Rail transportation uses giant boxes running on steel wheels and steel rails for the function of moving bodies and things from Point A to Point B. Rail transportation can be found on every continent, even formerly Antarctica. This is the "legacy network" referred to over at the High speed rail article. Often, trains of this network are diesel, haul freight as well as passengers and obviously, doesn't break 200 km/h (124 mph) in service. Higher-speed rail falls into this category, due to it covering speeds below the threshold of high speed rail.
- 1 United States
- 2 In Canada
- 3 In the United Kingdom
- 4 Efficiency
- 5 Politics
- 6 Conspiracy theories
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
There are seven major[note 1] freight railroads operating in the United States (Two of which, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific are Canadian.) Larger railroads were numerous until the second half of the 20th Century. Increased competition from passenger airplanes and the Interstate Highway System stole away passengers, and trucks swooped in stealing away freight and postal contracts, which eliminated profits on passenger trains, leading to their demise and the goal to phase out service and focus on freight. The increased stress loss of freight traffic and other economic factors, like the loss of manufacturing in the rust belt region contributed to the mergers and bankruptcies.
East of the Mississippi River
The 1976 bankruptcy of the Penn Central and Erie Lackawanna Railway in 1972. The loss of the Penn Central threatened to cripple the Northeast United States' rail access, leading to the formation of Conrail, an actual United States Federal Government success story. In 23 years, Conrail went from the ashes of a number of companies that catastrophically collapsed, with a system that was in such disrepair that derailments were frequent even at low speeds to a network was so desired by the two other major east coast railroads, it lead to a takeover fight, before a compromise where the company was split between them.
Absorbing the split up Conrail system were the Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation. Norfolk Soutern's merger in 1982 was a simple two company merger between the Norfolk & Western Railway and the Southern Railway. In 1986, CSX[note 2] Transportation came into existence following a merger of the Chessie System Railroads[note 3], the Baltimore and Ohio, Chesapeake and Ohio, and Western Maryland, with Seaboard System Railroad.
West of the Mississippi River
In the Western United States, the Union Pacific Railroad would continue to expand its network, going on to absorb the Missouri Pacific Railroad, the Chicago and North Western, the Western Pacific Railroad and the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, Cotton Belt Railroad and the Southern Pacific Railroad.[note 4] Meanwhile, while all of this was going on, in the northwestern United States, a four company merger in 1970 folded the Great Northern Railway, Northern Pacific Railway, Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway, and the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad into Burlington Northern Railroad. In 1995, a merger with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway formed Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (Now known simply as BNSF Railway).
Passenger transport in the United States
Pre-AmtrakFrom the start of railroads in the United States to 1971, were largely private operation. By the 1940s and 1950s passenger operations began to lose profitability, as increasing competition from the automobile, which was worsened by the interstate highway system, followed by increasing competition from airlines as air travel became quicker, and more affordable siphoning off passengers. Most railroads saw profitability of most routes vanish in 1966 when the United States Postal Service discontinued using rail to transport mail, using trucks and airplanes instead.
Since May 1, 1971, Amtrak has been responsible for intercity transportation by rail. Formed by the United States government, to take over passenger train operations from railroads. The agreement for the formation provided Amtrak with rail equipment and stations, but no tracks, which were retained by the freight railroads. The bankruptcy of the Penn Central allowed it to obtain control of the Northeast Corridor, the route with the highest ridership system wide, and gave Amtrak control over its maintenance, and assigning priority to Amtrak trains over freight.
In Canada, rail transport is provided primarily by three major companies, Canadian National, the largest and only transcontinental railway in Canada, and formerly a Canadian Crown corporation, until privatization in 1995; Canadian Pacific, the other large railway in Canada. Both companies formerly operated passenger services, until the formation of VIA Rail in 1977.
Formed in 1977, VIA Rail exists in a way similar to America's Amtrak, with many of the same problems, compounded by the fact that Canada is less populated [note 5] with larger stretches of empty space compared to the United States [note 6], and doesn't own the Corridor exclusively like the Northeast Corridor in the United States, and it has a ridiculously low maximum speed of 100 miles per hour[note 7] Equipment age is also catching up to VIA, as they are running rebuilt F40PH locomotives, a locomotive model completely retired in the early 2000s by Amtrak, and replaced by a newer P40DC. A large amount of their long distance train cars were built in the 1950s and earlier, these same types of cars which have have been almost fully[note 8] replaced by Amtrak. It also has the same unpleasant problem of a legislator that would like to do away with it (or at least giving it any money).
In the United Kingdom
From 1948 to 1997, railways within the United Kingdom, were operated by a state run company, British Rail. Bad planning in the form of The Modernisation Plan in the 1950s would haunt British Rail for decades to follow, with a focus on building large yards for wagonload freight and replacing steam locomotives with diesels and electrics. The flaw was multiple, building large, expensive infrastructure for wagonload freight that was dying off, replaced by container traffic which required space and different yard layouts. Unreliable diesel locomotive designs replacing reliable steam locomotives that in some cases were barely a decade old, with many years left in them, and in some cases with locomotives that had no real purpose.[note 9] 
Beeching cuts were devised in the 1960s in an effort to reduce increasing losses as passenger drain from roadways and loss of rail subsidies, by reducing the size of the entire system by 55% (2,363) stations and 30% (5,000 miles) of the track mileage. The cuts actually had a worsening effect on traffic rates, since the reasoning behind closures sometimes overlooked unprofitable smaller lines feeding profitable major lines. British Rail would never see the promised savings of the claims in the original plan. The 1980s found major changes in British Rail's organizational structure, and gradual improvements and investments in the system, such as electrifying key routes, new rolling stock, starting to replace stock from the 1950s.
In 1994, privatization of British Rail was commenced by John Major, and completed by 1997, putting Britain's entire rail system into private hands. The process was carried out in approximately 4 years. Privatizing the It largely ended badly. No thanks to these clowns. The only improvement that replacing those clowns with these geniuses, is that the geniuses are a "public sector body", instead of the clowns who were a private, for the profit of the shareholders company.[note 10] No longer motivated by greed, Network Rail has managed to go since 2007 without a derailment or accident resulting in a passenger fatality. Though, it seems it might more be sheer luck.
Infrastructure flaws aside, promises and guarantees of improvements in train quality were also overblown, with the assurances that the then 40 year old Mark 1 Slam door trainsets[note 11] would vanish by
1999, 2003, an "absolute deadline" of 2004, 30 November 2005... By government legislation, forcing their removal from service unless extensively retrofited. Attention turned to the Pacers, which were low cost diesel railbuses[note 12]. The Pacers are despised by passengers due to their rough ride, being noisy, small size on some busier routes, and had a 20 year lifespan, which ran out in 2000. The Pacers are only being removed from service in December 2019 because the 2010 Equality Act requires that from 2020 public transport be accessible, something none of the the Pacers can comply with.
Rail's huge advantage, that has only been growing in recent years, is the volume of cargo or people that can be moved verses the energy spent moving it. In the United States, on average, a ton of freight was being moved 770.8 kilometers (479 miles) on one gallon of fuel.  Further, rail has advantages in countries where electrification systems are common, enabling further options to reduce pollution by using alternative power generation to power trains. Further, trains can free up roadway capacity, by moving the equivalent of dozens of trucks in a single train.
Often, talk comes from politicians of trying to save money by eliminating subsidies to railways, particularly passenger railways. Unsurprisingly this isn't always effective, see British Rail. While it dropped for a few years instantly following privatization, following several horrific rail crashes, the subsidies ended up at one point over double the highest for British Rail in the 10 years prior to its dissolving. Expansion of railroads or increasing operations on existing lines is often opposed by NIMBYs, including people who don't understand rail tracks are private property and are annoyed by trains interrupting their jog along the tracks, or moving into houses next to tracks and not grasping trains make noise.
FEMA trains auto carriers
Railroads have found themselves dragged into the Alex Jones conspiracy bulletin board after a 1995 film tried to connect the Amtrak Beech Grove Repair Facility with the FEMA camp conspiracy, which gained new 'traction' after clips of the film got on YouTube in the late 2000s. Moreover, this theory has expanded to include "FEMA Trains" with theories that auto carriers, rail cars for carrying automobiles, are actually for the transport of either prisoners or coffins of dead bodies and FEMA has been amassing them. This theory was helped with the combined election of Obama in 2008 as the auto industry tanked caused thousands of auto carriers mothballed on sidings for months all over the nation, which gave plenty of time for anyone with a video camera to make a video about FEMA Cars in their town waiting for the word from the government for martial law
Large clusters of rail cars, particularly boxcars and auto carriers or rail tracks in proximity to "military bases" are further evidence of the conspiracy being afoot. Wait until they find out about Bailey Yard.[note 13]
Rather interestingly, the Venn-diagram of people who think the Holocaust was made up, and people who think FEMA cars are a thing, overlap quite a bit, despite the Holocaust actually using trains to carry people to death camps.[Citation NOT Needed]
Diminishing (American) individualism
From establishment conservatives to winguttiest of the right-wingers there is an ideological trope that purports progressives wanted to crush individualism to, instead, sneakily subjugate the masses under the egalitarian kosh of Big Government which is why left-(of-centre-)leaning politicians supposedly advocate on behalf of affordable mass & high-speed rail transit. Maybe though they're onto something since not even the smart-assiest of the smart right-wingers can always elude the allure of functioning, publicly funded infrastructure..
- High speed rail
- Rail transport is a part of Mass transit.
- Amtrak - Responsible for long distance passenger movements in the United States.
- For rail transport's enemies in the USA: Automobiles[note 14], the Republican Party and NIMBY.
- "Major" meaning "Class I", the top tier for North American guidelines classifying railroads. To be a Class I railroad, it must have annual carrier operating revenue of 250 million or more in 1991 dollars. (Some examples: Norfolk Southern, CSX, Union Pacific.)
- Officially "CSX" doesn't stand for anything, though the letters were deliberately picked as being the first letters of the merging companies ('C' for Chessie and 'S' for Seaboard), plus a letter 'X'.
- Chessie System was a holding company, using a common paint scheme between the three companies involved.
- And, in a way it basically resembles the railroad version of Stephen Colbert's AT&T/Cingular skit from 2004. Seriously, go read the explanation of it at the other wiki.
- Canada: 36 Million to USA: 324 Million - (2016)
- Canada: 8.3/sq mi to USA: 90.6/sq mi
- The Acela Express train serving the Northeast Corridor can beat this with speeds of up to 150 mph, and it will be faster when a new generation of trains are introduced in the mid-2020s.
- Amtrak is in the middle of replacing the last of these older cars, mostly baggage and dining cars, as of 2018.
- For example, buying large numbers of yard locomotives for yards that sat empty.
- Yes, a company that operated no trains, and simply brought in money by charging an access fee for tracks, was operated as a for profit, shareholder company that was obsessed with its stock price and dividend returns.
- Named for their doors that did not have a train crew controlled lock and had to be 'slammed' shut to ensure they were closed properly.
- Literally, the Class 141, the first 'Pacer', was actually designed from & used parts from a Leyland National bus.
- The world's largest railroad yard, in North Platte, NE. It's in the literal middle of nowhere.
- Granted, anyone who has ever watched a security camera, or police dashcam clip show, knows that rail transport does have an answer to the automobile.
- "American-Rails.com: The Penn Central Railroad". Retrieved 11/25/2018.
- "A Brief History of Conrail". Consolidated Rail Corporation. 2003. Archived from the original on 11/21/2010. Retrieved 2/16/2011.
- Family Tree of Norfolk Southern 2018/11/25.
- Family Tree of Chessie System Railroads 2018/11/25.
- Family Tree of CSXT Transportation 2018/11/25.
- Family Tree of Union Pacific Railroad 2018/11/25.
- Family Tree of Burlington Northern Railroad 2018/11/25.
- Family Tree of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway 2018/11/25.
- Gourvish, Terry (2002). British Rail: 1974–97: From Integration to Privatisation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-926909-2.
- Westcott Richard. Did Dr Beeching get it wrong with his railway cuts 50 years ago? 27 March 2013. 
- BBC (19 August 2005). "Slam-door trains at end of line"
- Jon Kelly BBC (7 March 2016). "Pacers: The train that the UK has struggled to get rid of"
- [ https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-20881684 BBC. (2 January 2013). "Rail commuters hit by 4.2% average fare rise"]
- Gwyn Topham The Guardian. (30 November 2018). "UK rail fares to rise 3.1% in new year"
- Association of American Railroads. arr.org. Retrieved 11/25/2018. PDF. Freight Rail: The Most Environmentally Friendly Way to Move Freight Over Land
- Government support to the rail industry - Table 1.6 [Excel]. (2015). London: Office of Road and Rail.
- Scribd document of a forum talking about FEMA ordering 100,000
boxcarsauto carriers. It pretty much like all the major points for this as a conspiracy.
- FEMA Ordered 102,000 Boxcars With Shackles!
- Train Cars At Chaffee Crossing Lead To Conspiracy Theories 2015.
- Fear of FEMA 3/2/2010. "... nearby railroad tracks and aircraft runways near many of these sites [military bases] are proof there are FEMA camps in the vicinity..."