Author Archives: admin

Bulletin, September 2016 / 3 Hot Topics

Our Positions On Three Hot Topics:

Albuquerque Rapid Transit (“ART”):

ART, like any Bus Rapid Transit, is a poor and temporary substitute for Urban Rail in most corridors.  However, “ART” might succeed if

1)  it’s convertible to Urban Rail in the future when money and vision become more available, and

2)  It’s put in where people will welcome it. We suggest the Central alignment as proposed, except for diverting to Lomas between Old Town and San Mateo, in part because central Central (so to speak) is not wide enough for everything that should be there, and a major transit line too. While most of Central cries out for redevelopment, the UNM / Nob Hill area should be kept somewhat like it is, much like Old Town Plaza.

We are not optimistic that either of our 2 “Ifs” will be implemented in the near future.

As to Bus “vs.” Rail transit, our previous Mayor, Marty Chavez, declared that without Rail transit you can’t be a great city in the West. Every major (including solidly conservative) city in the West has known this for at least 20 years. And many cities that have tried BRT have either converted them to Urban Rail or let them devolve into very expensive ordinary bus lines.

We say all this in the knowledge that a few local leaders (notably Isaac Benton) are trying to implement real civic improvements in a remarkably visionless city.

An interesting related issue is that a traffic flow improvement program has been designed for Silver SE in the Nob Hill area, for the purpose of smoothing out auto and bike traffic and generally making the street safer for people on foot or on two wheels. The ART line is very likely to divert considerable auto traffic and parking to Silver, negating these improvements.

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Train:

Concerning the struggle to save the Chief and keep it where it is, a proposal has been made to re-route the La Junta / Trinidad CO segment so as to pass through Pueblo and Walsenburg.  Rails Inc supports this, for 2 reasons:

1)   It adds almost 200,000 potential riders to the Chicago / LA route, and

2)   It brings our dream of Albuquerque / Denver Rail service about 85 miles closer to reality, by bringing passenger Rail almost within reach of future Front Range commuter rail. If they ever build a Rail Runner-style service South from Denver, Pueblo is not all that much longer a reach than Colorado Springs.

Amtrak has offered to create a “stub-end” branch service between La Junta and Pueblo.  This is an inferior alternative to the above-mentioned, but better than nothing if it can be extended later to Trinidad and Colorado Springs, as part of our fantasy “Rocky Mountain Flyer”.

As of August 3, Amtrak Chair Joe Boardman has declared the Chief saved and that it will continue to run on its present route. This news seems almost too good to be true. Prospects are looking up, but some of the needed track rehab money has yet to be raised, in particular New Mexico’s share. Also, Boardman has since retired, and nobody knows what his successor, a retired freight-rail CEO named “Wick” Moorman, will have to say about it.

The Heartland Flyer Extension:

The Heartland Flyer is an Amtrak train that operates between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City.  Passenger Rail Oklahoma and others are promoting an extension of the HF to Wichita and Newton KS, where it would connect to the SW Chief and thence   to Kansas City.  This train, the Pueblo / Walsenburg re-route, and a proposed new link between Tulsa and Kansas City, would be significant steps toward re-establishing something resembling a Rail network West of the Mississippi. Rails Inc supports this extension, and so should you.

Our “Rail Interstate”:

This is another good time to remind everybody that we believe that our national passenger Rail model should be brought into line with that of all our other modes of transportation. That is to say, ”socialized” infrastructure and both private and public moving parts. The picture of one underfed quasi-government national railroad hobbling around on privately-owned tracks is upside down to that of our highways, streets, airports, and waterways.

Of course, socializing the tracks, not the trains, could mean turning Amtrak loose on the market to be the best carrier they can in the face of some healthy competition. When people talk about all our “free-market”, potentially profitable transportation services, they forget (or ignore or hide) the fact that all this stuff runs (or floats, or flies) around on taxpayer-supported infrastructure. Except passenger trains.

Two Great Train Groups That Are Not Us:

1) RUN. Once again, we urge people to join the Rail Users Network, another good honest passenger train advocacy group. They’re bigger than Rails Inc, and better connected nationally. Our JW is a board member of RUN, however that may influence your decision. Their latest Newsletter is attached to our e-bulletin. Everybody else contact JW or:

2) OTS; OP. “Our Train Stations; Our Project” is the unusual name of a loose and yet honest organization whose mission is to visit local train stations, take both positive and negative notes, and get the word out to local authorities and our Web site. Don’t want to go to meetings? Don’t want to pay dues? Want to be an activist in the fresh air (and on trains)? This is the outfit for you. Young people and retirees are especially welcome. Color and gender no barrier. Contact JW or

DMU’s (And EMU’s):

Just to make you aware that many local and regional passenger Rail carriers are successfully and economically using “Diesel (or Electric) Motor Units”. These are self-contained rail cars, each with its own engine (or motor), that can carry about 150 passengers, and can be coupled into 3-car trains. Each loaded car is good for about 2 MPG or the equivalent wattage. Do the math. These things run cheap.

Your Money:

You have likely noticed that we are pretty casual about fund raising. This is because our expenses are very small. But they do exist. Hint hint. There are those of you who are loyal contributors. Thank you. Hopefully we’ll hear from some others this time. Send a check to:

Rails, Inc
PO Box 4268
Albuquerque, NM 87196

Or use Pay Pal.

As Usual: We’d like you to spread the word, or forward this bulletin, to your friends, neighbors, business associates, students, and political leaders. There’s still room in America for citizen activism. Modern passenger Rail is an issue that all political species can reasonably get behind. Or it should be.

Bulletin, September 2015 / PTC, etc


1) Positive Train Control:

For those not already familiar with PTC, it’s a GPS-based technology for monitoring trains and for stopping them automatically if necessary. It would likely have prevented this year’s deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia, and probably others. It costs roughly $1 million per mile of track. Some railroads, including California’s Metrolink system, have been going all out with this. There are technical problems not yet solved, such as various PTC systems belonging to different railroads not “talking” with one another.

There’s a Congressionally mandated deadline of December 31, 2015 to implement PTC, which has been extended, as some railroads are running behind in setting this up. This deadline also applies to the Rail Runner.

Here’s where we part company with this PTC program:

There’s a price tag of about $50 million for installing PTC on the part of the Rail Runner route where it’s called for. Given these factors:

—— There’s just not much rail traffic on the route,

—— The Rail Runner is already equipped with “dead man switches”, Automatic Train Stop, and Centralized Train Control,

—— PTC is not effective with respect to the most serious dangers faced by the Rail Runner. It can’t spot a vehicle driving in front of the train or a washout (or sabotage) on the tracks,

—— The Congressional Budget Office itself doesn’t consider PTC all that cost-effective.

We are very reliably informed that the Rail Runner is well protected by the above-listed safeguards, and that PTC is just not worth the huge expense involved.

To us, the true missing links in passenger train protection are:

—— A reliable technology for seeing any danger far enough in front of the train to be able to bring it to a safe stop short of the danger spot.
—— Physical protection (like a giant bumper or “cow catcher”) on the front of the Cab Car for when the train is running in “push mode” (“Push mode” is where the train appears to run backwards, with the engine in back and the engineer working from the duplicate controls in the Cab Car).

NOTE: The Rail Runner runs South with the engine in front (affording great protection) and North with the more vulnerable Cab Car leading.

We believe that an exemption to the PTC requirement is in order for the Rail Runner, until such time as one of the dreams of Rails Inc is realized; that dream being a much busier set of North-South tracks in New Mexico.

As this is written, Congress (such as it is) has passed a three-year extension of the aforementioned deadline for implementation of PTC. This is the same Congress that has never allocated the wireless wave lengths necessary to make their mandated PTC work to begin with.

Since we don’t think PTC is so wonderful for the price anyhow, we certainly have no problem with their stalling it for three years. This might buy some time to organize a set of safety techniques more suited to each individual railroad and segment of right-of-way.

2) Face Book:

Rails Inc is in the process of getting on Face Book. We hope this will help us reach out to a wider—-especially younger—-audience.

3) The Rail Users Network (RUN):

We urge you to consider joining this group. They’re national, they’re honest, they’re independent, and they put up with your JW.

4) Mooch Notice:

Rails Inc does not fund-raise a lot. We don’t have to. We’re very thrifty. Those of you who send checks without a reminder, take a break, with our gratitude. The rest of you, please drop us a few bucks whenever you can. We’re not hurting right now, but we like to keep solvent in our small way. Thank you. PO Box 4268, Albuquerque, 87196.

5) Want To Be An Independent Activist?

We recommend this effort: “Our Train Stations—Our Project.” You monitor a train station and report both good and bad conditions to the appropriate people. OTS—OP has already instigated improvements in several stations around the West. You can help add to these.

Contact: www. Or: Attn. JW .

Bulletin, July 2015


The Southwest Chief:

Amtrak is no longer threatening to terminate the Chief at the end of 2015, when its track maintenance contract with the BNSF Railway expires. This is not an exoneration; more like a stay of execution, to buy time for the various interested entities to cough up the needed funds to improve the Newton KS-Lamy NM track segment to passenger rail speed standards.

Much more recently, the news came out that there’s a dispute between Amtrak and the BNSF about who’s going to pay for Positive Train Control (PTC), an electronic system that’s supposed to stop a train if it detects certain dangers like excess speed on a given track segment.

The following is excerpted from a recent Passenger Rail Oklahoma bulletin:

The hard-line stand by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) could affect Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and Missouri River Runners.  However, there will also be freight implications if Congress does not act by December 31 to delay Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation.  The clock is ticking.

Most railroads are not ready for a 100% effective PTC deployment. Systems for the most part are installed, but PTC is not a set-it-and-forget-it system.  Programming the system and adapting it locally to work properly is difficult and time consuming.

Most dire regionally is the situation in Missouri.  A dispute over who pays for a $32 million system on the Kansas City Terminal Railroad threatens both the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief and the state supplemental Missouri River Runners.  Amtrak’s D.J. Stadtler recently testified before a US Senate Commerce Committee that the Southwest Chief and Missouri River Runners could be rerouted or even terminated.

What may happen to the planned deployment of the Eastern Flyer between Tulsa and Oklahoma City is unknown.  The Eastern Flyer is a proposed commuter rail route between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

(End Of Excerpt)

Rail Transit For Albuquerque:

To refresh your memories, our JW and City Councilor Benton, with the expert assistance of Mobility Planning Associates of Austin, Texas, have put together a preliminary proposal for the YardBird, which would be a modern starter streetcar shuttle between the Alvarado Center and the Rail Yards (we like the old Blacksmith Building).

One of the best un-built Rail transit notions for Albuquerque is the String Of Pearls, promoted by Mayor Marty Chavez during his time. The String would be a Modern Streetcar route connecting the Alvarado, the Rail Yards, the Hispanic Cultural Center, the Zoo, the Old Town / Museum / Bio Park areas, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, and back to the Alvarado. Hopefully, the Bird would be the first leg of this.

Besides the YardBird, there’s some chatter about a possible Rail transit link between Downtown and the Old Town / Museum area. Not a one-ton truck chassis with a cute streetcar body bolted on, but something with steel wheels running on steel rails.

Said chatter emanates from Chamber of Commerce / booster circles. This is exciting because we (and some others) tried for years to get these entities interested in Urban Rail, to no avail. Albuquerque’s absence of any streetcar or light Rail transit component is, to us, a national embarrassment; one more to add to the many we live with.

Bike paths and better bus service are good things, but without Rail in the transit mix, you just don’t have an economical, efficient, and long-lasting network. Don’t take our word for it: ask just about any other major city in the North American West.

Please contact the Mayor, the City Council, the County Commission, the Chamber Of Commerce, the Visitors’ Bureau, and anybody else you can think of and tell them you support the above.

It’s also worth noting that, with Rail transit, redevelopment of our many vacant lots and abandoned properties becomes much more attractive (and potentially profitable) to developers, which in turn is good for the whole region. These local eyesores are already connected to streets and utilities, plus, the renovation of these places would help to preserve our surrounding open land from the likes of, say, Santolina.

Other Great Rail Advocates Besides Us:

Again, we call attention to the Rail Users Network (RUN), an honest national train group. Our JW is on their board, which demonstrates both good taste on JW’s part, and remarkable tolerance on theirs.

RUN is looking for people or businesses who will help to sponsor a portion of their quality 16-page quarterly national Newsletter or of their yearly conferences. We endorse this effort. Various Thank Yous and inducements are available. Contact:

Richard at:


JW at : .

RUN’s Web site is: . Check ‘em out, folks.
Also, there’s an initiative (not really a group) called Our Train Stations; Our Project. Their purpose is to regularly monitor local train stations, noting both good and bad things, and to report these to the appropriate local authorities and to the Project itself.

The beauty of this effort is that anybody can get involved without joining a group, going to meetings, or paying dues. You just need to pick a station near you (especially if you use it) and take notes. If you’re interested, and please be interested, contact JW.


Bulletin, May 2015


1) The Southwest Chief:

Our train has received, if not full exoneration, a good long stay of execution. Amtrak has announced that they will no longer impose their End-Of-2015 deadline for re-routing or terminating the Chief. They, along with the BNSF Railway, Colorado and Kansas have stepped up to do their part to upgrade the tracks to something resembling passenger rail standards. Our own state is still the hang-up.

And Amtrak is sitting down with Herzog ( the company that operates the Rail Runner for the Council Of Governments) to come up with a cost figure for upgrading the Raton Pass-Lamy track segment. This is good news, but we can’t declare Victory just yet.

Please keep after your friends, our political leaders, and whoever else, expressing your support for the Chief.

2) The Long View:

We’ve been thinking about these never-ending passenger Rail struggles, trying to figure out how to get past them, to be able to count on what passenger trains we now have, and to plan for more and faster in the future. We think the long-term answers for passenger Rail are:

1) Publicly owned infrastructure,
2) Both public and private moving parts,
3) Plenty of room for competition among said parts.

In case this doesn’t sound American enough; hell, it can’t be more American. It’s the way we operate every other mode of transportation. Crudely expressed, subsidize the tracks, not the trains. For more, go to, click “Hot Topics”, the last article.

3) Rail Transit For Albuquerque:

The Yard Bird:

This is what we call our fantasy starter Modern Streetcar line, which would run the short distance between the Alvarado Transportation Center to the old Blacksmith Building in the Rail Yards.


We don’t hate Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), like the proposal in the works for East Central, BUT: 1) They need to do it right, like concrete instead of asphalt for the BRT lanes, and 2) The system needs to be designed for easy future conversion to Light Rail or Rapid Streetcar. Tell “em so.

4) Wanna Go Modern?

We’ll be happy to continue serving those of you on our postal mailing list, but if you want to send us your e-mail address, it will save us time and money. Remember that nobody gets your information from us. Nobody, no matter how much we may like and respect them. Did we say Nobody?

5) Other Good Train Groups:

If you’re interested in these, go to, click Links, click “Our Favorites”. The Rail Users Network (RUN) is a kind of national version of us (very loosely speaking) and “Our Train Station: Our Project” is a good opportunity for activism without actually joining a group.

Bulletin, February 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Since the New Mexico legislative session is under way, please write to them and burn up their phone lines (e-mail too), as per the following. Even if there are no bills in the works on this subject, they should still know what you think.

1) The Southwest Chief

There is some hopeful news coming out of Colorado and Kansas.

You likely recall the financial plan in the works to save and upgrade the railroad tracks from Newton KS to Lamy NM, for the purpose of keeping the Chief running where it is at desirable speeds (up to 80 mph). This plan proposes approx. $40 million over 10 years from each of the stakeholders; Amtrak, the BNSF Railway, and the states of KS, CO and NM.

Well, Colorado has been working hard on this, and for various reasons, Colorado’s $40 million has dropped to $8.9 million, a figure almost too good to be true. These “various reasons” include a “TIGER” grant, Amtrak’s highballing of cost estimates, and some intelligent political support from various Colorado leaders. And Kansas is also making progress in raising their share. The problems here are:

1) whether that $40 million price tag can be reduced in all three states as it has been in Colorado, and

2) whether New Mexico will show some vision and, well, statesmanship and work as hard for the Chief as Colorado and Kansas have.

What you can do is to contact your state Senator and Representative, the Governor, your Congress People, Amtrak and any media you can think of and let them know that you support the SW Chief and why. Our Web site, , is full of useful information to assist your efforts. Please feel free to mine it.

Bear in mind that, although we consider the SW Chief reason enough to save and upgrade our track segment, we believe those tracks can be made a lot busier than just hosting the Chief. Click the left header box called “The Southwest Chief And Its Tracks”, third article.

2) Transit In The Albuquerque Area:

You’ve probably also heard about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) effort under way along East Central, with its two dedicated bus lanes. We insist that this line will disrupt East Central as much as any Streetcar or Light Rail line would, without the major benefits any modern Rail provides. Consider, for example, the effects of lots of displaced traffic on the streets adjacent to Central. We think transit should be anchored by modern Rail, supported by lots of smaller busses and vans that go within a few blocks of any place. We also think that several routes would be preferable to East Central for these trains.

The only ways BRT makes any long-term sense are 1) by serving long steep grades like “Hill 528” to Rio Rancho, and 2) by being designed for easy future conversion to Rail transit. To see why at a glance, go to our Web site, click Graphics, then click “Bus-Rail Transit Comparison”.

And please let the Mayor, your City Councilor and your County Commissioner what you think. Hopefully, you think like we do. If not —-it’s still good to be an active citizen.

3) Attention Young People:

A large majority of advocates on behalf of modern passenger Rail are Old White Men. We would like to see a lot more activists who are not any or all of these. Please contact us. We can help you start your own group, or you can join us. We especially need help getting involved with the “social” media.

4) A Worthwhile Rail Conference:

On March 27 and 28, the Rail Users Network (RUN) will be holding their annual conference in LA. The RUN, like us, is oriented toward modern passenger Rail, local, regional and long distance, only they’re an honest nationwide group. Contact us or

5) A Tool For Activists:

Once again we’d like to call your attention to “Our Stations, Our Project”, in which interested people monitor and evaluate their local rail stations and pass their findings (good and bad) to the appropriate authorities. There’s no need to join a group or pay dues to get involved in this. Contact us, or .

Bulletin, September 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I  The Southwest Chief:

The impasse continues over funding the track and bridge improvements necessary to keep the Chief running in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico and to return it to Class 4 status (80 mph maximum) after 2015.

This impasse concerns whether the necessary $200 million over 10 years should be covered by the states of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico (along with Amtrak and the BNSF Railway) or by the federal government. There is a good case to be made for either course, but none of the entities, except possibly Colorado, appears to be much in the mood to realize what a great investment they’d be making. So the Chief is still in trouble, along with what connectivity we still possess among our long-distance passenger trains.

As this is written, word comes from the Denver Post that the office of Colorado US Senator Mark Udall has announced a $12.5 million grant from the US Dept. of Transportation to assist in keeping the SW Chief running. If this is so, and if it’s a yearly grant, this is exciting news. We’ll keep you up on this.

We have maintained from the beginning of this crisis that the best way to save the Chief (long term) is to save and upgrade the tracks, and the best way to do this is to present to interested parties how said tracks can be put to work beyond hosting two Amtrak trains a day, and just what a great long-term investment these tracks would be for any entity (preferably public) smart enough to snap therm up.

II  The Issue Behind The Other Issues:

Whether we all succeed in saving the Chief next year or not, almost nobody is addressing what we believe to be the underlying cause of all these continuous and depressing struggles for passenger Rail.

Actually, the true underlying causes are auto and highway dominance, vested interests and American short-sightedness. But what might be called the underlying “manifestation” of these is addressed in the attached article, which appeared in the latest Rail Users Network Newsletter, but is not yet posted at their Web site, (please check the site out anyhow and consider joining the RUN).

Please read this article carefully, comment to us as you see fit, and pass it around to your friends, associates and political leaders, both state and federal.


Root Causes

(A Not-So-Modest Proposal)

We Americans have long borne a bad habit of scrambling our private and public policies (our Capitalism and Socialism if you will) so that we miss out on the best of both. An example near and dear to us rail advocates is the way we operate passenger Rail service at the national level. Consider these:

One: Our passenger Rail model is insanely upside-down in comparison to that of every single other mode of transportation in America. That is to say, one erratically managed, under-funded and ethically flabby passenger train corporation, neither properly private nor properly public,operating as a barely-tolerated intruder on privately owned infrastructure.

Two:   All our other passenger transportation modes (and some of our freight modes) feature both private and public moving parts operating more-or-less reliably and serving just about everyplace, on publicly owned infrastructure.

Three: There exist private operators, with proven “track” records, who could make a go of passenger (and express) Rail service on our under-served track segments, or on segments yet to be restored, if our passenger Rail operating model were right side up. Airlines, truckers, bus companies and boat owners don’t have to own and maintain their rights-of-way.

Four: We just plain don’t have enough tracks to serve all our Rail needs.

So Rails Inc urges all passenger Rail advocates to get behind these:

1)   Establishment of a publicly-funded “Rail Interstate” system (tracks, bridges and signalling) which would re-connect abandoned and under-served areas once fully served by passenger Rail, and bring new service to most cities and sizable communities built after the ascendancy of the automobile. Station stops should be a local responsibility, and sold accordingly.

2)   Opening up of long-distance passenger rail service to reasonably-regulated competition, both private and public. It’s obvious that Amtrak, if it deserves to exist at all as a national carrier, could use it.

To further explain:

* Much of this trackage can be located right alongside our existing freight tracks, sharing right of way and maybe some signalling.

* We’re not recommending the confiscation or seizure of any freight tracks. After all, the Class Ones and many short lines are doing a pretty good job of hauling their stuff. But the major freight tracks are getting crowded and Big Freight is no friendlier to passenger Rail than it ever was. Much can be done with modern train control, but we need more public track capacity.

* In addition to building new track, the nation should start snapping up under-used and at-risk track segments between significant destinations. Lamy-Raton Pass NM and Belen-Anthony NM are but two of many that come to mind. These tracks could then be leased for a reasonable fee to any operator willing to keep them busy and well-maintained.

* We’re not talking “High Speed Rail” here. Not yet. Class 4 (80 mph) is good enough until after the “Rail Interstate” starts generating ridership and revenue. After that, track speeds can be boosted with grade crossing separation, advanced train control and Talgo-style rail car design. We consider it more important to go everywhere anytime at highway speeds than to go a few places super fast.

* A bonus benefit to our proposal would be to inform and clean up our never-ending discussions and arguments over “Subsidy”, cost-vs-benefit and return on investment; arguments that by present definition compare five or six apples and one lemon.

In short, let’s make our passenger Rail network like all our others: Socialism below the wheels (or keels) and Capitalism above.  Let the taxpayer fund the infrastructure, not the vehicles. Transportation infrastructure is a public good, like libraries, police and fire departments. These don’t make money, they save it. Not that the above-mentioned leasing fees wouldn’t be a pretty good deal for the taxpayer either.

This article constitutes a kind of intro, or dreaming out loud. We’re working on the more realistic cost-benefit aspects of this proposal, how it can fit in with existing initiatives, etc. We have a long way to go on this. Stay tuned.

JW Madison


III  Rail Transit For Albuquerque:

You may recall our “Yard Bird” starter Modern Streetcar proposal and the efforts of ourselves and Councilor Benton to make some version of this happen. This process has sat still for several months, but is moving again, in the form of collecting the solid cost and benefit estimates we need to sell this thing to the City Council and the general public.

As we’ve said before, once any modern Rail transit line goes in, it becomes a rock star almost instantly. The “Yard Bird” should be no exception, as long as it’s considered a starter line for a future Albuquerque Rail transit system and not just a cute evoke-the-past tourist thing. We don’t need a few giant busses. We need Rail and lots of small busses.

IV  A Useful Tool For Rail Activists:

Our JW recently met with Mike Garey of Arizona, who introduced him to the idea of a corps of citizens who would keep an eye on local train stations and report both good and bad findings to local officials.

If you’re getting this through the Post Office, please study the enclosures and contact us if you would like to get involved in this. We’d like to organize some “Champions” for the Albuquerque and Santa Fe area. If you already commute via the Rail Runner and / or bus connections, you could do this without eating up too much of your spare time.

If you’re getting this via e-mail, go to this Web site: and then contact:

If you want to get active for passenger Rail, this might be a great way to be so without going to meetings or following policy debates. This is Hands On activism and it won’t cost you a dime

Bulletin, February 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Please contact your State Representative and State Senator and urge them to support and vote for:

House Bill 117
House Bill 241
Senate Bill 168
Senate Bill 221

All of these concern the Southwest Chief and the tracks it runs on.

Go to for information on your legislators and on bills and meetings.

And don’t forget the Governor. Leave a message at (505) 476-2200.

And please try to get your friends to do the same.


Bulletin, January 2014

The Southwest Chief

As of January 1, 2016, one of several things will have happened to Amtrak’s Southwest Chief:

### The tracks from Newton KS to Lamy NM will get a much-needed upgrade to passenger Rail (80 mph) standards, saving the SW Chief as an efficient train service;

### The tracks will not get this upgrade, as a result of which the Southwest Chief will run slower and slower, losing more and more business;

### The above-named segment of the Chief’s itinerary will be re-routed to an alternate route via Wichita, Woodward OK, Amarillo and Clovis, making Albuquerque harder to reach;

### The Chief will be discontinued or broken into two shorter routes with a long awkward bus connection between Newton KS and probably Belen.

Our first wish is to see both the current and the alternate routes served by passenger Rail. Our second is to keep the Chief running where it is.

The required track upgrade cost is about $200 million or maybe less; about half for the upgrade to 80 mph, and half for top-grade maintenance for 10 years. We consider this a Federal responsibility, but a proposal is in the air to share the burden among Amtrak, the BNSF Railway, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. “Burden” is a little too strong a word; $4 million per year per stakeholder for 10 years. Consider what we routinely fork over to keep up our streets, highways, airports and probably waterways.

Killing the Chief would be a serious setback, not only for the people along the affected route but for the rebuilding of a full American passenger Rail network (which we like to call the “Rail Interstate”).

There’s a piece of good news on this front. State Rep. Roberto Gonzales (D-Taos) has introduced two bills related to the SW Chief, HB 116 and HB 117. These bills face a journey not unlike that of a salmon in spawning season, but they are a real step in the right direction and deserve your loud and strong support.

To us, the long-term solution to the security of the Chief is to make sure it has some company on those tracks. Although the Chief alone is a good enough reason to keep the tracks up, the necessary funding would certainly be easier to come by if the tracks someday host a lot more than two trains a day.

Rail Transit For Albuquerque

Nothing new, sorry to say. We’re still trying to promote our “Yard Bird” proposal, which would be a Modern Streetcar starter line from the Alvarado Center to the Rail Yard, assuming Railyard redevelopment progress continues.

For University Blvd and other transit improvement zones, the Bus Rapid Transit juggernaut is building up speed. Since Modern Streetcar and Light Rail Service still look a long way off for Albuquerque (as opposed to most other major cities in the West), we’re hoping that they’ll at least design the Rapid Bus lanes so as to be easily convertible to Rail as the busses wear out and this town decides to join the rest of civilization in modernizing our transit.

Urban Rail costs a lot more to start up than does better bus service, and we need better bus service (such as more neighborhood small-vehicle transit), but once installed, the Rail mode pays everybody back damn near forever (well, 50-100 years).

Please go to and, look up your Councilor and Commissioner and let them know you support Urban Rail, in addition to the Rail Runner and more “pervasive” bus service.

Get Active. It Still Works Sometimes

As a 501-c-3 tax exempt corporation, Rails Inc can’t spend much time and energy politicking. We need you to do it. Here are some suggestions how:

* Contact your US Senators and Congress Members, telling them the SW Chief, its tracks and Rail transit for Albuquerque are excellent long-term investments for environmental, social, economical and business reasons.

* Same with your NM legislators (in particular Rep. Gonzales) and the Governor.

* Pass our bulletins around as much as you can.

* Do all this more than once.

Please feel free to consult our Web site and its Linked organizations as you see fit for information to back up your assertions.

Bulletin, June 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Southwest Chief: After HM 50, Now What?

Our House Memorial (HM 50) directs the NM Economic Development Dept (NMEDD) to pursue a market research program laying out the public good (and revenue) possibilities for the Lamy-Raton Pass railroad track segment. We have listed some on our Web site, the third article under “Hot Topics”. But they’re ours (with some expert help), not “officially” sanctioned.

We recently met with the head of the NMEDD and its general Counsel. They’re positive on this, but as usual, money is the problem. They gave us a copy of a 2007 Rail economic development study. The idea is to find a worthy graduate or near-graduate student (or team) at UNM who could update this study under the umbrella of a suitable professor or department. Can you help?

We believe that it will always be tough to permanently fund a set of railroad tracks hosting only two trains a day. We might think it’s a good investment, but a lot of reasonable people (including politicians) won’t. If we can convincingly present the tracks as the multi-purpose hard-working asset that they could be, their future is more secure. We also think the state should revive the dead track-purchase deal with the BNSF Railway, and look into public-private partnerships with a regional operator, or possibly even the BNSF itself.

Some advocates in the Texas-Kansas-Oklahoma area have pretty much written off the Chief staying where it is, and are talking to the leaders of Amarillo, Wichita, and the other cities along the possible new route. So are we, but we’d rather see the Chief stay where it is. If the Chief were to be re-routed via Wichita, Woodward, OK, Amarillo, Clovis and Belen (see map), Albuquerque would be enough off the beaten path to require a slow back-up maneuver to get here (kind of like a K-turn). The Chief would probably lose more Albuquerque business that it would gain from Wichita, Amarillo and the rest.

As usual, we urge you to contact your friends and political leaders in support of the Chief.

Another Great Rail Group (Besides Us)

There is a smart and honest national rail group called the Rail Users Network (RUN), devoted to All Things modern passenger rail. They do what we do, only much more and on a bigger scale. Our JW is a recently-elected board member of RUN, and he’s pretty particular.
To learn more, or to consider joining, go to: . You won’t be sorry.

Rail Transit For Albuquerque:

We’re still pursuing the Yard Bird, our fantasy Modern Streetcar line running from the Alvarado Center to the Blacksmith Building in the old Rail Yards. This would, in our dreams, be part of the Rail Yard redevelopment project. Rails Inc and City Councilor Benton have begun building a proposal and cost estimate for this line, with the expert assistance of Lyndon Henry of Urban Rail Today and Light Rail Now, based in Austin Texas.

If the Bird ever becomes a reality, it would not be a dead end. It could become part of a future Rail transit system for Albuquerque. Better bus service is important, but we need more trains than just the Rail Runner.

To learn all we know, go to, and read the last article under Publications / Articles and Editorials.

Why Trains Suck in America