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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » A Texas Sized Texas Triangle

   
Author Topic: A Texas Sized Texas Triangle
Gilbert B Norman
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Ref:

Since there are no [Amtrak] trains in my home town on any given Saturday (and the station is closed and locked), I guess I'll just work on my website and dream of better days....

--------Eric H. Bowen


Mr. Bowen's comment made over at the National Train Day topic did give me cause to think of this often proposed 'Texas Triangle" (really a Quadrilateral) high-speed concept.

As I recall, the proposal would link over newly constructed ROW's, Dallas Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston in some interconnected manner. Dallas-Houston, being Texas' two largest cities, would logically be "Phase I" of any such initiative. The trains would average some 100mph and afford a Dallas-Houston running time in less than three hours.

In short, Western European and Asian Pacific Rim standards of rail passenger service would be "Deep in the Heart of Texas".

The main thought I hold regarding this is "well and good"; however at this time, and even in a $5/ga gas and/or a $350/RT Dallas-Houston air transport environment. no private sector entrepreneur would still likely be about to "step up to the plate'. Therefore, the public trough would be the only source if such a project were to move forth. Considering the "no new anything' Federal rail funding environment, the primary source to fund such a project would be at State level, although some funds for infrastructure, but not for operations i.e. diesel fuel (electrification? hey that's the Oil Patch) and Conductor's wages, could be secured through the Federal Transit Administration.

But once built, how many people who simply think of air and highway, are going to consider use of the service? If it succeeds to the extent that the trains are full, I guess great, but if it flops, and Southwest (half hourly flights DAL-HOU) as well as I-45 continues to be "IT", then there would a Texas sized boondoggle for the whole world to see. Lest we forget, most boondoggles remain as monuments to themselves; they do not get demolished as conveniently as was the San Francisco Embarcadero Freeway.

I'm afraid any politician who values continued holding of office is not likely to actively support such a proposal, for in the absence of gas rationing such as existed during the 1973-74 "gas crisis' or some prohibition of air transport on routes lass than, say, 300 miles, the risk far outweighs the reward.

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Mike Smith
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Our public trough spent over $500 million on a toy train that runs a total of 7 miles between downtown & the med center in Houston. We could have had our commuter rail to Dallas for about the same money.

If no one rides the Houston/Dallas train, it will be comparable to Houston's toy train.

I say "Let's do it!"

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mr williams
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Didn't the Texas Eagle split at one time and run a Dallas-Houston portion?
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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by mr williams:
Didn't the Texas Eagle split at one time and run a Dallas-Houston portion?

It did.......but the Houston leg was eliminated in the early 1980's during the Reagan era.....I think the Chicago - Dubuque 'Black Hawk' expired at the same time.

For awhile the Houston leg branched off at Temple, TX but that was immediately following the Carter cuts of 1979.......if I remember correctly. I'm at work and don't have my collection of Official Railway Guides close at hand to refer back to.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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George Harris
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The Houston Leg of the TE took 6 hours according to the schedule, but seldom managed to make it in that. You could drive the distance in about 3.5. It usually consisted of 2 cars. The overall time for long distance passengers was even worse, considering that to go to Dallas first was quite a dog-leg. Back in Missouri Pacific Texas Eagle days, the split was made at Longview, and I think took about 5 hours from there, giving a total elapsed Texarkana to Houston time of about 7 to 8 hours as opposed to somewhere around 12 under Amtrak.

While Dallas - Houston might give you the biggest end point populations, Dallas - Waco - Austin - San Antonio would probably have higher ridership due to the fairly large intermediate point cities.

In general, the death of the Texas Triangle scheme tends to be attributed to a strong campaign that included a lot of false information funded primarily by Southwest Airlines.

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Mike Smith
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:

In general, the death of the Texas Triangle scheme tends to be attributed to a strong campaign that included a lot of false information funded primarily by Southwest Airlines.

True.

At the time, Southwest had 6 planes. Three flew clockwise between Houston, Dallas, & San Antonio, and three flew counter-clockwise between Houston, San Antonio, & Dallas.

Wish I would have bought SW Air stock back then...

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amtraxmaniac
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Strong campaigning including false information? That seems to be the tactics of all anti rail travel critics; corporate financed deception. Maybe Southwest should stop spending money on deception and paying off the FAA and invest that money on proper maintenance of their airplanes.

--------------------
Patrick

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Gilbert B Norman
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According to Mr. Smith, "Texas Triangle" rail passenger is dead; long live Southwest Airlines and I-45.

Unfortunately, we are dealing with a personal transportation or very convenient air (half hourly DAL-HOU) service culture. It would seem as if "so what if it costs $100 to fill up my ESSUUUVEE" or Herb wants $300 for a RT; "le voiture c'est moi. I can rev 'er up to 85 and those good ol' boys wearing Smokey hats will gimme a pass".

Tell me I'm mistaken with that assessment, Mr. Smith.

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Mike Smith
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The fight was fought many, many decades ago. Southwest Air was a very small local carrier that was well connected in Texas, so rail failed.

Now, with the TSA hassle of flying, the air part of the equation is about the same as a drive to Dallas, 3 hours, start to finish.

And Mr Norman is right. Don't be doing 70 in the fast lane; you will get run over. I'm running up I-45 on Wednesday and returning on Thursday, with the cruise control set between 77 & 85, depending on traffic.

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RRRICH
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David -- if I recall, the Houston part of the old 1980'a Texas Chief (or Lone Star) was the one that split off in Temple for Houston. In more recent years, the TE had a Houston branch which split in Dallas and took a completely different route to Houston, going through College Station and Bryan, I believe. I believe that one was eliminated way after the "Carter cuts" (or I am just getting old, and 20 years ago seems like 5 years ago?)
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delvyrails
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As an Easterner, I'm curious whether that lead-foot driving was tolerated during the nation-wide 55-mph speed limit. We've all read the numbers regarding fuel expended at higer speeds.

It could happen again.

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20th Century
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It's unfortunate that the Texas Triangle rail proposal fizzed out thanks to Southwest Airlines and those who were "influenced" by it.
I traveled through Italy last month (Rome-Florence-Venice-Naples-Rome) using Trenitalia Eurostar. Speed, punctuality, frequency is the operative mode. Of course willingness to dedicated funds for new right of ways partially along existing lines and new tunnels through the Appenines is what brought this about. I think the EU contributed the Italian Gov't funding. There was one snag...our train to Venice broke down before arriving in Florence, but thanks to service frequency we were able to catch another to Venice. They all had a restaurant car which had dining service and snack buffet service. Total ticket price for one in 1st.Class (like business class on Amtrak) was $408.

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notelvis
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quote:
Originally posted by RRRICH:
David -- if I recall, the Houston part of the old 1980'a Texas Chief (or Lone Star) was the one that split off in Temple for Houston. In more recent years, the TE had a Houston branch which split in Dallas and took a completely different route to Houston, going through College Station and Bryan, I believe. I believe that one was eliminated way after the "Carter cuts" (or I am just getting old, and 20 years ago seems like 5 years ago?)

Hey Rich,

You're on the right track......again I'm stealing a couple of minutes at work and can't confirm with old Official Guides but I believe the scenario was something like this -

1) Yes.....Temple - Houston was part of the route of the Chicago-Houston 'Lone Star' (originally 'Texas Chief') which came down the ATSF through Oklahoma and continued on ATSF rails to Houston.

2) At the time of the Carter Cuts, October 1979, the 'Lone Star' was eliminated in favor of keeping what is now the 'Eagle' (then the 'Inter-American'). but the 'Lone Star's' Temple-Houston portion was retained as a new 'Houston Section' of the 'Eagle'. The route was roundabout and took about three times longer than it took to drive to Dallas from Houston.

3) At some point....maybe a year or 18 months later....the Houston section was re-routed onto a former Souhtern Pacific line through Corsicana to Dallas. This was still much longer than the old Houston section from the MP days in terms of trying to go from Houston to St. Louis or Chicago on the train.

4) Again at some point......seems like 1981 but it may have been as late as 1983, the Houston section of the 'Eagle' was discontinued and replaced with a Thruway Bus connecting at Longview where the old MP sections connected.

5) I won't tackle the subject of when the 'Inter-American/Texas Eagle' lost it's San Antonio-Nuevo Laredo section......sometime in the 80's but not sure when....

At least that's how I remember it with nothing printed at hand to clarify what I believe to be the case.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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rresor
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This Texas Triangle was featured in a late 1970s report by FRA entitled "Emerging Corridors". It's now 30 years later and none of the corridors has yet emerged. Instead, the Texas high speed rail project of the 1990s never got off the ground, and in 1996 (I think) the Dallas -- Houston section of the "Eagle" was dropped.

To briefly recap: the original Amtrak route map of 1971 featured the "Texas Chief" on its ATSF route to Houston. In 1974 or so, the "Inter American" was added as a San Antonio to Laredo train. For a time the train ran from Milano, TX as a section of the Texas Chief, but quickly grew into the "Texas Eagle" from Chicago on an all-MoP routing except for Ft. Worth to Milano. The train was the re-routed via the MKT from Temple to Tyler, and it remains on that route to this day.

The Chief was cut by the Carter administration in 1979, but the Eagle soldiered on, running all the way to Laredo until track conditions caused Amtrak to cut it back to San Antonio in the mid-1980s. The Dallas -- Houston train began running (IIRC) in 1988 or so as a section of the Eagle. I rode it in 1992. It used an all-SP route from Dallas through Corsicana and Bryan that had not had passenger service in many, many years. It was a victim of the 1995 Mercer cuts.

Now that Governor Rick Perry's "Trans Texas Corridor" proposal is in trouble in the legislature, I'm not sure when -- if ever -- we'll see Texas Triangle high speed rail. I've been waiting 30 years at this point.

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notelvis
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YES, YES Mr. RRESOR -

You're onto something. I've gotten home and glanced over some of my paper -

A February 1981 Official Guide has the Houston section of the Texas Eagle running Houston to Temple.

By October 1982 this remnant of the Texas Chief/Lone Star is gone. Main train still continues to Laredo.

THEN....an edition of Rail Ventures dated 1992 shows the NEW Houston section running Houston to Dallas on the SP route.

In my memory I was compressing the end of the original Houston section and the end of the newer Houston section into a much tighter timeframe.

I could dig further and get exact dates but.....well.....today I am about the events of 2008 and don't have time to think anymore about 1988.....

As for a Texas Corridor coming in 30 years now.....we're beginning to push our luck as to whether or not I'll be around to see it. That would make me 75. My grandfather made it that long, my father did not.

--------------------
David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Well, it appears that the Texas Triangle rail corridor concept is more dead than I thought when I originated this topic. It appears to be a victim of Herb Kelleher and the "Texas Cadillac', i.e. a 'long bed' GM SUV.

But Texas does have a REPUBLICAN US Senator (apparently Senator-for-Life), Kay Bailey Hutchinson, willing to stand on the Senate floor and "make nice' about Amtrak.

http://src.senate.gov/public/_files/television/kbh_oct25.ram

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George Harris
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However, there have been some recent rumblings about another Texas scheme I thought dead: Some form of San Antonio to Austin service, sort of a glorified commuter. Apparently the traffic between these two places is reaching the point of needing to double the number of lanes on I-35, not possible for anything under Big-Dig type costs. Who knows? We may yet see some form of intercity rail in Texas? In my lifetime (age 63), I somewhat doubt it.
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RRRICH
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David -- yes you are right!!! But I still think the Dallas section of the TE stayed around later than the 80's. As Mr. rresor says, the Dallas section may have been dropped in 1996, but I think it may have been a little before that, but later than the 1980's --maybe 1991 or so? But rresor is probably closest on this one.....

And yes, I had forgotten about the old "Inter-American" which ran from SAS to Laredo back in the 70's, but I forgot when that was finally eliminated. Mid-80's sounds about right for that one.

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TwinStarRocket
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Didn't Senator Hutchison announce she wasn't running for reelection? Along with Trent Lott, that would be a loss of two prominent Republicans who support Amtrak!
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by rresor:
the Eagle soldiered on, running all the way to Laredo until track conditions caused Amtrak to cut it back to San Antonio in the mid-1980s.

Never heard the "track conditions" item before. I had always assumed the cut back was due to lack of passengers south of San Antonio, or possibly congestion.

During pre-Amtrak MoPac days the line south of San Antonio was unsignaled but with a 59P/49F speed limit until the Eagle died. Sometime along the way since then it has been given CTC and a 60 mph speed limit for freight trains, and I believe that may have happened before MoPac was absorbed by the UP Borg.

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