August 20, 2011

The love of high-speed trains.

I've been a big critic of the romantic enthusiasm for high-speed trains in present-day American political discourse, so I was fascinated to run across this rather similar romanticization of high-speed rail in some Nazi propaganda (from 1932):
The Nordic landscape cries out to be traversed by rails over which express trains can speed. It is a characteristic of all Nordic vehicles to increase their speed. Ever-increasing velocity is a built-in characteristic of the rails themselves, the rails by which, in the Nordic experience of the world, the whole world is penetrated. Rails that are already in existence and those that must constantly be constructed for ever newer, ever faster vehicles on which men who experience the world Nordically may strive toward ever new goals. The Nordic soul experiences its world as a structure made up of countless thoroughfares — those already at hand and those still to be created — on land, on water, in the air, and in the stratosphere. It races like a fever through all segments of the Nordic community, a fever of speed which, infectiously, reaches out far beyond the world of the north and attacks souls who are not Nordic and for whom, at bottom, such action is contrary to their style and senseless.
If you are really enthusiastic about high-speed trains, please consider the possibility that you are deranged.

143 comments:

Bob Ellison said...

Monorail!

AJ Lynch said...

So you are saying Garbage is a Nazi?

joeschmo1of3 said...

Nice. Highspeed rail argument is over now that we've gone Godwin on it.

My personal opinion is that in a country with relatively cheap airline travel, why do we have to prop up a 19th Century mode of inter-city transportation. 21st Century already! Where's my teleportation pod?!!!

Chip S. said...

What about Nordic skiing? Why doesn't Wisconsin demand federal spending on cross-country ski trails?

chuck said...

Deranged? No, no, no, you've been possessed by the Nordic spirit. It calls for exorcism.

chickenlittle said...

If you are really enthusiastic about high-speed trains, please consider the possibility that you are deranged.

I'm adding "ranged" to list of moods and states worth striving for. Other desirable states are "gruntled" & "sheveled."

Quayle said...

A french business colleague once said to me that the Americans went to the moon, so the French had to build a faster train.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Even the Chinese have given up on high-speed trains.

Coketown said...

The Nazis had other uses for trains. Maybe that's what's behind the big push in modern America. It's not environmentalism; it's part of healthcare reform: an efficient means of transporting all those undesirable sicklies to their death panels.

I have it all figured out.

Hagar said...

That must refer to northern Germany, which is very flat, and "express" by 1932 standards.

The Chinese have not given up; they have a good set-up for it, which hardly exist anywher else.
4 mega-cities in a row, suitable distances apart and in flat country, and an authoritarian government.

David said...

Now, now, Hitler was a vegetarian. That doesn't mean that vegetarians are secretly deranged fascists with only a slim grasp of reality and a penchant for mistaking their personal preferences for revealed Truth ... oh, wait.

madawaskan said...

The Chinese-didn't they just do a recall of their high speed engines?

Read something like that.

chickenlittle said...

@Coketown

Retirement macht frei...

chickenlittle said...

@Coketown:

Ruhestand macht frei

Gawd, it even sounds better auf deutsch

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm adding "ranged" to list of moods and states worth striving for. Other desirable states are "gruntled" & "sheveled.""

And "railed"!

rhhardin said...

I favor high speed rail provided that it runs in city streets.

A 250mph train through downtown would just be so cool.

rhhardin said...

Eudora Welty on high speed rail.

PaulV said...

Where is the leader who can get the trains to run on time? Il Duce!

Jason (the commenter) said...

madawaskan: The Chinese-didn't they just do a recall of their high speed engines?

Yes, they had a horrible accident and many people died. But even before that, people were avoiding the trains because they weren't reliable. (There was also another scandal involving low quality cement being used to support the rails.)

And note these are Chinese-built trains, the foreign-built ones have been working just fine.

The Crack Emcee said...

Libs/Nazis/Trains?

You will never learn, will you?

Eric said...

But even before that, people were avoiding the trains because they weren't reliable.

They've scaled the program back considerably. Not because of the accident or even unreliability. The problem is the ridership projections they used were hopelessly optimistic (and doesn't that sound familiar), so the HSR system has become the Monster That Ate The Budget.

Ordinary Chinese people just don't have enough money to pay what it costs to operate a high speed rail system. The closest they come to breaking even is by enticing ridership with heavily subsidized tickets.

traditionalguy said...

In literature Trains have represented the non-human force that an ordinary man will be unable to stand up against

The oldest known scriptures in Job devote 2 chapters to a description of Behemoth and Leviathan beasts that man's power cannot resist, but God can.

So the fascination of men with such runaway and all powerful evil trains is an easy step to take.

The Nazi's envied that force and dreamed that they could make themselves into an Aryan (Himalayan Magician) ruling race force to take over the world and exterminate or enslave normal men.

The Crack Emcee said...

Quayle,

A french business colleague once said to me that the Americans went to the moon, so the French had to build a faster train.

Yeah, but they're totally uncomfortable. Unless you get a sleeping car, you practically have to sleep upright, even in first class.

And first class was a joke - a circular deal, with no armrests, so you're staring at the person across from you and squeezed between strangers on both sides. I remember terrorizing the whole car because some woman, dressed head-to-toe in Gucci, wouldn't stop fucking with her cell phone while I was trying to nod off.

The French are insane.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

the rails by which, in the Nordic experience of the world, the whole world is penetrated.

Evidently, Nordic rails are sexual and macho penetrating the world.!!!

If you are really enthusiastic about high-speed trains, please consider the possibility that you are deranged..

Ha ha.

Original Mike said...

"If you are really enthusiastic about high-speed trains, please consider the possibility that you are deranged."

He's incapable of self-examination.

Peter Hoh said...

Isn't there some book in which the protagonist is all about building rail lines? I recall there's something about a special kind of steel for these rail lines, but maybe these were the good, slow trains, and not the evil fast ones.

Maguro said...

I don't care. Choo-choos are awesome.

Peter Hoh said...

DBQ, in college, we developed the theory that the key to Viking conquest was the lefse.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Eric: The closest they come to breaking even is by enticing ridership with heavily subsidized tickets.

Which caused people to stop flying, which pissed-off airline companies...

Meanwhile trucks are being used to transport coal, clogging the highways, because they don't have enough normal-speed trains.

They have so many problems it's not even funny.

John said...

I would never call Garage a Nazi.

He does seem to show a certain amount of socialistic tendencies.

It would not be much of a stretch to say that those tendencies are national.

So is he a "national socialist"

I suggest, you decide.

John Henry

edutcher said...

So, uh, Crack, are you saying Ann was Wilhelm Klink's first love?

(I mean, she's got the look...)

In any case, the Krauts had a thing for streamlining. That phallic stuff drove them wild.

Peter said...

I'm convinced that rail is an extremely important means of trasporting freight. People? Not so much. And I am the son of a railway freight conductor and a railroad clerk.

Unless one has actually paid attention to the large bulk freight items like wheat or coal being shipped cross country one has no idea of the number of trucks trains take off the road. Without trains we'd have no highways they'd be smushed under by trucks.

Now those who are big passenger train advocates want nothing more than to tell people that we can only go where the trains do.

In all the years we took vacations when I was a kid in the 1950s and early '60s we never once used the free rail passes the old SP gave us, instead loaading up the Mercury. That should tell something.

C R Krieger said...

Rail is great for moving goods.  It might even be good for moving passangers in the Northeast Corridor, IF there were real "high speed" rail.  There is not.  We are going to have to re-lay all that track to hit 250 to 300 mph, which would be real high speed, rather than DHS (Dukakis High Speed).

And, if DHS (Department of Homeland Security) sticks its oar in the water the one edge AmTrak currently has (no security theater) will go away.

Regards  —  Cliff

Cedarford said...

Althouse haas gone Godwin on it.
While America and other countries led on many technologies...Germany in the late 20s and early 30s was ahead in some areas that promised rapid progress and prosperity. The limited access high speed highway, the 1st extensive use of the new Diesel-Hydraulic rail lines coupled with the most advanced electromechanical automated signalling system. The new rail system became an enormous economic multiplier in Germany, more than the Autobahns - they had in the 30s the best, fastest trains of any nation. Trips that once took a week were done in a day and a half inside Germay. They were a symbol of German pride. So were televisions and great beer.

Does liking beer fall under some Godwin law too?

traditionalguy said...

Phallic symbols are ancient Greek and roman messages in art and statuary of good health and strength in a man.

The Greeks highly praised the man with 4 hour erection problem, and now we see the Viagra given out free in union benefit packages.

We men need to be more generous with women and not withhold our strength.

That is Mormon doctrine too.

Maybe the State of Utah will build the first 4 hour bullet train ride.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Okay. I love trains. Absolutely love 'em. Rode all the way across Canada many times in the '70s. I live smack dab between the Union Pacific mainline and an important Santa Fe side line. The horns get my juices flowing, but none so much as when the UP's Challenger 4-6-6-4 million-pound steam engine goes by just about a quarter-mile north of me.

Leftie-rail, however, is a total crock. America has the most energy-efficient railway system in the entire world because it moves almost exclusively freight.

Passengers aren't heavy, so the cars have to be totally full to make any sense. Passenger rail is "sexy," but at a huge cost to the state.

America's freight system was built almost completely by private capital, and to this day runs without subsidies. It works because the distances are huge and rail is very efficient compared to trucks. Since intermodal came along the whole system is incredibly efficient.

Moving passengers ... is not. Your typical motorcycle uses about 2100 btu per passenger-mile. Commuter rail in the Northeast Corridor requires about 2800 when the trains are packed.

Cars (1.5 passengers) or "light rail" run about 3500 btu, and an inter-city jet works out to around 3700. The average city bus, however, is the efficiency caboose at 3800 btu, because nobody rides the things most of the time. You also have to remember that a full train at rush-hour is almost empty on the return run.

How could high-speed rail make sense in America? Well, if Wisconsin and Southern Minnesota had a population of 80 million people -- basically Germany's population density -- you could make it work.

Until Amtrak can equal the average speeds of 1922 (and I've looked at the timetables) and turn a profit without subsidies, don't talk to me about more trains.

And especially not "high-speed" trains averaging 75 mph. Particularly since I clocked Canadian National trains on which I was riding at about 105 mph for hundreds of miles across the prairies ... over 40 years ago.

traditionalguy said...

For all of you Wisconsin football fans, evil Train whistles are a symbol of the RR railhead for Texas cattle drives that made Fort Worth, TX a town and a railroad mecca.

So when TCU scores, there follows a long train whistle blast. You may remember that sound well.

hoop said...

What Cedarford said.

The viability of high speed rail hinges on the logistics of HSR on its own, not on whether the Nazis approved or disapproved.

roesch-voltaire said...

See the "Ethics of Expediency," by Steven Katz where he argues that the Nazis created a system based on the ethics of expediency in which technical efficiency served as an end in itself, but this hardly justifies the smear Althouse makes. Given the current problems with transportation today there are different reasons then the so called Nordic desire to conquer the world as to why China and other countries are investing in high speed trains. ( Note, I have ridden these trains in Japan and hardly consider myself or the thousands of other users "deranged.}

DADvocate said...

If you use the word "Nordic" umpteen times in every paragraph, consider the possibility you are deranged.

Heart_Collector said...

Trains are great till you realize the one your on is going to Auschwitz 2.0.

roesch-voltaire said...

Crack I took a train, full of theater folks, from Paris to Avignon and found it comfortable and fast; I was struck by the beauty of the passing landscape so found little time for a nap, but could have dozed off if I wanted. Honestly I have traveled all over Europe, including Eastern Europe, by train and the only bad experience I had was sharing a compartment with a passenger who farted all the way to Florence.

Carol_Herman said...

I remember going by train from Grand Central Station to Jamaica (something) ... the station AFTER Boston. Where I could get off ... and be met by my uncle.

I loved those trains. And, you could buy an egg salad sandwich from the porter.

Meanwhile, you couldn't get me on a plane. Even across an ocean. I'd swim, first.

rcocean said...

The Nazi's liked autobans too.

So if you like taking long car rides on 2-4 lane highways you might want to reconsider.

Carol_Herman said...

If you're in Europe, is Agatha Christie on board?

I remember skiing Davos ... and it took all day. When you got to the bottom of the valley ... you climbed on board a train. Carrying your skis. To get back to your hotel.

Fernandinande said...

Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan

Carol_Herman said...

Yesterday, or today, Cuomo and Christie accepted the hikes across bridges and tunnels. 5-Axel trucks will cost a drive $160 a load.

People in cars will now pay $10 instead of $8.

Seems to me traveling freight in, by comparison, will pay to do it by rail.

I'm not even sure, though, when you invite less traffic on our roads, that you change the maintenance costs all that much, though.

It's good to have choices.

garage mahal said...

so I was fascinated to run across this rather similar romanticization of high-speed rail in some Nazi propaganda (from 1932):

You're the one reading Nazi propaganda for kicks old girl. Don't project it on the rest of us.

I think announcing to the state immediately after your swearing in as a newly elected Governor that you are implementing a new policy with the National Guard already on standby, without any dilaogue whatsoever, pretty Nazi-esque. What did Wisconsin do to deserve that?

And as long we are going Godwin; you know who else systematically crushed unions, harassed intellectuals, consolidated power and stifled dissent by any means necessary? If you're NOT a Nazi, why would you be against a populist uprising against those undemocratic principles?

Althouse, THE CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!

hoop said...

Given what I've seen from Wisconsin, I can't blame the governor for not having a dialogue. Until you all learn to sing in tune, you're really hard to listen to.

Titus said...

Speaking of Trains I went to small Candy Dancer festival in Mazomanie Wisconsin today.

I went with my sisters and 9 year old niece.

The place was full of fucking dykes. And I am not talking about cute lipstick dykes. I am talking, tough talking, rural, farming dykes.

They were coming in with walkers and tape measurers attached to their belts and hearing aids!

This is a farming community of approximately 1000 people and the dykes took over.

It was disgusting.

What should I tell my niece?

One tried to spin hula hoops with my niece and I. I screamed get away dyke. Obviously trying to recruit.

And farmer Joe and all the old hippies and blue grass singing groups did nothing.

AND, there was a booth for the High Speed Train.

And Gandy Dancer portrayals.

And yes, one of the Gandy Dancers was a dyke.

And the women doing face painting on SMALL children, dyke.

The pie stand, which was sponsored by the Universalist Church of Mazo, was swimming with dykes and their peach pies.

Titus said...

One of the blue grass groups sang a KD Lang song and the place erupted.

The song was Miss Chatelaine. I kid you not.

garage mahal said...

Until you all learn to sing in tune, you're really hard to listen to.

You know who else was forced to all sing in tune and march in step?????

Just kidding. LOL

Chuck66 said...

I am the rare rightwinger who supports mass transit. Not new construction (see the what is happening in California right now with their high speed rail project...it is a disaster). But lets put a ton of people on shorter distance commuter type trains. Run them 90 mph (not high speed).

When it gets time to add a third lane to 94 between Madison and Milwaukee, some may wish there was a cheaper alternative.

Chuck66 said...

Watched a show on the Military channel recently. Showed a film clip of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston churchill leading American sailers in a singing of "Onward Christian Soldiers".

Imaging the hissy fit the loony left would have had if GWB had done his after 9/11.

The Pagan Temple said...

I'm fine with high speed rail, in fact I wish they'd get to work on it. The caveat to that is, it should be built and developed with private funds, not through the government.

But that's never going to happen. I know its never going to happen. The expense entailed would insure that it would never return enough of a profit, if any at all, to encourage investment.

On the other hand, as a state project, certain states at some point might want to think about developing a line that would afford extended tours of their states during certain months of the year.

But that even would be a gamble during the best of times, and this just isn't the time for it, even for those few states which are experiencing relatively good, or not as bad, times.

MikeR said...

Ann, are these two posts supposed to be in juxtaposition? They sound similarly deranged to me.

John said...

I've done some train trips back in the 60's. Chicago to DC in about 20 hours.

New York to Chicago in a bit more than 24.

Yeah, my time has no value and I can afford to waste 20 hours on sitting on a train.

For those who like trains, great. I have no problem with building high speed rail. My problem is with who pays for it. It should be paid for by the riders, not by the taxpayer.

It should also engage in honest debate. Calling something "High speed" rail that is slower than a bus is flat out dishonest.

This is the epitome of fascism. Or national socialism if you prefer. Take money from the populace via taxes. Give it to the friends of the people in power (GE, Seimens, others)

You want high speed rail? Fine. Pay for it via fares. Otherwise just be quiet about it.

John Henry

Mark said...

Did anything in the propaganda piece speak to a cost-benefit relationship?

No?

Well, you just can't make high-speed rail work in this country if you actually care about cost-benefit relationships.

You can make it work if you couch it in Great National Works language, or in Societal Equality language.

So there's your Nordic linkage. It's all about what you value. If it's doing the right thing by people who actually pay for stuff, it's dead on arrival. If it serves a Higher Purpose, you may be a Nazi-lite.

Curious George said...

"garage mahal said...a new policy with the National Guard already on standby"

More bullshit.

Heart_Collector said...

Carol_Herman said...
I remember going by train from Grand Central Station to Jamaica (something) ... the station AFTER Boston


Plain.

Maguro said...

garage has really gone around the bend this time, LOL.

Grab yourself some roadkill jerky and chill out, dude. The Gestapo isn't coming for you.

DADvocate said...

I remember going by train from Grand Central Station to Jamaica (something) ... the station AFTER Boston. Where I could get off

Jamaica Plain

I only know that because of The Kingston Trio's old song "MTA" -

Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square Station and he changed for Jamaica Plain.

When he got there the conductor told him, "One more nickel."
Charlie couldn't get off of that train.

Carol_Herman said...

It wasn't "plain." It was fancier.

You know those train riders had real comfortable seats.

DADvocate said...

The Gestapo isn't coming for you.

Nope. The SS. Watch your back, garage.

wv - blessla (it needs it.)

Carol_Herman said...

Harry S. Truman rode the rails back in 1948. Gallup said he was gonna lose.

But Gallup was wrong.

Truman rode about 33,000 miles worth of terrain. And, at every stop ... (I think they were called Whistle stops). Crowds formed.

Harry came out and talked to many, many Americans. And, when he spoke people gave a chorus shout:

GIVE 'EM HELL, HARRY!

Tyrone Slothrop said...

The novel that I, Tyrone Slothrop, am the protagonist of, I mean Gravity's Rainbow, is a good example of Nazis a-and speed and all that stuff.

That Blicero ends up stuffing a kid in an A-4 and blammo. That's what the Schwarzgerät is for.

DavidPSummers said...

While I think there are real questions about high speed rail, and Ms. Althouse has said some quite insightful things, I find this post provides neither. As I read it, Nazis were enthusiastic about high speed rail and this means that anyone who supports it must question their position?

Not even bringing in Goodwin's law, I'm find the premise that just because the Nazi's liked something, it must be "bad" is questionable. The Nazi's liked advance military technology to, does that mean we should abandon military research?

Titus said...

I have a condo in Jamaica Plain I rent out.

I have lived in JP. JP is awesome. Same Old Place Pizza is to die for and really hot Pizza Flippers.

JP is lesbian central. More fucking dykes.

But the dykes in JP are fucking hot.

Nice tits.

Carol_Herman said...

Alas, Titus, I was only 12.

Is it really Jamaica Plain?

I just knew, though, it wasn't Jamaica, Queens.

Sheepman said...

Is it fascist to be enthusiastic about driving a fine German car on the Interstate?

Freder Frederson said...

why do we have to prop up a 19th Century mode of inter-city transportation. 21st Century already!

Are you referring to the highway system, high speed rail or both? And of course high speed rail is not a 19th century mode of transportation. It is certainly more modern than the modern automobile, as high speed trains are fully electric while the car still relies on an engine invented in the 19th century. Even non-electric trains are diesel-electric. You won't find a 19th century train outside of a preservation society or museum.

Freder Frederson said...

I bet if you were around in the 50's, Althouse would dig up a Nazi propaganda release about the Autobahns and rail against the interstate highway system. After all, why would anyone want to drive across the country when there is a extensive and efficient passenger rail network? Building the interstates is just a waste of government money. Anyone who is really enthusiastic about the interstate highway should consider the possibility that they are deranged.

Alan said...

Where is the leader who can get the trains to run on time?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059885/

Freder Frederson said...

America's freight system was built almost completely by private capital, and to this day runs without subsidies.

You really don't know much about the history of rail in this country. Many of the freight lines in this country were built with direct government support. We were the first country in the world to have a transcontinental railroad because it completely subsidised by the government.

Beta Rube said...

So I went to hear Palin and others speak in Madison and the union storm troopers screamed for three hours. I assume this is what ma hal means when she talks about stifling dissent, cuz Lord knows, the smelly hippie side has been going bonkers for a while now, and I only wish they were stifled.

Curious George said...

"Freder Frederson said...

It is certainly more modern than the modern automobile, as high speed trains are fully electric while the car still relies on an engine invented in the 19th century."

The electric motor was invented in 1832.

Jay said...

If you are really enthusiastic about high-speed trains, please consider the possibility that you are deranged

Well, liberalism is a mental disorder after all...

Jay said...

After all, why would anyone want to drive across the country when there is a extensive and efficient passenger rail network?

Well, except for the fact that there isn't one.

Jay said...

garage mahal said...

I think announcing to the state immediately after your swearing in as a newly elected Governor that you are implementing a new policy with the National Guard already on standby, without any dilaogue whatsoever, pretty Nazi-esque. What did Wisconsin do to deserve that?


Hysterical.

Speaking of which, This week, the Wisconsin Education Association Council announced it will lay off about 40% of its staff.

I guess they shouldn't have wasted $10+ million on those "successful" recalls, huh garbage?

geokstr said...

See how amazingly wise and prescient Obama was when he recently called for graduating 10,000 new engineers? After all, we will need them to drive all those new choo-choos.

gerry said...

High speed rail enthusiasts = socialists. Be they your common-variety Eurosocialist, communist, or National socialist, they are socialists.

With rail you control people moving. You can track them and slow movements.

You can keep them away from your gated community.

Hagar said...

The transcontinental railroads were indeed subsidised by the Federal Government, but not by any intentional policy or direction by the Government. It was pure corruption organized by enterprising private individuals.

gerry said...

And as long we are going Godwin; you know who else systematically crushed unions, harassed intellectuals, consolidated power and stifled dissent by any means necessary?

Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Kruschev, Mao, Castro, Nasser...hmmmm. All socialists.

Freder Frederson said...

With rail you control people moving. You can track them and slow movements.

Do you have the same animus toward commercial air travel. Because unless you also believe that air travel is also a tool to control people, your argument is silly.

And unless you have a fully off road vehicle, the evil government decides where the roads go and controls the traffic signals. How is that not controlling people in your fevered paranoia?

Freder Frederson said...

The transcontinental railroads were indeed subsidised by the Federal Government, but not by any intentional policy or direction by the Government.

This statement is simply untrue. The government directly subsidized the construction of the Union Pacific through government bonds and grants of land to the railroad companies. You are right that there was a lot of corruption in the process, but the railroad was directly subsidized by the government.

Pogo said...

High speed rail is like communism, friends with benefits, and deep fried beer.

All seemingly good concepts that crash on the rocks of reality's unforgiving shore.

Calypso Facto said...

You know who else was forced to all sing in tune and march in step?????

Ha. Nice one garage. You just didn't take it far enough:

You know who else liked to wear matching shirts, march in the square, group-sing, bully the handicapped, physically silence the opposition, and raise their arms in salute?

Phil 3:14 said...

Godwinized from the get go.

The Crack Emcee said...

roesch-voltaire,

I...hardly consider myself..."deranged."

Re-read that sentence and see if YOU can find the flaw in your reasoning.

gerry said...

How is that not controlling people in your fevered paranoia?

Airlines usually are far faster than trains, even the "high speed rail (here in Ohio, the proposed train was to average 31 m.p.h.!), so they do not slow down persons' movements the way trains do.

Highways are innumerable and people controlling their own vehicles can go to destinations of their own choosing, at their own pace, eat when and where they wish, use restrooms they choose (if any), etc., etc. There are xways, tollroads, highways, state routes, county roads, byways, country roads, back roads...persons travel and see what evere they wish.

Travel by train sucks unless you are doing uit as a hobby (I enjoy steam train excursions).

Libs love trains because it keeps the proles out of their neighborhoods, so thay can drive their big black buses and SUVs in less traffic. Screw 'em.

Freder Frederson said...

Travel by train sucks unless you are doing uit as a hobby (I enjoy steam train excursions).

Have you ever travelled by a modern high speed train? The train from Munich to Paris takes six and a quarter hours. And that is city center to center. I defy you to get from downtown Paris to Munich in less time, even by flying on a commercial airline--the flight time alone is 3.5 hours and both airports are well outside of town. Similarly, you can get from London to Paris in just over two hours. There is no way you could do that flying commercially.

Freder Frederson said...

Sorry, I was wrong. The direct flight from Paris to Munich is 1.5 hours. You would still be hard pressed to get from center to center in less time than the train, especially since you have to be at the airport no less than an hour before your flight (and that is really cutting it fine in this day and age).

Beevalo Bill said...

I was talking to dear and well meaning lefty the other night. I asked why she supported high speed rail.

As she dissertated on subject her remarks devolved into a tautology. She obviously realized it and concluded by saying that high speed rail is really about “social justice”.

When “progressive thinking” fails, there is always the (irrefutable, non quantifiable, undefined) notion of social justice that trumps all other points of view.

Gosh, I wish we libertarian-conservatives had such an omnipotent concept always available to fall back on.

And, aside from the non sequitor, how much does high speed rail social justice cost?

Calypso Facto said...

Freder, I find myself in the unaccustomed place of agreeing with you as to the role of the government in early development of US rail service and in the efficiency of European rail travel.

I'd point out though, that, for instance, London and Paris are two cities of nearly 10 million people each located 200 miles apart. The US does not have anywhere near that kind of population density. And in places where it even begins to approach it (east coast), we already have a government sponsored rail service to the tune of $2.2 billion in subsidies. How much more should we spend to expand the unprofitable network?

Maguro said...

Have you ever travelled by a modern high speed train? The train from Munich to Paris takes six and a quarter hours. And that is city center to center. I defy you to get from downtown Paris to Munich in less time, even by flying on a commercial airline--the flight time alone is 3.5 hours and both airports are well outside of town. Similarly, you can get from London to Paris in just over two hours. There is no way you could do that flying commercially.

Sure, passenger rail can be handy for the people who use it, but is it really worth the resources that it uses up? Rail infrastructure is incredibly expensive to build/maintain and the costs are never accounted for transparently, so no one really knows how "efficient" Euro rail systems are. In addition to direct subsidies to lower ticket prices, Euro rail systems also benefit heavily from competition-restricting
regulations. For instance, did you know that it's illegal to operate an inter-city bus service in Germany? All this subterfuge wouldn't be necessary if HSR was really an econimcally viable business model.

Freder Frederson said...

we already have a government sponsored rail service to the tune of $2.2 billion in subsidies. How much more should we spend to expand the unprofitable network?

Is the interstate highway system profitable? How much does the government make off off I-95 between Boston and DC? The $2 billion figure you cite is the entire Amtrak subsidy. The northeast corridor actually makes money. The FAA costs taxpayers $10 billion a year. How long should we continue to fund that unprofitable network? Federal highway funding is about $40 billion.

David said...

Freder, it's true that the Union Pacific was financed by government land grants. It's also true that part of this deal was that the Federal Government got a fifty percent reduction in tariffs for government travel and shipping. It has been calculated (not by me!!) that this more than paid for the value of the land grants at the time they were granted. The land became more valuable after the construction of the railroad because it became more accesible.

And, for what it's worth, ALL the land grant railroad eventually went into receivership. The only one which didn't was the Great Northern, constructed entirely with private capital by the canny Scot, James J. Hill.

Freder Frederson said...

For instance, did you know that it's illegal to operate an inter-city bus service in Germany?

I didn't know that, and apparently neither does this company.

DADvocate said...

Is the interstate highway system profitable? How much does the government make off off I-95 between Boston and DC?

I wouldn't be surprised that if you calculated all the taxes generated from fuel taxes, and other taxes related to commerce possible by the interstates, that you would find a profit. The interstates are one of the things the government has done right, for the most part.

The Crack Emcee said...

Beevalo Bill,

I was talking to dear and well meaning lefty the other night. I asked why she supported high speed rail.

As she dissertated on subject her remarks devolved into a tautology. She obviously realized it and concluded by saying that high speed rail is really about “social justice”.

When “progressive thinking” fails, there is always the (irrefutable, non quantifiable, undefined) notion of social justice that trumps all other points of view.

Gosh, I wish we libertarian-conservatives had such an omnipotent concept always available to fall back on.


No you don't, otherwise we'd be as dumb as they are.

Ann Althouse said...

Why are people talking about Godwin's law? Godwin's law is; "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%)."

This post was about Nazis from the beginning, before the discussion even began.

There's some related idea that once somebody brings up Nazis/Hitler there's no point in continuing, but that can't make sense when the topic was Nazis all along! Otherwise you'd be saying we should never talk about Nazis.

Seeing Red said...

Federal highway funding is about $40 billion

That's cheap considering the amount we have.


We could actually put more people in those "shovel-ready" jobs by actually using shovels & pick-axes to fix the roads like they did which I was in China.

Kirk Parker said...

Actually, Freder, the winner to the Paris-Munich speed contest is still by air. Google maps says the distance from CDG to the center of Paris 34.5 km, with a 33 min drive time; and MUC to the center of Munich is 37.6 km, with a drive time of 34 mins.

Any other misinformation you'd like to spread today?

Kirk Parker said...

DavidPSummers,

"While I think there are real questions about high speed rail, and Ms. Althouse has said some quite insightful things, I find this post provides neither. "

I think your humor detector is just calibrated differently than our host's. Me, I think the Nordic propaganda with its Nordic emphasis on extreme Nordicness is fantastically hilarious!

Seeing Red said...

when

haven't had my morning caffeine yet.

Kirk Parker said...

Freder,

The federal highway system barely qualifies as subsidized, given that there's a corresponding dedicated federal tax. I'd be more than happy to require that 100% of the federal motor-vehicle fuel tax, and other taxes related to road usage, be given entirely to a dedicated highway fund, and that the fund receive no other federal money. Do we have a deal? :-)

Hagar said...

Freddy needs to learn to read.
I said the subsidies resulted from rank corruption of Congress organized by the entrepreneurs building the roads and not from any conscious policy or direction provided by the Administration in office.

The nearest to that was Jefferson Davis' promotion of a railroad through the southern states in order to tie California to the South and make it a slavery state, but other than acquiring the necessary land from Mexico, and thereby fixing the southern boundaries of New Mexico and Arizona where they now are, he was not successful in this, in time for his purposes anyway. The Southern Pacific was built long after the Civil War, and then again, I think, driven by private interests rather than Administration policy.

Curious George said...

Freder Frederson said...
Sorry, I was wrong. The direct flight from Paris to Munich is 1.5 hours. You would still be hard pressed to get from center to center in less time than the train, especially since you have to be at the airport no less than an hour before your flight (and that is really cutting it fine in this day and age).

You are forgetting to factor in the time waiting for the goddamn train departure time. Which is always the problem with rail. By car you have complete control. By air you have multiple flights at any time, and more flight choices.

Freder Frederson said...

Freddy needs to learn to read.
I said the subsidies resulted from rank corruption of Congress organized by the entrepreneurs building the roads and not from any conscious policy or direction provided by the Administration in office.


You need to do a little homework.

Maguro said...

Is the interstate highway system profitable? How much does the government make off off I-95 between Boston and DC? The $2 billion figure you cite is the entire Amtrak subsidy. The northeast corridor actually makes money. The FAA costs taxpayers $10 billion a year. How long should we continue to fund that unprofitable network? Federal highway funding is about $40 billion.

This is one of the choo-choo enthusiasts favorite non-sequitors: Because we subsidize roads and air travel, we should also subsidize passenger rail.

I look at it the opposite way. Since we already have perfectly good highway and air travel systems, what need does HSR fill?

Take any two cities that could concievably be served by HSR and you've already got 3 transporttion options: You can drive, fly or take the bus. Why should we spend umpteen billion dollars just to add one more option to those choices?

mockmook said...

Jeez.

I guess it is true (based on the defensive comments to this post) that liberals don't have a sense of humor.

And, that means Althouse isn't a liberal...AHAA!!!

JorgXMcKie said...

Maybe we should get rid of the FAA and privatize their functions, thereby saving 10B?

Hagar said...

Freddy needs to do a little homework.

This was a time when the Credit Mobiliere was said to own half of the House and all of the Senate. Or the other way around; whichever way, it was private interests running public policy, and not Administration technocrats.

JorgXMcKie said...

Also, passenger rail made some sense in the US when private transportation was primarily horse drawn and there were essentially no direst routes between most cities in the US.

The "Lincoln Highway [regarded as the first coast-to-coast highway] wasn't completed until 1913 [and was not paved all the way] and not finalized until 1925 or so. Also, it was pretty useless to anyone who didn't live pretty close to the route [northern tier of states].

Today, rail passenger service of any speed suffers from multiple deficiencies for their potential so great that only the "deranged" [and/or proto-totalarians] can support it [and especially HSR with its crappy cost/benefit ratios] without breaking into truly hysterical laughter.

Curious George said...

"Maguro said...
I look at it the opposite way. Since we already have perfectly good highway and air travel systems, what need does HSR fill?

Take any two cities that could concievably be served by HSR and you've already got 3 transporttion options: You can drive, fly or take the bus. Why should we spend umpteen billion dollars just to add one more option to those choices?"

Take it a step futher...while all three of these serve the same purpose, they all remain necessary with HSR. HSR railroad does not eliminate the NEED for an interstate syste, or airports. Which is why his point is stupid.

Freder Frederson said...

You are forgetting to factor in the time waiting for the goddamn train departure time.

Have you ever taken a train in Germany. You can pretty much set your watch by them. You can show up five minutes before your train and get right on.

I don't know when the last time you flew was but the days of showing up for your flight at the last second are long gone. And you can't easily switch planes any more if you show up early or late for your flight--you get charged now for any changes, even on the same day.

Actually, Freder, the winner to the Paris-Munich speed contest is still by air. Google maps says the distance from CDG to the center of Paris 34.5 km, with a 33 min drive time; and MUC to the center of Munich is 37.6 km, with a drive time of 34 mins.

I assume you are planning on renting a car at your destination. Two and a half hours of actual travel time (and I doubt, unless you are driving from CDG to central Paris at two in the morning, you are actually going to make it in 33 min--Munich's traffic isn't as bad as Paris, but if you get stuck in a stau on the Autobahn, you can spend many hours in traffic). Also you have to be at the airport 90 minutes before the flight and if you are checking baggage count on at least another 30 minutes for that. The absolute minimum travel time is well over four hours, and that is if absolutely nothing goes wrong or you don't hit any traffic (which is all but guaranteed in Paris)

JorgXMcKie said...

whoops!! "Potential ridership"

JorgXMcKie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JorgXMcKie said...

And don't forget the Mega bus. I've nothing but good stuff about it lately from those who ride it.

Maguro said...

Freder - See here for the details on Germany's antibus laws. Don't worry, it's an NYT link so you won't get Faux News cooties or anything.

Curious George said...

"Freder Frederson said...
You are forgetting to factor in the time waiting for the goddamn train departure time.

Have you ever taken a train in Germany. You can pretty much set your watch by them. You can show up five minutes before your train and get right on."

I'm not talking about "on time" performance Corky, I'm talking about the frequency of departures. How many trains daily between Munich/Paris?

mockmook said...

If Althouse wrote:

Did you hear about the dyslexic atheist who didn't believe in dog?

Garage, et al, would write how they know lots of dyslexics with dogs. And, Obama is improving schools, so dyslexics will have an appreciation of the whole web of life, including dogs. Etc, etc, etc,...

Skipper50 said...

Hitler hated smoking too, for political and "racial" reasons. Is there nothing we can't hang on ol' Adoph?

Jay said...

Have you ever taken a train in Germany. You can pretty much set your watch by them. You can show up five minutes before your train and get right on.

Good for you.

But nobody is talking about building a train in Germany and that isn't how Amtrak operates.

Jay said...

The FAA costs taxpayers $10 billion a year.

Then let's get rid of it.

Federal highway funding is about $40 billion.

The let's get rid of it.

Further, you do realize there are almost 200 million cars in America, and there is not really a demand for high speed rail, right?

Calypso Facto said...

Is the interstate highway system profitable?

It'd be a lot closer to profitable if the fuel taxes weren't raided for ... wait for it... mass transit.

David R. Graham said...

The RRs are having difficulty today (1) finding people who want to drive trains, (2) finding people who are qualified (no drugs/alcohol or drug/alcohol history, above average intelligence, not physically handicapped) to drive trains, (3) finding people who are willing to work the irregular hours/days endemic to all transpo (rail, bus, air, ship).

HSR is easy to talk about. It's difficult and dangerous to operate. In Germany of the 30s there were pools of competence and willingness to make it happen. Today in USA, there is not, and that is why HSR in USA today is not HS. Even air has more leeway for error or thoughtlessness or dozing than rail does.

Transpo of all kinds is hard work of very high stress and constantly dangerous from many directions simultaneously. Not the kind of thing modern Americans fancy themselves meant to be doing. At USAFA now, even, less than half the Cadets want to fly.

My grandfather retired (40 years) as a senior conductor for The NYC between Chicago and Toledo, where he lived and reared his family. The NYC in those days had two dedicated HS lines between NYC and Chicago. The Twentieth Century Limited operated on those HS lines at well over 100 MPH on a daily basis. In the 50s The NYC management started ripping up those lines to sell them as high-grade scrap. Broke my grandfather's heart. Planes were faster, that is all.

But to do that HSR at all, competent, responsible people in high numbers were required to keep the silver streaks from colliding. Today those numbers are not available. In other countries they are, plus distances and population densities commend passenger rail and HSR has a history in other countries, as Ann so interestingly points out.

Let anyone who wants HSR go sober and dope-less for five years then apply to conduct freight, and if you make it (be prepared for long, hard, intellectually demanding school with do-or-die testing), and especially if you are promoted locomotive engineer, tell us if HSR is possible today, or even reasonable.

Until proved otherwise advocating HSR for the USA is indeed insane.

David R. Graham said...

Correction: my grandfather reared his family in Elkhart, mid-way between Chicago and Toledo, so he ran trains in both directions and back to Elkhart.

Fenway_Nation said...

I am enthusiastic about coal, molten sulphur, limestone slurry, grain, military equipment, phosphate, berries, wood chips, gravel, cars, garbage, pipe, heavy machinery, borax, sand, ethanol, clay, steel and even orange juice pulp....all moving by rail (and those are just the commodities shipped in dedicated unit trains).

In the northern tier of Pennsylvania, you have railways that have been neglected and under-utilized since the 1976 formation of Conrail coming back to life because of drilling and exploration in the Marcellus shale. NONE of the gas is shipped by rail, but the drillers still require that heavy machinery and sand for hydrofracking need it shipped in by rail- in some cases on branchlines that have seen less than 100 cars annually in previous years. The most desired sand for hydrofracking comes from Minnesota and Wisconsin, where it's loaded up into train cars and shipped by rail to the Marcellus shale drilling sites.

Freight, for lack of a better term, pays the freight. I have nothing against high-speed rail wherever feasable, but 'The Chinese are doing it' hardly seems like a valid reason- especially given how quickly that system is unravelling.

Anybody else remember the Big Dig in Boston with all the delays, cost overruns and now some key design flaws that the state tried to keep hidden? I hate to say it, but I think any High Speed Rail projects in this country would be EXACTLY like multiple concurrent Big Digs with even LESS oversight and more corruption and cost overruns than a Big Dig.

The Crack Emcee said...

Ann Althouse,

Why are people talking about Godwin's law?

You just have to accept one of two things:

1) That a certain number of people have no idea what they're talking about. They're bringing up Godwin's law simply because it's a meme they heard and, since they don't think for themselves, they blurt it out, hoping/thinking they sound intelligent when, in truth, they're the idiot in the discussion.

2) They are trying to hide something. I used to find it especially troublesome when discussing NewAge and Nazis, and how NewAge mythology of the time (alternative medicine, Earth worship, etc.) was exploited to help Hitler's rise, just as Obama got a hand from the "spiritual" seminars and belief systems (alternative medicine, Earth worship, etc.) Oprah was priming the American public with. It's almost like, if you're not specifically discussing putting Jews in ovens or pulling them out, all discussion of the Third Reich - but especially what led up to it, culturally, to cause the Jews to be put in the ovens in the first place - is off limits.

That's all, ultimately, the declaration of Godwin's law is all about:

To prove you don't know anything, or to keep someone else from doing so.

jr565 said...

This is kind of a silly argument. The axis believe a lot of things, some things that were not particularly hateful or crazy. What is objectionable is that they were racist warmongers who killed Jews, not that they liked high speed trains.
They were also into dressing spiffily, and as we all know clothes make the man, and every girls crazy about a sharp dressed man. If you share that trait, does that make you akin to nazis or does that mean that you must I stead dress like a slob?
Similarly, the fascists had the trains run on time. But is that a negative trait? If you don't want to be a fascist must you be inefficient about getting trains to run on time?

No, high speed rail is a bad idea because it's simply a boondoggle and a money pit with very little upside benefit for completing the project.

jr565 said...

Althouse wrote:
It races like a fever through all segments of the Nordic community, a fever of speed which, infectiously, reaches out far beyond the world of the north and attacks souls who are not Nordic and for whom, at bottom, such action is contrary to their style and senseless.

this is comp,eye garbage. Since when is the desire to go faster somehow a Nordic trait, or even a negative trait? If you look at any industry or technology there is the desire and need to speed up. That's called efficiency. Have you ever heard of anyone asking to have slower cars, or computers? Is a selling point of a car the speed at which it would go from zero to sixty? Pilots had it as their holy grail to break the speed of sound, and now scientists are working on the ability to go faster than the speed of light.
Race car drivers are into the sport because of the simple desire to drive as fast as possible.
And of course maverick, in Top Gun said it well enough when he said "I feel the need. The need for speed!"
Maybe that's simply a masculine trait that women don't get, but it's not a Nazi trait.
He'll, if they could find a way to speed up my subway travels without completely breaking the bank, I'd love it. It's the cost that is the the fly in the ointment, not that there is something wrong with going faster.

The Moderator said...

Whenever I read the old Nazi stuff, I'm always baffled by terms like "Nordic." All I can think of, they meant blonde, or something like that. So this means they wanted high-speed blonde trains.

The Crack Emcee said...

jr565,

This is kind of a silly argument.

Really? Most of it is, but even with the current levels of anti-semitism out there? Liberals demanding we "save the planet"? The "wellness" mantra of the Hitler Youth - "Mind/Body/Spirit? The elitism? Irrationalism? The social darwinism (claiming to know something the rest of us don't?) and appeals to the group mind? The desire for an escape from freedom - being drawn to hierarchies and groups? The war against the modern world?

I can go on and on and on about the parallels between Nazis and NewAge liberals:

It ain't just about trains.

rcocean said...

Arguing that something is bad in 2011 because the Nazi's or Hitler liked it, is lame. Try to come up with a better argument.

Hitler's been dead for 66 years, time to let go.

rcocean said...

Not aiming my comment at anyone, just a general statement.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Throwing aside all the other rhetoric and blather about the current debate over high-speed rail, it's also been documented that Hitler had visions and preliminary plans for a "Supertrain" network that would have used rail equipment built to a track gauge of four meters, with some passenger and freight trains being effectively the size of small cruise ships or freight barges. Unfortunately, the surviving plans and drawings bear a stunning resemblance to the "Supertrain" of the hackneyed NBC series decades ago!

Freder Frederson said...

It'd be a lot closer to profitable if the fuel taxes weren't raided for ... wait for it... mass transit

The federal gasoline tax brings in about $25 billion, so the current highway fund gets more than a third (even if the entire tax was spent on roads) of its funding from general revenues. And lord knows that $40 billion is inadequate to properly maintain and expand the current road system. Our highway network is in appalling state.

Are you willing to double the gasoline tax if it is used 100% to maintain the roads?

Curious George said...

"Freder Frederson said...

Our highway network is in appalling state."

Appalling? Really. How so?

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