High Speed Rail – Back to the Future

The Chicago Sun Times reports that, with a considerable whoop-te-do Amtrak has launched a high-speed rail link outside the Northeast corridor. Where? Between Chicago and Kalamazoo. See Mark Brown, Speeding to Kalamazoo Aboard Amtrak’s High-Speed Train, suntimes.com, February 16, 2012 — click here.  We rise above temptation to wonder out loud who would want to go to Kalamazoo in such a hurry — if that is what it is (keep reading) — and why, but the point of this story is something else.

The highest speed reached by this train on its run between Chicago and Kalamazoo was 110 mph. Wow! Sounds fast. But it turns out that the previous average train speed on that route was 95 mph, so that going 110 mph, according to Amtrak officials, shaved off only 10 minutes from the trip.

Now comes the best part.  It turns out that back in 1934 the Pioneer Zephyr train (also known as the Silver Streak) made the same run, hitting a top speed of 112.5 mph. So with all the foofaraw about high-tech, high-speed rail, and all the associated high-tech hoopla, we didn’t quite make the top speed of the train that ran on this route in 1934 — some three quarters of a century ago.

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