Seeing Things, Saying Things

Musings About Writing, Photography and Teaching

Amtrak in the Heartland

leave a comment »


Summary: Amtrak in the Heartland is a complete history of Amtrak operations in the heartland region of American, commonly described as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota. The book discusses conditions that led to the passage of the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, the formation and implementation of Amtrak in 1970-71, and the major factors that have influenced Amtrak operations since its inception.

More than 140 photographs and three maps supplement the text. It is indispensable history for train enthusiasts and railroad historians through its examination of Americans’ long-standing fascination with passenger trains. The book chronicles all routes that served the heartland states. Among the trains covered are: Ann Rutledge, Black Hawk, Blue Water, Broadway Limited, California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, City of New Orleans, Desert Wind, Empire Builder, Floridian, Heartland Flyer, Hiawathas, Hoosier State, Illini, Illinois Zephyr, Lake Shore Limited, Lone Star, National Limited, Niagara Rainbow, North Coast Hiawatha, North Star, Pennsylvanian, Pere Marquette, Pioneer, Texas Eagle, Southwest Chief, State House, Three Rivers, Wolverines and more.

Published by: Indiana University Press (2006).

Chapter Titles: (1) The All-Time Transportation Comback; (2) In the Shadows of Titans; (3) A Tale of Two Trains; (4) When Tradition and Politics Intervened; (5) The Hard Luck Floridian; (6) No Mo’ Disapearing Railroad Blues; (7) The Eagle has Landed; (8) The Epitome of Western Travel; (9) The Everywhere West Train; (10) Scenery and Social Responsibility; (11) The Almost Forgotten Corridor; (12) Michigan’s Bootstrap Campaign; (13) An Uneasy Home in Indiana; (14) Agony and Esctasy in the ‘Can’t Lose” Corridors; (15) Prairie State Populists; (16) Front Doors and Back Shops

Photographs by: Robert Banke, John Clark, John B. Corns, Jeff Darbee, George A. Forero Jr., John Fuller, Steve Glischinski, Blaine S. Hayes, Bob Kessler, Dwight Long, Dave McKay, Daniel Milone, Doug Ohlemeir, Robert Oliphant, Steve Patterson, Jeff Pletcher, Lloyd E. Stagner, Ron Stuckey, J.W. Swanberg and David Tiffany.

Backstory: The roots of this book date to summer 1986. I had moved back to Bloomington, Indiana, to begin doctoral studies at Indiana University. I would go for long walks, some of which took me downtown where I sometimes lingered at the site of the former Amtrak station. It had never been much. The “station” was a small building once used by the city as a storage shed. There were remnants of the asphalt platform next to a single set of tracks. Once owned by the Monon, the track were now part of the Seaboard System.

It had been more than six years since an Amtrak train had stopped here. I knew the basic history of how the Chicago-Miami/St. Petersburg Floridian had fallen victim to a massive fall 1979 route restructuring. But I sensed that there was more to the story than I knew. Why was this train singled out for elimination?

My curiosity about that would have to wait. Doctoral studies are demanding and there was no time for researching Amtrak history. By summer 1991, I had finished my degree and was preparing to move to Pennsylvania for a teaching job at Penn State University. I spent time that summer at the Indianapolis Public Library looking up newspaper articles about Amtrak trains that had served Indiana.

My goal then was not a book, but a series of articles for the newsletter of the Indiana Association of Railroad Passengers. I never wrote those articles. I had a lot of information but wasn’t sure what to do with it.

My Amtrak research continued off and on during my two years in State College, Pennsylvania. In August 1993 I moved to Cleveland and began thinking about writing a book on the history of Amtrak. But what would be the focal point? I had a vast amount of information, yet didn’t know what to do with it.

In late 1998, I set aside my Amtrak research and started working on what would become my first published book, a history of passenger trains in Indiana. About the time I was finishing my work on Limiteds, Locals and Expresses in Indiana, 1838-1971, I had an idea. I would write a book on the history of Amtrak trains in the Midwest. That seemed more manageable than a history about all of Amtrak.

By the time Indiana University Press gave me a contract for this book, I had most of the information that I needed. The biggest challenge was finding photographs. Much of the communication I had with would-be photograph contributors was done via e-mail. Some of these photographers I’ve never met in person.

The book came together pretty much as I had expected it to. However, I was not able to describe as much of the political history behind the trains as I had hoped. At best I was able to summarize the more important developments. I hinted in the preface that someday I’d write a book about Amtrak’s political history. I’d still like to do that, but I’m struggling to narrow the focus of that idea.


Written by csanders429

March 3, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: