Rant Railways, whats happening?

Urwumpe

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Buffet also said he did this as part of a bet, without further going into details.
 

Notebook

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He's no fool, must be something in that company he likes.
I think I'm just fed up trying to get a response from our railway systems websites for a straightforward 300 mile main-line return journey. The onlything I wasn't asked was my shoe size(9 IMP).
Think I'll use the car.

N.
 

Linguofreak

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Buffet also said he did this as part of a bet, without further going into details.

You're talking about this, right? :

Mr Buffett said that the deal was "an all-in wager on the economic future of the United States".

"I love these bets," he added.

He's talking metaphorically. If the US economy does well, he makes money. If it doesn't, this will be costly for him.
 

Andy44

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And since recovery is inevitable, he's going to make money.

1. Nothing is inevitable except death. Including the death of the economy. Some day.

2. It's possible for the railroad to run into problems and lose money even if the economy picks up, although this is less likely. From what I've seen of BNSF, it's a well-run operation and does a huge business.

There are only 5 large railroads in the US left: Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Canadian National, plus a bunch of smaller companies operating locally.

These railroads are the results of bankruptcies, reorganizations, and mergers following the railroad business crashes of the 60s and 70s. In the 70s, Amtrak relieved the common carriers of their money-losing passenger burden, in the 80s the railroads shut down lots of unprofitable rail lines, and in the 90s a bunch of mergers led to the current big money monsters. I think BNSF may be a good move for Buffet, even though it's hard to like the guy you can't say he doesn't know what he's doing.
 

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Are Amtrak still operating? I had an "interesting" trip on one of their trains.

N.
 

Andy44

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Oh yes. Amtrak is the only long distance passenger rail operation in the US. They always lose money, but Congress keeps sinking more into them, so they aren't going anywhere for a while. I don't think there are any true private companies providing rail passenger service anywhere in the US anymore.

While I'm critical of its subsidized existence, I actually enjoy their service. Since 9/11 flying sucks big time, and a train, while slow and expensive, is a lot less agonizing. And the employees are actually nice to you.

I'm guessing you had a more negative experience?
 

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Clearly Buffet has something in mind, with the amount of money he's putting up he's not just going to sit on it and hope it gets more valuable with recovery. Something tells me rail transport is about to get significantly more expensive...

As for the situation in Britain, well, the government has been relentless in trying to outlaw cars, and the rail companies know that's what most people are stuck using, so they're going to gouge it for all it's worth. Simple economics.
 

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Oh yes. Amtrak is the only long distance passenger rail operation in the US. They always lose money, but Congress keeps sinking more into them, so they aren't going anywhere for a while. I don't think there are any true private companies providing rail passenger service anywhere in the US anymore.

While I'm critical of its subsidized existence, I actually enjoy their service. Since 9/11 flying sucks big time, and a train, while slow and expensive, is a lot less agonizing. And the employees are actually nice to you.

I'm guessing you had a more negative experience?

Yes, negative experience, not Amtraks's staff fault, I think.

Back in the late 80's, I had some money(lots of overtime!), and thought I'd take my parents on a trip to the US. We did a Cooks tour(literally), LA, SF, and Hawaii. Did the usual tourist trips, and when in SF, decided to go to Yosemite National Park on the train.

It was an early start, and we got a taxi to Oakland? station, and got on a nice shiny streamlined Amtrak carriage. I think the train was the San Joaquan? Flyer.

Journey went ok, though it was very foggy(December), and couldn't see much out of the window. We came into Stockton, California, and left again, about 8am I think. A few minutes out of the station, there was a juddering, not much noise, then it got very violent. People went into the ailse, luggage came off the racks, shouting and screaming. Then it stopped, I checked on my parents, who where upset, but ok, everybody else was getting up and looking around, luckily no one seemed badly injured.

I was sat at the left-rearmost seat, and there was a banging on the carriage door behind me. I got up, and opened it, after a bit of a struggle with some luggage. The guard who checked us on was there, looking very distressed, and told us to get everyone out the carriage.

We didn't realise what had happened at this point, just thought it was a bit of a breakdown, hadn't sunk in I suppose. We all got off, and looking back up the line toward Stockton, there was an axle in the middle of the road-crossing, with the twin-wheels still atached. Dawned on us then that the train had struck a vehicle on the crossing, and been de-railed.

We walked back toward the road, there was traffic on both sides, stationary, with people getting out of them. The engine and the first two carriages were on their sides, the carriage we were in, and the ones behind were still on the track.

We stood around, looking after a lady who had a broken, or sprained her ankle , some people had cuts from the falling luggage.

The emergency services were very quick, and we walking wounded were kept in "The American Equipment Company", a local light engineering firm. They were very good, they opened their canteen, let people use the telephones. We waited there, then we were took to the local hospital, checked over, fed, watered, looked after very well.
We were eventually got back to Oakland about 3am.

The papers next day reported three killed, I don't know if that figure got worse, we went on to LA that day.

A distressing experience for all, and could have been much worse for us if that carriage had turned over.

N.
 

Linguofreak

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I managed to find a summary of the NTSB report on that incident from your description. The full report isn't available online (the NTSB site says that in general only reports since 1996 are available online, and this was December 19th of 1989).

http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/1990/RHR9001.htm

Engineer, fireman, and truck driver were killed. Truck driver at fault.
 

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Yes, thats the one. We didn't know who was at fault at the time, I remember bits of barriers lying around the road. I think the truck hit one, the train had completely gone through the junction. I don't think we were travelling that fast.
Strange they mention the door locks in the vestibules, must have problems in other carriages We had problems clearing the aisles of luggage, and packages. The carriage was upright, but it had slipped of the rails, and had a lean to the right side I remember.

N.
 

Urwumpe

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when I was traveling home with my high school class from a voyage, our engine caught fire, was a pretty interesting sight (especially, it was a great example of a metal fire), but delayed our return home by two hours. Especially because instead of the direct route over intercity trains, we had to use slow regional trains... a rail bus, which was so slowly accelerating that we joked that the poor engineer had to use muscle power for propulsion.
 

Linguofreak

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Yes, thats the one. We didn't know who was at fault at the time, I remember bits of barriers lying around the road. I think the truck hit one, the train had completely gone through the junction. I don't think we were travelling that fast.

Yeah, trains carry alot of momentum. I've seen one video of a train collision with a truck whose driver was somewhat more fortunate: It went through the trailer and didn't even slow down. The trailer just disintegrated (probably empty though). The cab was hardly touched. (Though the trailer was probably empty, and things might have been nastier if the trailer had been full).

It takes a train alot of time to stop at any speed.
 

tl8

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Yeah, trains carry alot of momentum. I've seen one video of a train collision with a truck whose driver was somewhat more fortunate: It went through the trailer and didn't even slow down. The trailer just disintegrated (probably empty though). The cab was hardly touched. (Though the trailer was probably empty, and things might have been nastier if the trailer had been full).

It takes a train alot of time to stop at any speed.

1 to 4km isn't uncommon. It depends alot if it is unloaded, loaded and what speed it is doing.

When driving I follow a simple rule: Car vs Train, Train always wins
 

Linguofreak

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Or car/truck always loses at least. In this particular case the train lost too.

EDIT:

Oh, my Dad knew a guy in college whose car got hit by a train. He was launched out of his car and the shoes were knocked off of his feet, but he survived and maintained consciousness. He was then so dazed that he walked into the side of the still-moving train. He survived that too.
 
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Notebook

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Yeah, trains carry alot of momentum. I've seen one video of a train collision with a truck whose driver was somewhat more fortunate: It went through the trailer and didn't even slow down. The trailer just disintegrated (probably empty though). The cab was hardly touched. (Though the trailer was probably empty, and things might have been nastier if the trailer had been full).

It takes a train alot of time to stop at any speed.

I don't know what speed we were doing, I would guess less than 40mph, we hadn't been out of the station long.
Would say the train had travelled two or three times its length after the level-crossing.

N.
 

Zatnikitelman

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If it's any reassurance, they've upgraded the crossings along the California corridors like you were riding. That's not to say there aren't accidents, but the accident rate has reduced significantly. Not only the crossings, but the head-end equipment (locomotives, cab cars etc.) has had "Ditch Lights" added to them around the early '90s I think. They provide a triangular light pattern so drivers either running the gates, or at un-gated crossings have something to better triangulate off of which allows better judgement of the distance and speed of trains.

I'm not sure what exactly will come out of Mr. Buffett's acquisition, but I'm hoping it'll help American passenger service a lot and possibly lead to mainline electrification of the BNSF routes (probably the "transcon" first).
 

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Glad to hear they've improved, train accidents aren't common, but they are bad when they happen.

N.
 
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