Today, we celebrate the beginning of a new holiday in America: National Train Day.
With growing fuel costs and more citizens becoming aware of the need for a rebirth in public transportation, passenger and commuter train ridership has increased steadily over the past several years. Instead of spending countless hours in an automobile, some people are discovering the pleasure of sitting back and enjoying the ride.
On May 10th, 1869, the Golden Spike was driven into the ground at Promontory Point, Utah, marking the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Thus began the nation's great railroad era. The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (a.k.a. Amtrak) has chosen the 139th anniversary to celebrate America's railway heritage. Events are scheduled across the nation, with the biggest festivities occurring at four of the biggest stations in the US: Pennsylvania Station in New York, and the Union Stations in Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles, California, and Washington, D.C.
Having journeyed across the country via rail, I have seen first-hand what a pleasurable experience it can be. While it may not be as rapid as air travel, the leg room, food, and scenery cannot be matched. Amtrak is also working hard to reduce fuel consumption in an effort to go green (the company is 18% more energy efficient than any commercial airline). And because of these efforts, while plane fuel costs might drive up ticket prices, rail travel is far less effected. With the addition of electric locomotives on several routes, those emissions and fuel costs are virtually eliminated.
On an interesting side note, it might be beneficial that railroads are looking to alternative and environmentally-friendly fuels. Anthracite coal contains many impurities, including sulfur, silicon, aluminum, mercury, thorium,... and uranium. That's right, folks: being around burning coal is possibly worse than being near a nuclear plant!
Cheerful thought, eh? It's a wonder more old railway workers and ghosts aren't glowing green...