (Northern Lights Express?)
    5.Fargo - Vancouver (Via Rail?)
    *Minneapolis southward
    6.Minneapolis - Mason City - Des Moines
    7.Minneapolis - Sioux Falls - Omaha - Kansas City (High Plains Regional)

    Chicago West:

    8.Chicago - Des Moines - Omaha - Denver + 9.Denver - Salt Lake City - Emeryville(San Francisco) (California Zephyr divided in two sections)
    *branching north
    10.Denver - Salt Lake City - Boise - Portland
    11.Chicago - Kansas City - Wichita - Albuquerque - (Los Lunas) (Desert Express)
    *branching south
    12.Kansas City - Wichita - Oklahoma City - Dallas (Low Plains Regional)

    13.Chicago - New Orleans (City of New Orleans, heritage route)

    Front Range:
    14.Cheyenne - Denver - Albuquerque - (Los Lunas) (Front Range Regional)
    15.Cheyenne - Denver - Amarillo - Dallas (Snow Bird Express)

    16.Chicago - St.Louis (high speed trunk line)

    St.Louis west
    17.St.Louis - Kansas City
    18.St.Louis - Springfield - Tulsa - Oklahoma City - Dallas (

    19.St.Louis - Walnut Ridge - Little Rock - Texarkana - Dallas (Texas Eagle 1)
    at Walnut Ridge -> 20.Memphis - Springfield - Kansas City (Elvis Special)

    St.Louis east
    21.St.Louis - Indianapolis - Columbus - Pittsburgh - (Washington and New York)
    22.St.Louis - Louisville - Cincinnati - Columbus
    (Connecting to 44.Cardinal and 45.Hoosier State heritage routes at their ends at Cincinnati)

    Dallas Additional routes:
    23.Dallas - Abilene - Lubbock - Roswell - Albuquerque - Flagstaff - Los Angeles (Desert Express)
    24, 25, 26.The small HSR triangle
    27.Dallas - Shreveport - Birmingham - Atlanta (Southland Express)
    28.Dallas - Memphis + 29.Memphis - Birmingham - Montgomery - Mobile(left and right Blue Suede Shoes)

    Texas other Routes
    30.Houston - Jacksonville, Florida (Sunset Limited)
    31.Houston - San Antonio - Laredo (- Monterrey (Mexico)) (Coke Express ;-))
    32.San Antonio - Los Angeles via -Tucson AND Phoenix (Hombrero)

    West coast:
    33.Los Angeles - Las Vegas (-Salt Lake City) (Temptation Express)
    34,35,36,37.I think that is pretty much how they operate now and have plans to expand so no comment.

    the two Nashville centered lines
    38.Memphis - Nashville - Knoxville (new track, Tennessean, partly a local train?)
    39.Atlanta - Chattanooga - Nashville - Evansville - (St. Louis and Chicago)

    Atlanta Additional Routes
    40.Atlanta - New Orleans
    41.Atlanta - Columbus,Georgia (-Tallahassee? )(Georgia Local)
    42.Atlanta - Knoxville
    (43.Knoxville - Washington)

    46. Atlanta - Washington (Crescent)
    47. Atlanta - Jacksonville - Miami
    48. Atlanta - Savannah

    49,50. Chicago - Detroit (local and express)
    51,52,53 triangle Detroit - Buffalo - (Toronto) (Via Rail?)

    Then there are about 12 more, I guess.
    So 64 - 67 routes to connect major cities (and appropriate stations on the way). This would likely double the Amtrak fleet so there might be room for privately owned passenger traffic.

  6. that would be approximately 36000 miles of track (25% of total railway lines in the US.)

  7. Having fun trying to make a database spreadsheet of the routes. This process has uncovered some flaws in the mapp (and some even in the routes). I've been adding some local routes, and cutting some in two sections. The number of routes is now 83 (all abroad florida and some planned commuter lines are included now). The largest urban area without rail service are Winston-Salem, NC for it's location in a hill area,
    and Fayetteville--Springdale--Rogers, AR—MO, for it's located far from more important routes. Then there are plenty smaller cities I've not checked yet, and some larger in CA (I guess the local commuter Metrolink connects most of them).

  8. The St.Louis station area looks like being such a mess with the Interstate#64 going right over it, that a potential large renovation for the area is a job for distinguished architects. If one plans to get some area for sleeper cars too, it'd be one heck of a difficult build.

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  11. large multimodal station for Louisville area would require some more planning or at least moving out the truck depot opposite the imaged railway station.


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