Rail Transport in United States

Rail Transport in United States includes freight, passenger and commuter rail.

In the U.S., freight makes up for most of the rail transport. Most of the railroads in U.S. are owned by freight companies, totaling to almost 140500 route miles (standard gauge) in 2006. 427 billion ton-miles of cargo was transported in the U.S. in 1930 ; a figure that has risen to 2,165 billion in 2006. Each piece or rolling stock has been given a unique identifying two-to-four letter code called a reporting mark. These marks help to identify the owner as well as the capacity and unloaded weight.

Example: Marks ending in ;U; are for containers used in inter-modal transport, while codes ending in ;Z; are used on trailers.

Passenger rail in U.S. runs largely on the earlier mentioned freight railroads. Since the advent of commercial air-transport, the passenger rail has been facing a death-like lull, and is only just starting to revive itself.

Commuter rail systems operate near all the major metros, with more being set up all the time. New York City, Long Island Rail Road and Chicago are examples of thriving commuter rail.

History of Rail transport in US

Between 1826 and 1850, private entrepreneurs built most of the railroads in the U.S. using government charters that gave them some right of eminent domain. A lot of the capital for this came from Europe.

In the 1960's the first transcontinental rail route connected the east and the west coast.

Robert Fogel, an economic historian believes that the greatest effect of the railways was the resulting social savings.

In the early 1900's, with growth in automobile usability, rail traffic started getting affected.

The Interstate highway system as well as the start of commercial aviation in the mid 20th century fit rail travel very badly ; not only in the passenger travel area, but also in the transport of freight.

It was required that NARP be formed in 1967 in order to give voice to the need to continue passenger trains.

NRPC was formed in 1970 to oversee and subsidize the intercity passenger trains. This would help keep the passenger rail transport afloat. The original name for the railroad was ;Railpak;. This was later changed to Amtrak, which is functional till date.

President Nixon, in 1974 set up the CRC, which was followed by the Staggers Act in 1980. Both these steps were taken to help the rail freight system survive.

Passenger rail technology in US

Initially, the rail train cars for passenger travel looked like the stagecoaches. By mid 1900's, technology had advanced to the level where longer cars and multiple units were being used.

Around 1880, dining cars were introduced. Packed meals were taken on-board, and then served in the dining car. Later, cooking galleys were introduced.

When steel became easily available by the 1930's, it began to be used for building cars. This made the rail cars much lighter and yet stronger than the old wooden ones. These were also a lot more comfortable.

1931 saw the entry of ;roomettes; ; single occupancy areas that afforded privacy ; which were designed by the Pullman Company. These roomettes had a fold away bed, a door, a sink and even a small toilet.

Soon, the two-level trains were conceptualized. These could carry more passengers at the same time.

Present day trains available in the U.S.:

Coach class: There is a two by two seating of about 40 - 60 seats per carriage, mostly facing the direction of travel. The carriage also provides luggage racks and toilets.

Business class: There is 2+1 seating with more leg room and complementary services and attendant service.

Regular First Class: This provides comfortable seats with meals served at the seat. These are presently found only on the Acela express.

Sleeper Class: These provide the traveler with private rooms and also allow them various amenities like access to lounges, inclusive meals, complementary services and attendant services.

Super liner coaches: These are bi-level coaches that provide for a better traveling and viewing experience. They have a variety of room options that can house from two to four persons at a time, including accessible rooms that make traveling convenient for the physically challenged and the elderly. These rooms come with or without shower and toilet facility.

View liner coaches: These are single level coaches that allow for better viewing from either berth, as they have two rows of windows on either side.