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Re: PC: What killed PC?
- Subject: Re: PC: What killed PC?
- From: "Philip J. Kuhl" <pjkuhl@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 10:34:37 -0500
"... where on PC and other steam heated cars when there was no heat (which
was rare) there still was
lights and AC. Amtrak will never match the passenger service PC had.
Amtrak which is
the govt and trains do not mix. ..."
Again I beg to differ. The air conditioning system on most PC cars was
mechanical, not electric, and simply because an electric generator was
working was no guarantee that the air conditioning system was functional.
Further, faults in the electric systems of aging PC passenger cars often
caused the power to go out in a given car, even though that car's generator
was spinning. Based on frequent PC trips I made (primarily on the Empire
Service, but also Ohio and New York-Washington lines) from 1969 through the
advent of Amtrak, I was my experience that the lack of heat in winter or air
conditioning in summer was a frequent occurrence. Perhaps some of our other
readers who experienced Penn Central passenger service first-hand might care
to comment on their experiences.
When one writes "Amtrak will never match the passenger service PC had" it's
important to clarify what kind of service you mean. Amtrak clearly beats PC
in terms of age of equipment (Most PC passenger equipment was over 20 years
old; little of Amtrak's equipment has reached that age, and cars that
approach it have been totally rebuilt.) PC's passenger motive power was a
quarter century old; Amtrak has renewed its motive power twice since its
inception. PC beats Amtrak by offering service on some lines that Amtrak
does not (Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati springs to mind.); PC also offered
more trains on some lines and stopped at some stations not now served by
Amtrak. Amtrak's stations are usually well-lit, maintained, and tidy.
PC's tended to be dingy, grimy, and dangerous. (I shudder at the memory of
Rochester, New York's station or the one in Columbus, Ohio in PC days when
one needed to catch a late night train.) Need we even mention a comparison
of on-board restrooms? Amtrak diners outshine Penn Central's dining
service, and an Amcafé with its seating areas beats a former NYC snack bar
coach hands down. I mourn the passage and the price of the Penn Central
Sleepercoach, but Viewliner and Superliner sleepers have more room and even
For nostalgia I'll take PC any day; for comfortable, up-to-date rail travel,
give me Amtrak!
And to say the government and trains don't mix just flies in the face of the
experience of many other countries. The high speed trains of Europe and
Japan have all come from nationalized systems. I've just come from three
years in Belgium where the nationalized system covers every medium sized and
almost all small population centers in the country with hourly service and
very low fares -- at a price of subsidies to and deficit by the Belgian
National Railways. And one mustn't forget that Penn Central would not have
operated a single one of its passenger trains had it not been forced to do
so by the Interstate Commerce Commission or been subsidized to do so by DOT
or local commuter agencies.
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