Friday, February 10, 2017

Bringing rail travel back

Having grown up near Chicago, and within 20 miles of at least 20 train lines in NW Indiana, I'm a huge fan of trains, but quite frankly the reality of train travel (a.k.a Amtrak) leaves a lot to be desired.  And so I was intrigued by this article about "most romantic train rides", especially the picture in this link

Notice what you have is the coal-fired (romantic?) steam locomotive pulling up a grade with....a modern diesel locomotive right behind it.  In other words, they've got the romance and the reality.  To buy the ride, people want both.  And in this case, it's pretty obvious that they're compromising one to get the other.

The solution, if it's practical, is simply to have a small diesel and generator on each carriage--a "doodlebug" configuration--and then let the old steam locomotive be the "crumple zone" in the case of a crash.  I'm told that the typical objection to a doodlebug configuration is, after all, the prospect of what happens in a crash with freight trains. 

Oh, and maybe....just maybe....rework the steam engine to burn natural gas instead of coal.  Maybe I'm just weird, but unfiltered coal smoke is not part of the old romance of rail, but is rather part of why so many of us decided to drive, take the bus, or fly.

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