The MetrolinersThe MetrolinersThe MetrolinersThe MetrolinersThe MetrolinersThe Metroliners
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Introduction to The Metroliners and sample pages from the book.
Like many who love passenger trains, you probably occasionally wish that you could have lived in the "Golden Era" of rail travel when the 20th Century Limited, Super Chief and California Zephyr were as widely recognized as United, Southwest, and American Airlines are today. While the streamliners of yesteryear are but a fading memory for some, Amtrak continues to perform well beyond expectations on many routes across the country despite its ongoing struggles to secure adequate capital funding.
On Metroliner's maiden voyage on January 16, 1969, nobody knew if the new trains would presage an era of high-speed service linking America's cities, or if it might be a final footnote in the history of the passenger train in the United States. Even though Metroliner became an entrenched institution and a way of life for business travelers in the Northeast (and possibly the most financially successful American passenger rail service of the twentieth century), it only briefly captured the imagination or got the attention that those glamorous trains of the 1940s and 1950s received.
Early on, Metroliner was a headline story, and its immediate success was certainly a catalyst for the creation of Amtrak, which led to the salvation of Northeast Corridor passenger service in the wake of the Penn Central bankruptcy. But maybe because Metroliner did what it was supposed to do, efficiently, reliably, day-after-day, it was soon taken for granted.
To some, the Metroliner was the self-propelled multiple-unit cars that were the face of the service for the first 13 years. To others it was the first passenger rail service of the post-Golden Era period that proved the train could hold its own in certain markets against the airplane.
The authors provide insights into both the marketing and service of the Metroliners as well as including technical information about the evolutionary electric multiple units that gave their name to what became Amtrak's premier service. However, this book is not focused on excruciating technical detail. More important is the telling of the Metroliner's story and capture a sense of what it accomplished.
Because Metroliner was so intertwined with everything that happened in the Northeast Corridor, the book describes a few tangential, but related, topics. Some of the other events that took place in the same market during this period are described, but without losing the focus on the life of the Metroliner. Metroliner primarily served the busy corridor between Washington and New York, though some trains were later extended to New Haven. The story would not be complete without exploring the short-lived New England Metroliner and San Diego Metroliner services, as well as the obscure diversions that took the Metroliner to Downingtown, Pa., and Hyannis, Mass.
From a global perspective, Metroliner pales in comparison to many of the high speed trains in service today in Europe and Asia. The planned San Francisco-Los Angeles high speed line, or Amtrak's vision for a new Northeast Corridor high speed line, would make the Metroliner look almost primitive. But in the history of passenger rail in the United States, Metroliner played a vital role at a critical time. This book captures the essence of that role, and by telling this story, the history and meaning of Metroliner is preserved.