Back to the USA

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Regular readers will have noticed that Allan Trotter's name keeps cropping up on the reports of monthly talks, most recently with presentations on an American theme.

Well, he was at it again last month, with another lecture in the series, this time entitled 'Amtrak – trains and travel'.

This was an extensive illustrated account of the US train operator's many and varied operations, both passenger and freight. The variety of cars used was immense, making full use of the available loading gauge to tailor the user experience to that required for comfortable, if not particularly fast, travel. The fact that the world capital of private enterprise deemed it necessary to have a nationalised rail network was not lost on the presenter, with appropriate reference made to the contrasting effect of multiple franchises in the UK model.

Like in the UK, modernisation meant a big cutback in route mileage, but at least Amtrak had the excuse of strong competition from the airlines on the long transcontinental routes. And a more relaxed view of engineering standards led to some unusual but effective technical solutions, such as attaching freight containers to the back of passenger trains using little more than a couple of bogie sets.

Of course SMRS is not backwards in innovation either, as the talk was advertised in the local press, attracting a number of non-members not only to attend the talk but also to join in the subsequent discussion. A promising blueprint for the future perhaps.