My maternal grandfather was a veteran of the Great War then became a career brakeman and conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1921 he and Grandma Panky honeymooned in Hot Springs, South Dakota riding the train from Humphrey, Nebraska. I have at least one vague memory from my toddlerhood going over the Continental Divide in Colorado while riding the California Zephyr between Omaha and Emeryville, California not far from Castle Air Force Base where my dad was stationed and where I was born.
Today in Colorado the Front Range Passenger Rail District is moving to connect service with Amtrak’s Southwest Chief at Trinidad through Denver to at least Cheyenne, Wyoming
after receiving $9 million in June for planning and development from that state's legislature. As cold weather slows the Empire Builder through northern Montana both the Front Range and the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority are eagerly awaiting some of the $66 billion coming from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA. Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Union Pacific are non-voting members of Front Range.
Beginning in 2003 the State of New Mexico bought the track bed that the Southwest Chief uses from just north of Lamy to Behlen from BNSF when the Rail Runner was being built. BNSF owns most of the rail rights of way in New Mexico and leases some trackage to Union Pacific.
Nineteen Montana counties plus the Confederated Salish and Kootenai, Northern Cheyenne and Apsáalooke Nations have joined Big Sky’s march towards the restoration of the North Coast Hiawatha. Lewis and Clark County is home to the state capital and has yet to support the concept citing lack of service while Yellowstone County, the state's most populous, is holding out for more money.
Offering sales on ticket prices and special travel packages, as well as restoring train routes suspended due to the pandemic, helped Amtrak start to get ridership back on track. Through the first nine months of fiscal-year 2022, the railroad logged total ridership of 16.7 million, up from 7 million during the same period in FY2021. Over the past 12 months, the railroad has recruited 3,700 new workers in part by offering competitive wages and hiring bonuses. [Flush with new funding opportunities, Amtrak preps for growth]Imagine a time
when portions or all passenger rail in the United States is elevated for wildlife egress through a future corridor between Mexico City and the Amtrak station in Shelby, Montana
then on to the Yukon River in Alaska intersecting with a bridge over or tunnel under the Bering Strait connecting South and North America to Russia and the rest of Eurasia.
In the photo the man on the right is my maternal grandfather posing with a Union Pacific locomotive in the 1940s.