Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service--A Year Spent Riding across America

( 4 )

Overview

During the tumultuous year of 2008—when gas prices reached $4 a gallon, Amtrak set ridership records, and a commuter train collided with a freight train in California—journalist James McCommons spent a year on America's trains, talking to the people who ride and work the rails throughout much of the Amtrak system. Organized around these rail journeys, Waiting on a Train is equal parts travel narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism.

Readers meet the historians, ...

See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $5.99   
  • Used (11) from $1.99   
Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 41%)$17.95 List Price

Overview

During the tumultuous year of 2008—when gas prices reached $4 a gallon, Amtrak set ridership records, and a commuter train collided with a freight train in California—journalist James McCommons spent a year on America's trains, talking to the people who ride and work the rails throughout much of the Amtrak system. Organized around these rail journeys, Waiting on a Train is equal parts travel narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism.

Readers meet the historians, railroad executives, transportation officials, politicians, government regulators, railroad lobbyists, and passenger-rail advocates who are rallying around a simple question: Why has the greatest railroad nation in the world turned its back on the very form of transportation that made modern life and mobility possible?

Distrust of railroads in the nineteenth century, overregulation in the twentieth, and heavy government subsidies for airports and roads have left the country with a skeletal intercity passenger-rail system. Amtrak has endured for decades, and yet failed to prosper owing to a lack of political and financial support and an uneasy relationship with the big, remaining railroads.

While riding the rails, McCommons explores how the country may move passenger rail forward in America—and what role government should play in creating and funding mass-transportation systems. Against the backdrop of the nation's stimulus program, he explores what it will take to build high-speed trains and transportation networks, and when the promise of rail will be realized in America.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Library Journal, Editors' Pick-

Attention! Readers of travel memoir, of investigative reporting, those seeking to understand America today, even devotees of fiction of the American journey—heck, simply of fine writing! Look out for James McCommons's Waiting on a Train. NOTICE!: Train chasers, railroaders, and train hobbyists, you'll want to chase down this book as well. DESCRIPTION: Height nine inches, approximately 272 pages deep. Instigated by veteran journalist McCommons, who was last seen riding the rails in 2008 on extended trips covering all regions of the country that still permit the possibility of passenger rail travel. As he rides the California Zephyr, the Silver Meteor, the Acela, the Empire Builder, he interweaves stories of the men and women he encounters with an accessible and expertly traced history of America's enchantment and subsequent tragically wrongheaded abandonment of its railroads. In a year when gas prices tipped the $4 mark, the speed and efficiency of freight trains carrying shipping containers became all the more clear. McCommons urges us not to fall back on train nostalgia but to look to the future. He sees the possibility that with increased stimulus support of America's railroad lines, age-old disconnects between freight and passenger rail may at last ease, and we may cease to be "a third-world country when it comes to passenger railroads." McCommons is the son and grandson of railroad men. He does them proud. Detain his work. Can be found as of November 2009. Reward: The pleasure of reading prose that has the shimmer, strength, and authenticity that our railroads can still inspire and that they may yet attain again.

Library Journal-

McCommons sets out to rectify American ignorance of passenger trains by describing his rail travels around the United States in 2008. He writes of the people he meets, the scenery, the long decline in American rail travel, and its emerging renaissance, interweaving discussions he has had with dozens of the leading minds on American passenger rail. McCommons explains that Amtrak has been starved for funding since its 1971 inception but argues that a brighter future is coming with increased funding from the Obama administration, states working on regional plans, a new spirit of cooperation from the freight railroads, and the 2008 four-dollars-a-gallon gasoline price, which refocused the public's attention on rail travel. Still, he's objective, and though repetitious, his narratives get the mood of train travel right. He's at his best when deftly connecting the lack of a salad in a dining car with bigger issues like Amtrak's funding. VERDICT: Essential reading for rail fans, policymakers, and anyone curious about the future of transportation.

"America once had a passenger railroad system that was the envy of the world. Now we have one that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of. The task of reviving it could not be more important if we wish to keep people moving around this continent-sized nation, especially as the airlines crap out and our system of mass Happy Motoring founders on the shoals of 'peak oil.' The infrastructure of our rail system is lying out in the rain waiting to be fixed; the project would put scores of thousands of people to work at meaningful jobs at all levels; and the fact that we're not even talking about it shows how un-serious we are as a society. This book is one small step toward the giant leap of consciousness necessary to repair our battered country."—James Howard Kunstler, author of World Made By Hand and The Long Emergency

"Like William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways before it, James McCommons' Waiting on a Train is a celebration of America's past and a hopeful prescription for its future. It is one of those rare books that will change the way you see the world, a fascinating and engaging tale of how this nation's infatuation with the automobile all but destroyed a once glorious passenger rail system. If you are not already a rail lover, you will be by the time you finish this book. You will want to pack your bags and hop aboard. Waiting on a Train is an important story thoroughly reported and well told."—John Grogan, author of Marley & Me and The Longest Trip Home

"James McCommons has captured the adventure, the angst, and the inadequacy of modern train travel. He also gives us perspective, taking us from the days when trains were the pulse of America to today when they could be so much but are on life support."—Don Phillips, columnist for Trains magazine and former transportation writer for The Washington Post and International Herald Tribune

"Waiting on a Train is a timely and worthwhile addition to the canon of transportation literature. It manages to be both a lively account of rail travels across America—with insightful portraits of the train enthusiasts and just plain folks met along the way—and a deeply informative history of Amtrak in its short but troubled existence. More than that, it points the way toward a more dynamic future for passenger railroads, complete with heavily used high-speed trains zipping around regional corridors."—Jim Motavalli, author of Breaking Gridlock: Moving Toward Transportation That Works and Forward Drive: The Race to Build Clean Cars for the Future

"This is must reading for anybody who cares about the transportation future of this country. It should be a call to arms for all Americans who keep wondering why our friends in Europe and Asia have terrific trains while we have poured billions into highways and airports and a pittance into our national passenger rail system."—Michael Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts and vice-chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors, 1998-2003

Library Journal
McCommons (journalism & nature writing, Northern Michigan Univ.) sets out to rectify American ignorance of passenger trains by describing his rail travels around the United States in 2008. He writes of the people he meets, the scenery, the long decline in American rail travel, and its emerging renaissance, interweaving discussions he has had with dozens of the leading minds on American passenger rail. McCommons explains that Amtrak has been starved for funding since its 1971 inception but argues that a brighter future is coming with increased funding from the Obama administration, states working on regional plans, a new spirit of cooperation from the freight railroads, and the 2008 four-dollars-a-gallon gasoline price, which refocused the public's attention on rail travel. Still, he's objective, and though repetitious, his narratives get the mood of train travel right. He's at his best when deftly connecting the lack of a salad in a dining car with bigger issues like Amtrak's funding. VERDICT Essential reading for rail fans, policymakers, and anyone curious about the future of transportation, who should also seek both John Stilgoe's Train Time: Railroads and the Imminent Reshaping of the United States Landscape and the History Channel's eight-part DVD Extreme Trains. [See Editors' Fall Picks,LJ 9/1/09.]—Lawrence Maxted, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781603580649
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
  • Publication date: 11/6/2009
  • Pages: 285
  • Sales rank: 728,618
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

James McCommons has been a journalist for more than twenty five years and published hundreds of articles in magazines and major newspapers. A former senior editor at Organic Gardening magazine, he specializes in ecology and travel writing. He grew up in a railroad family and has spent thirty five years riding trains in America. He currently teaches journalism and nature writing at Northern Michigan University and lives in Marquette, Michigan.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Foreword

Prologue

Baltimore : on the oldest railroad in America

Part 1. Through the Rockies and Sierras:

California Zephyr : here come your game boys and microwaves ; Sacramento : all you got now is Amtrak ; Train world : foamers and train spotters ; Real railroad world : the birth of Amtrak

Part 2. Pacific Northwest:

North Dakota : across on the hi-line ; Essex, Montana : at the Izaak Walton Inn ; The Cascades : locomotive problems ; Seattle : the "N" word: nationalization ; Amtrak Cascades : its all about frequency

Oregon : funding rail with vanity plates ; Empire builder : the best kept secret in America

Part 3. The Midwest:

Chicago : a third-world train set ; Madison : everything has six zeros in it Part 4: The Middle Atlantic:

Lakeshore Limited : but I don't want a burger ; The Acela Express : aboard America's fastest train ; Washington, D.C. : running out of capacity ; Norfolk, Virginia : make those people go away ; Raleigh, North Carolina : a state-owned railroad ; The Carolinian : national train day ; Union Station, Washington, D.C. : when railroads were bad to the bone ; The Capitol Limited : America rides these trains

Part 5: California: The Southwest Chief : on the transcon ; Pacific Surfliner : on board the California car ; The Coast Starlight : a California train inside and out ; Capitol Corridor : trains in the streets of Oakland ; Caltrans, Sacramento : a billion dollars ready to go ; High speed rail authority, Sacramento : building another Hoover dam ; California Railroad Museum, Sacramento : railroads become road kill ; Amtrak Western Division, Oakland : freight that talks ; California Zephyr : a stunning long way to go ; Colorado River : yak-yak on the radio ; Denver : waiting for those freighters

Part 6. Texas:

The Texas Eagle : diner lite ; Longview, Texas : Don't you get it? We don't care ; Houston : a pitiful harvest by bus ; Dallas : a Texas t-bone bullet train ; BNSF Headquarters, Fort Worth : We care. We really do ; Texas Eagle : no Mac and cheese

Part 7. The Northeast:

Hiawatha : deadly days ; The Capitol Limited : a complete washout ; Union Station, Washington, D.C. : the big lie of profitability ; Amtrak Headquarters : broken governance and the Amtrak haters ; Philadelphia : trains with people in them ; Boston : I was your governor ; Cambridge : mega-regions: 100 million more people ; The Downeaster : Maine's very own train ; Lake Shore Limited : Can I sit somewhere else?

Part 8. The Gulf Coast:

City of New Orleans : on the main line of Mid-America ; Meridian, Mississippi : Interstate II in fifteen years ; New Orleans : Rail: the red-headed stepchild; CSX Headquarters, Jacksonville : Where's the vision, where's the money? ; Tallahassee : left without a Cadillac ; Silver Meteor : a bed and 600 miles ; Virginia Beach : Railpax: set up to fail ; Washington, D.C. : the freight-railroad boys

Epilogue. Pittsburgh : on train time again

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 30, 2013

    A fantastic book which shows how and why Amtrak is largely a jok

    A fantastic book which shows how and why Amtrak is largely a joke outside of the Northeast Corridor and why this country has such lackluster passenger rail service. A must read for anyone who has a scrap of interest in trains.




    Go figure though, after reading this book, which focuses on the author's travels across the country on various Amtrak routes throughout 2008, chock full of tales of trains who are continually late, I am itching to take my next trip to South Carolina on the Crescent...even though arrival and departure times from my destination are insanely inconvenient.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)