A Brief History
On May 13, 2023, Americans can celebrate the annual National Train Day, a day invented by Amtrak back in 2008, but cancelled for 2016 due to budget cuts!
Have you heard of any other “National” Days that have been eliminated? Trains have had it rough in recent decades and even in recent weeks. On February 3, 2023, a train carrying tanker cars of Vinyl Chloride derailed at East Palestine, Ohio and created an environmental disaster and political controversy.
Trains helped build the United States and much of the world, with a peak of railroad employees in the US of over 2 million in 1920, but only 177,000 today. Likewise, rail travel and cargo numbers have fallen precipitously, from nearly 100 billion passenger miles during World War II to around 10 billion passenger miles today, and a drop in cargo hauling from 80% of intercity tonnage in the US in the 1920’s to around 28% today.
Before the creation of a vast highway network and mass production of cars and airliners, trains were the way Americans traveled around the country, but today Amtrak is the only countrywide train service available. Small, tourist and special interest trains still exist, as do urban rapid transit systems.
Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever taken a train ride of any length? If so, did you enjoy it? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Gethlyn, Lucy. Train Trivia: Fun Trivia Questions with Multiple Choice Answers About Trains and Railroads. Independently published, 2021.
Williams, Frederick. Our Iron Roads: Railroad History, Construction, and Administration. CGR Publishing, 2021.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by jpmueller99 from Shenandoah Valley of VA, USA of Amtrak’s Washington DC K-9 unit giving a demonstration to the public during National Train Day 2011, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
You can also watch video versions of this article on YouTube.