Herald and Journal
Herald & Journal, November 16, 1998

Oh, to ride the rails again


Will we return to riding commuter trains in the next century?

I think we will, but I don't know how long it will take before we ride the rails again.

A plan unveiled by the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, Amtrak and nine states would connect cities in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. This is a very ambitious plan and I think it would be a good thing.

On a smaller scale, the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad and Amtrak would have passenger and express freight on a route from Chicago to Madison and eventually to the Twin Cities.

An experiment was held last summer here in southeastern Wisconsin. While there were extensive repairs being made to I-94, a commuter train was running from Watertown to Milwaukee and on to Chicago. The train was a resounding success. Two runs daily each way were full almost every day. Passengers were very happy with the service and hated to see the end of the trial period. Most importantly, automobile traffic was lighter on the interstate during the construction period.

Of course, it would cost a lot of money, but some of it could be diverted from highway funds. It would cost $70 million, they say, just for track improvements, but in the long run, it would be worth it.

Remember the passenger train that ran through Howard Lake years ago? If it would be running today from the Twin Cities and, let's say, Willmar, and commuters who work in the cities would ride it to work, just think how tolerable driving on Highway 12 would be.

I have been a long-time advocate of rail travel. Wouldn't it be nice if I could get on a train in Watertown and ride it all the way to Howard Lake? It could be done again. I remember riding a train from Camp (now Fort) McCoy, Wis. to Minneapolis when I was discharged from the army in 1952.

Maybe I won't see the day passenger trains extend their service, but I think it will come. If Germany and Japan can do it, why can't we? After all, we won the war, didn't we?

Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in the bag.

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