Number of passenger trains in the United States vs. Europe


Passenger train travel is not our strong suit in the US, no.

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America used to be covered by a network of train lines, but all that died in the '50s with the rise of the car and the interstate highway.

US passenger trains were mostly private companies that felt competition, while European trains are mostly state-owned public services so have survived well into the age of the car. The exception is the UK where the last decades have seen the trains made sorta-private, but with service-related strings attached that effectively means the new owners can’t really cut back.


For many years I would get a Eurail pass and travel all over Europe for a month checking out festivals & concerts, architectural and natural beauties. Good times!
I’m also so stinkin’ old that I remember every year taking the train from Memphis, TN to Iron Mountain, MI to visit my mothers family while Dad did his 2 weeks National Guard duty. Then one year we stopped. I guess train service north of Milwaukee had ended.
Lots of great train stations back in the hey day of train travel in the US. Some survive, some have been re-purposed as elegant hotels but most were bull dozed. A true shame!

But it’s true, the interstate system& cheap gas and the automobile killed passenger service in the US.

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The cost of rail travel coupled with its very limited service in the US pretty much relegates it to something of a niche-vacation mode of travel. Taking a train in the US is like taking an ocean “cruise.” In the US, you don’t do either as a means to actually get anywhere.

I’ve looked several times at possibly taking the train from South Carolina to Denver, CO to visit my daughter and her family, but I can drive the trip more than twice as fast (and that includes hotel overnights enroute), do it for a fraction of the cost, not have to switch trains multiple times (along with schlepping around luggage, etc.), and not have to break the trip into BOTH a car segment (with long-term parking fees for the car) and the train segment (with the need for a car rental on the other end). In other words, train travel is totally impractical in the US as a means of actual travel to and from a destination. Flying is, of course, even faster and still cheaper by orders of magnitude (less than half the cost on the worst day).

Might be nice if that wasn’t the case, but that is the reality of train travel in the US.

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Most large US cities have commuter trains and a few have subways. In New York, the trains are vital for getting into and around the city . Many people do drive but the traffic is insane and the cost of tolls and parking is high as well.


I second those comments.

Didn’t realize we had those many lines in NC and it is missing one going to the coast.

Seriously great tune! I grew up with the Arlo Guthrie version, but eventually discovered the Steve Goodman original - well worth a listen. Pity Steve was taken from us so young.

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I was just singing City of New Orleans this a.m.! Still an evocative song for me, along with Me and You and a Dog Named Boo. After the recent eclipse my friends and I hung out and played Ticket To Ride, Europe. I completed all six of my routes but still lost! :confounded: To my old roommate - who never played before!

I have a little passenger train experience, in both the US and EU. When I was a kid, twice we took the Illinois Central from Kentucky to Minneapolis. I recall we caught the train in Fulton, not Cairo. How we got from Chicago to Minneapolis, I have no idea; uncle lived in Milwaukee so maybe he drove down and picked us up, or maybe a different railroad to Minneapolis. Rode commuter trains on Long Island and Chicago. Otherwise, aside from tourist trains and rail fanning, no other passenger experience in the US. (I am/was a certified train crewman on Doe River Gorge’s train, the former Tweetsie.) I considered taking Amtrak from El Paso to Phoenix, but as mentioned above, driving and flying was cheaper and faster.

In 1977 I went to Europe on a school trip. It was amazing to ride passenger trains: Rome to Salzburg (some of the train crew were trying to get the underage girls to visit the baggage car); Munich to Paris; Paris to the Channel, - pre-Chunnel. If only I had a digital camera and was not an early-teen.

I followed light rail commuter with interest but haven’t paid attention in years,. I recall when they started the light rail around Dallas-Fort Worth that the naysayers thought it would be a money-sucking boondoggle but apparently, they could not expand the capacity fast enough. About 20 years ago the light rail/commuter east from Nashville was well patronized, too. I wish we had it around here - I would ride it if they could keep the riffraff off.

If I make it back to Europe, I plan to buy a Eurorail pass and have a great time. Interestingly, my Dutch friend never takes the train from the Dolomites to the Netherlands - or anywhere else. I guess being left seat in a 747 spoiled him from wanting to be a passenger. :wink:

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My train experience in my younger days was mostly limited to the Silver Meteor every summer from Florida to New York. Good memories. Other than NYC subways every few years, and the run from NYC to Hudson, the only other one was a paid visit to some podunk college in Wisconsin. They had some hottie meet me there and drive me to the college. I even remember her name. Ended up choosing NMU instead.
And in Europe, the Berlin to Frankfurt run through the DDR when I wrestled for the Berlin team. Sometimes we transferred to another to get to where the match was. And of course after the wall fell I took some rides in the former DDR. All in all it wasn’t much compared to most Europeans,
Ah, a bullet train ride to in Japan, compliments of Tamiya. Almost forgot that one. And various subway rides in Seoul. Holy cow, now it’s all coming back to me - the subways in Moscow. Incredible.
Now I’m making up for lost time - three dinner train rides last year and another planned for this year.


• Two telephone rings and a hang up…
• Two more telephone rings and a hang up…

That was code for my Mom to hop in the '56 Chevy and drive to the Trenton Station. I’d tag along when she picked up my Dad whenever he arrived from New York. I still have fond memories of watching the PRR Electrics sparking the overhead wires as they rolled in.

‘Pennsylvania Railroad Class GG1’

—mike :railway_track:

PS: Me and my friends used to hang out in the freight yards and hop trains from one side of town to the other. … Don’t tell my Parents! :shushing_face::zipper_mouth_face: :grin:


@18bravo you’ve been busy! What were the dinner trains last year? Wife and I went on a autumn colors lunch train on the Smoky Mountain Railroad last October. I was ready to buy his tickets for NW 911’s excursions but by the time wife got the days off, they weren’t any seats left. Maybe this year?

Berlin team wrestling and you wrestled in the DDR?

The next trip I want to make is the Cumbres and Toltec. Durango and Silverton was a great time but I’ve been told that if you want more of an authentic experience, ride the C&T. I would like to make it back to you Nevada and take one of Nevada Northern’s dinner trains. I spent a day running No.40 around the tracks, now I’d like to get my hand of the throttle of their 2-8-0.

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I wish I could have seen a GG1 in action.

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Grapevine Dinner Train in Texas, Texas State Railroad, and the Branson Scenic Railway out of Missouri.

I think my wife would enjoy that. We’ve driven east the past two years just to check out the autumn leaves.

I wrestled on the Army team. Had to travel through the DDR at night on the duty train to get to the matches.

I think we’ve looked at those. First up - some dude ranch in Colorado, right after my annual Beartooth Pass trip to Montana.

Here in Germany, we learn to use trains from the start. When I was at Highschool I had to travel to the next city each day for three years. After reaching train station, I had another 20 minutes to reach school. When I switched to job training, I also had to use trains for 3 more years. Even today, I like to go by train regularly. Deutsche Bahn offers special tickets to travel tru Bavaria for 30 Euros per day. A good opportunity to discover other cities. It´s only difficult to get the passage home with bags full of kits. :wink:
A few years ago I did a trip to Plzen in Czech Republic. For also 30 Euro you can´t get there cheaper. No modelling shop there, so more money for Pilsner beer. :grin:
When I travel south-east to Regensburg, it could be that in Parsberg, the US Army off-loads vehicles for JMRC Hohenfels. Then of course, the travel will be interupted for taking pics.

With so many railways, we had a wide variety of locomotives, both diesel and electric.


Long Island is surprisingly well served because of NYC at its west end. The lines were built to get goods and people into the city from the north shore, south shore, and central belt, so hopping east or west between towns is easy, but going north-south means a very long detour in & out. As a teen I used to ride the trains, and if you timed it right you could keep ahead of the conductor to get a free ride! Naughty I know, but we were broke kids…


Anything beats the LIE.


Caught a train from Mineola into the city. Guessing that was the LI RR?