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Old 04-24-2009, 02:58 PM
 
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jazzlover ... I wouldn't go so far as to say that the railroads compete with a massively government-subsidized highway system ... as to imply that the railroads don't have a background of government money and subsidy, and derive a huge amount of income from the lands, minerals, and water they've been given.

Or, have you forgotten just how many alternating sections of lands with mineral and water rights the railroads own as a no-strings attached gift from the public going back to their inception? Or the money allocated to subsidize the railroads over the last decades for their service which wasn't economically viable in some sectors compared to trucking and private transport?

The railroads, like other transportation industry businesses ... have suffered greatly from their accomodations to the unions and their labor and retirement system. I've spent a lot of time around railroad shops (as a sales rep for my product lines) and have rarely seen any real "work" going on by the employees. I've seen a bunch sitting around on their company provided computers calculating the days until they "retire" and their benefits, I've seen them at breaks, I've seen them on job sites where we were quoting sub-contracted services .... but never actually with a tool in hand or doing any "work" on the equipment in the shop. And I don't mean just one or two guys "goofing off" ... I mean the whole crew on that shift, in a multi-million dollar facility. Their biggest concern seemed to be who was going to "take over" their responsibilities when their last day to punch the clock took place. The hardest worker I've ever seen was a department manager, shuffling papers across his desk ... and issuing me a PO for products and services. Since we have major shops in Denver and Cheyenne, I think I've seen some of the bigger operations around.
The hardest workers in the rail business I've ever seen were private company workers doing refurbishing and rebuilding, major overhauls, repainting ... or volunteers on some of the historic tourist rail companies. That, and some of the track crews out on the roadbed running equipment to replace track or support structures.

Last edited by sunsprit; 04-24-2009 at 03:12 PM..
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Old 04-24-2009, 06:47 PM
 
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Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
jazzlover ... I wouldn't go so far as to say that the railroads compete with a massively government-subsidized highway system ... as to imply that the railroads don't have a background of government money and subsidy, and derive a huge amount of income from the lands, minerals, and water they've been given.

Or, have you forgotten just how many alternating sections of lands with mineral and water rights the railroads own as a no-strings attached gift from the public going back to their inception? Or the money allocated to subsidize the railroads over the last decades for their service which wasn't economically viable in some sectors compared to trucking and private transport?

The railroads, like other transportation industry businesses ... have suffered greatly from their accomodations to the unions and their labor and retirement system. I've spent a lot of time around railroad shops (as a sales rep for my product lines) and have rarely seen any real "work" going on by the employees. I've seen a bunch sitting around on their company provided computers calculating the days until they "retire" and their benefits, I've seen them at breaks, I've seen them on job sites where we were quoting sub-contracted services .... but never actually with a tool in hand or doing any "work" on the equipment in the shop. And I don't mean just one or two guys "goofing off" ... I mean the whole crew on that shift, in a multi-million dollar facility. Their biggest concern seemed to be who was going to "take over" their responsibilities when their last day to punch the clock took place. The hardest worker I've ever seen was a department manager, shuffling papers across his desk ... and issuing me a PO for products and services. Since we have major shops in Denver and Cheyenne, I think I've seen some of the bigger operations around.
The hardest workers in the rail business I've ever seen were private company workers doing refurbishing and rebuilding, major overhauls, repainting ... or volunteers on some of the historic tourist rail companies. That, and some of the track crews out on the roadbed running equipment to replace track or support structures.
On most subjects I agree with you, sunsprit, but you need to get your facts straight on this one. First, only a very few US railroads were "land grant" railroads that received substantial lands adjacent to their rights-of-way--the Union Pacific through Wyoming, admittedly, being one. Even then, those land grants only applied to the "transcontinental" portions of their route. In many cases, the railroads long ago disposed of that land so acquired. In any case, it was a subsidy granted nearly 150 years ago--not the annual pork-barrel subsidies (in staggering amounts) that the roads and highways get. In Colorado, the Denver & Rio Grande--the state's biggest railroad until it was eventually merged with the Southern Pacific and then the Union Pacific borg--did not get one acre of federal land grants--except for its right-of-way--and often not even that. In many cases, the D&RG had to purchase its right-of-way from private land owners.

Second, unlike autos and trucks that ply taxpayer-built and supported roads, railroads must maintain their own rights-of-way at their own expense, AND pay property taxes on those rights-of-way, to boot.

Third, as to the work ethic of railroaders, yes, there are some silly work rules and other problems that impair worker efficiency there. Of course, if you walk into a state highway shop, or go watch some union (and most of them are) road contractors, you can see the same inefficiency times 10. (Question: "What's orange and sleeps three? State Highway truck." ) Go and spend some time on a railroad track maintenance gang and you may come away with a different opinion of just how "easy" railroad work is.

Here's a real interesting idea: Let's strip ALL taxpayer support from ALL modes of US transportation--let the free market really work. See what survives. It WON'T be the highway or air travel system.
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Old 04-24-2009, 07:20 PM
 
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The old land grants go back to Lincoln's building of the transcon. The land given was essentially worthless then, and the RR's were on the hook to develop it, which they did by bringing in immigrants from Europe - at their own expense.

Over the years, the RRs gave their rail shipping services to the Federal govt at free or greatly reduced rates, under Section 22 of the Interstate Commerce Act, aka "Section 22 Rates." We oldtimers in the freight business remember them well. The RR's long ago paid back the govt for those lands via Sect-22, and by the taxes generated by the activities on those lands. If they make a buck on the mineral rights, that's cool, just like the cattlemen make a buck by grazing their critters on massive amounts of Federal land here in the west.

Land grants didn't apply to the eastern RR's, they did it all by selling stock and taking huge risks, many of which lost all they invested.

The last ten years we're finally starting to see some Federal support for rail expansion, as lawmakers are hearing the shouts of the public for more rail options, and they are realizing that you can never pour enough concrete to solve auto commuting needs. I believe I saw a stat that one third of the land mass of Los Angeles is in some way paved for cars or parking.
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Old 04-25-2009, 06:12 AM
 
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OK, jazzlover ... let's take a little trip down memory lane about the history of the Colorado territory railroads, and most specifically, the 1922 Moffat Tunnel Improvement District which funded and built the railroad bed and track up to the mountains, completed in 1928. The rail facility was then leased to the Denver and Salt Lake Railway Company for less than 40% of it's construction cost.

Now, if that's not a huge public bond debt and subsidy to the private railroad, then you and I are really going to disagree as to what constitutes a public subsidy to support a business.

This publicly funded development by Denver led to the popular pastime of folks taking the train up to the mountain slopes to stop there and ski, and Denver later used this destination activity to build the Winter Park Ski facility, which they operated until 1950 before they turned it over to an operator.

So, as I see it, the development of the Moffat railroad as well as Winter Park ... the two key components of the "ski train" ... were the direct result of exceptional risk and investment by the public, and not the railroad on it's own dime.

You might further consider that the Colorado Territory had many offers by railroad companies to build facilities and track into the area, but only if publicly subsidized. There's a long (and, perhaps, sordid) history of towns and cities in the region wanting rail service ... the main means of heavy transport of goods and people at the time ... and towns and cities passing public bond issues which later came to bankrupt those folks when the railroads either didn't complete their promised services or themselves went bankrupt. But the key factor here was that the public subsidy and funding came first, and was at great risk for a possible public benefit.

Indeed, these subsidized railroad schemes were so disruptive to the Colorado Territory economy that portions (Sections 1 & 2) of the Colorado State Constitution were specifically written to protect the public from them.

Later, when Denver's political and business leadership realized that it needed rail service to be the "big city" that it hoped to be, that it would have to undertake the financing and subsidy of the railroads to make it a viable proposition for the railroads. As a result, they tried numerous times to create a means of public funding, most of which failed to pass the constitutional barriers to this effort, with the most notable initial bond efforts failing in the courts in 1911. It wasn't until Denver figured out how to fund and build the Moffat Tunnel Improvement District in 1922 that a public subsidy of the railroad was finally worked out to get around the State Constitution. This was clearly a very big portion of the public economy and risk ... significant enough to be a major portion of the State Constitution when the Territory became a state.

Also, consider it's been held by the courts that the Moffat rail bed and track is owned by Denver (as is the Winter Park Ski Area), and as such, was exempt from many taxes ... such as Grand County taxation; again, this is a significant long term public subsidy of a facility by it's tax exempt status and it's been that way since it's inception, every year.

There's such a long history of public subsidy of the railroads in the region that to assert that the railroads took all the risk is simply laughable.

For a place to begin on this history, I refer you to "The Colorado State Constitution" by Dale A. Oesterle & Richard B. Collins, pages 265-266. There are specific references to the economics of the public & political history of the railroads in the area, as well as the fact that the "... railroads have offered to lay track only if subsidized". There's also a lot of other publications which you can google which refer to the railroad development in the region ... but the referenced book gives the greater insight into the public subsidies of the railroad business development in the region.

Jazzlover ... this is like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to discovery of what really happened. And, I'd have to point out, too, that the coal, water, and mineral deposits which the railroads own in the area are more than trivial ... for example, having lived in the Erie area for a few years, it's an area with a substantial history of coal mining ... all on railroad owned property. The railroads were very sensitive to their requirements in the steam era of needing fuel and water ... and that was a key component of their subsidies. You can't acquire those mineral and water rights for any reasonable amount of money today when you buy land in the area ... but it was given very readily to the railroads to attract them for their services way back when .... and, as we're both well aware, water has proven to be an essential and highly valued commodity in the region which the railroads have been able to sell every year for many years since steam power was dropped from the system.

As far as assertions that only the transcontinental railroad was the beneficiary of land grant railroad subsidies in the area ... again, too, it's real easy to pick off this falsehood. For example, Colorado's Gov John Evans is credited with "saving Denver" and the Colorado Territory with his push to get a Denver to Cheyenne rail line built. The Denver Pacific Railroad Company subsequently started operations on the LAND GRANT railbed that was laid in 1868-1870, which connected Denver into the transcontinental rail network.

Last edited by sunsprit; 04-25-2009 at 07:32 AM..
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Old 04-25-2009, 07:55 AM
 
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I'll also add that the Colorado rail subsidies were significant even down to the county level as they sought economic development and opportunity in the region.

For example, Jefferson County subsidized the rail development of Denver to Golden with an initial $100,000 bond issue. This brought standard gauge rail service to Golden, with narrow gauge up into the mountains to serve the mining districts there. It also was the seed money for service to Boulder.

Many of the famous names in Colorado history got their economic and political power from bringing the railroads to Colorado ... such as Gov Evans, as well as Cheesman and Moffat. All at public risk while they were personally set to benefit economically from the development.

For reference, please see "The History of Colorado" by William Fiske Stone. He goes into great detail about the politics and public economics of the development of Colorado, and the role that the public subsidies played in bringing rail service to the area as well as the resulting economic growth.

I don't know where you'd get the idea that public subsidies didn't play a major role ... the determining role ... in the development of Colorado rail service and operations and income to the railroads, jazzlover ... but the simple fact is that public financing and risk is what brought virtually every mile of rail service to this state. It's documented, it's associated with many famous political figures in the history of the state, and it's the subject of many hours of reading material for those who choose to seek it out .... FACTS, jazzlover ....

Many of the Colorado resources which have been developed in the area ... be it agriculture, mining, ranching ... were feasible only due to the availability of rail service. Hence, the public demand and willingness to support it was overwhelming ... and forthcoming in many forms of direct construction subsidies, operating subsidies, and tax exemptions. Add in the value of the minerals on much of the rail properties, and it was quite a subsidy from the public, and much land is still owned and only recently in play by the railroads for sale. For example ... the recent development and expansion of the land around the town of Erie was due to the abandonment approval of the rail line into Erie and hence that ground being available for sale; that's just only one example I have personal knowledge of in the recent time frame.

Further reading ... I'd google "colorado railroad subsidy" ... for thousands of articles about this subject of Colorado rail funding and development. There's so many towns that got developed as a direct result of public subsidies bringing transportation access that it's a whole 'nother thread ... much of the tourist industry was spawned by subsidized rail service to the area. I've even got a copy of "The Sportsman's Gazetteer", published by Orange Judd Company (author Halleck) in 1883 which extensively documents the fabulous big game hunting and excellent fishing of Colorado in that era ... accessed by rail service to get to the areas. This was a well established tourist industry by that time.

Last edited by sunsprit; 04-25-2009 at 08:42 AM..
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Old 04-25-2009, 09:03 AM
 
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I will agree that some forms of "public" subsidies were granted to railroads in Colorado, but few, if any land grant subsidies from the federal government.

The Moffat Tunnel bonds were definitely a public investment in a railroad, but one must remember that bond issue was also "packaged" with the Arkansas River flood control district, and--in the case of Denver--part of the tunnel project was the Moffat water tunnel. Also, if memory serves, the Moffat Tunnel contract specified that the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad was to lease the Moffat Tunnel at rates predicated on the tunnel's cost estimates made before construction began. Those costs proved to be way off of the mark, because the tunnel's engineering studies did not discover that over half of the length of the tunnel would be through "rotten" decomposed granite, as opposed to solid granite--that problem hugely inflated the final cost of the tunnel (by the way, the same little "oops" was made when the Eisenhower tunnels were being engineered for I-70). The railroad merely enforced the terms of the signed contract it had in hand. After the convoluted dissolution of the Moffat Tunnel Commission in the 1990's (after the bonds had been paid off), the railroad tunnel itself was transferred to the City and County of Denver. That said, you failed to note that, under Colorado law, private possessory interests in public property are taxable in Colorado--so the leasehold interest held in the tunnel by the railroad is a taxable interest.

As to acquisition of lands for development, a frequent gambit of the railroad was to have individuals homestead land at a proposed town development site, then sell the land to the railroad, presumably at a profit. One can certainly argue that to be an indirect government "subsidy" to the railroad, but it was not a direct government subsidy. Did towns provide concessions to encourage railroads to build facilities in their communities? Yes, I will concede that.

You are correct in asserting that many individuals in the railroads also were very well-connected politically within the state. Some were ruthless in their pursuit of power and undoubtedly abused the public trust. Others sacrificed much personally to further the advancement of transportation in the state. You mentioned David Moffat, but neglected to mention that he expended his entire personal fortune--which was very substantial--to extend rail service to northwestern Colorado. He died in New York, nearly bankrupt, while trying to obtain the private financing to build a tunnel under the Continental Divide near where the Moffat Tunnel would later be located. He and those who followed him failed to secure private financing largely because of the acts of some ruthless competitors--out-of-state robber barons--who controlled the competing Denver & Rio Grande, and later by the onset of World War I, during which all US railroads fell under direct control of the federal government for several years (a little fact glossed over in most history books).

The other fact that you ignore in your analysis is that, by the time most railroad development was taking place in Colorado, the railroads were already falling under the regulatory umbrella of the Interstate Commerce Commission, created in 1887. As such, railroads were determined to be "public utilities" providing a service necessary to public convenience. Both rates and railroad services became heavily regulated. Railroads did receive various mostly indirect public subsidies after that (a great example is the use of mail contracts to indirectly subsidize otherwise unprofitable passenger service), but the railroads were also severely regulated as to provision of service and the rates they could charge for those services.

I will assert once again, however, that ALL of the public subsidies that the railroads have EVER received pales to insignificance compared to the socialized monster that is the American highway system.

One could write an entire library of books about all of this (and many have been written), but that is way off-topic in a thread about the simple demise of a passenger train.

By the way, I'm not some country bumpkin about this subject. I've been involved in railroad right-of-way research--historical and current--for many years now--in both Colorado and Wyoming.
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Old 04-25-2009, 01:59 PM
 
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Originally Posted by jazzlover View Post
I will agree that some forms of "public" subsidies were granted to railroads in Colorado, but few, if any land grant subsidies from the federal government. snip. Perhaps your measurement of what's significant about the "few" subsidies is different than that of most historians of Colorado's development ... such as when a major rail line (Cheyenne to Denver) is proclaimed and universally held as the key factor that "saved" the area, economically, in it's era.

The Moffat Tunnel bonds were definitely a public investment in a railroad, but one must remember that bond issue was also "packaged" with the Arkansas River flood control district, and--in the case of Denver--part of the tunnel project was the Moffat water tunnel. Also, if memory serves, the Moffat Tunnel contract specified that the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad was to lease the Moffat Tunnel at rates predicated on the tunnel's cost estimates made before construction began.

snip. Again, this was an aspect of the fine details of how Denver's finest managed to get the bond issue put together in such a way that the Colorado Supreme Court finally allowed a public project for the railroad financing. You can split hairs all day long as to which was the more significant economic factor in 1922, but my bet is that the railroad was a lot more important to Denver than the west slope water delivery at the time. Whether or not the engineers and builders underestimated the cost of the railbed isn't the point ... the bottom line is that it cost what it did and Denver leased the railbed for a fraction of what it cost the public to provide it to the railroad. I'd call that smart bargaining on the part of a railroad company wanting a subsidy, which they got far in excess of what they'd imagined.

You are correct in asserting that many individuals in the railroads also were very well-connected politically within the state. Some were ruthless in their pursuit of power and undoubtedly abused the public trust. Others sacrificed much personally to further the advancement of transportation in the state. You mentioned David Moffat, but neglected to mention that he expended his entire personal fortune--which was very substantial--to extend rail service to northwestern Colorado. He died in New York, nearly bankrupt, while trying to obtain the private financing to build a tunnel under the Continental Divide near where the Moffat Tunnel would later be located. He and those who followed him failed to secure private financing largely because of the acts of some ruthless competitors--out-of-state robber barons--who controlled the competing Denver & Rio Grande, and later by the onset of World War I, during which all US railroads fell under direct control of the federal government for several years (a little fact glossed over in most history books).

Here we can readily agree. Fortunes were made and lost in the railroad business by many politically and economically powerfull people. Folks like the Hillman's appear to have survived, however ... among many others who benefitted from the public assistance of their business. Some folks got greedy and lost it all, too.

The other fact that you ignore in your analysis is that, by the time most railroad development was taking place in Colorado, the railroads were already falling under the regulatory umbrella of the Interstate Commerce Commission, created in 1887. As such, railroads were determined to be "public utilities" providing a service necessary to public convenience. Both rates and railroad services became heavily regulated. Railroads did receive various mostly indirect public subsidies after that (a great example is the use of mail contracts to indirectly subsidize otherwise unprofitable passenger service), but the railroads were also severely regulated as to provision of service and the rates they could charge for those services.

And again, when the heavy hand of the ICC fell upon the industry, the railroad operators came out pretty handsomely.

I will assert once again, however, that ALL of the public subsidies that the railroads have EVER received pales to insignificance compared to the socialized monster that is the American highway system.

Again, we'd have to define terms. Do you place the same economic and social value on $1 of railroad funding in the late 1800's and early 1900's as $1 of highway funding for the interstates in the 1950-60-70's? I submit here that the "cost" and impact to the public in the respective era's and mode of transportation was comparable, even if you adjust the dollar amounts for inflation. In fact, it was a lot harder to raise $100K in the turn of the century than to raise a $million in 1960.

One could write an entire library of books about all of this (and many have been written), but that is way off-topic in a thread about the simple demise of a passenger train.

By the way, I'm not some country bumpkin about this subject. I've been involved in railroad right-of-way research--historical and current--for many years now--in both Colorado and Wyoming.
And neither, jazzlover ... are some of the rest of us out here in the forum. In my case, my Dad was a steam railroad fan and career PE who spent his retirement years seeking out steam power rides throughout the country. I got dragged along on many of his trips to see the facilities, the locomotives, and learn the history of the rails ... especially in Colorado, where Shay narrow gauge locomotives (my Dad's favorite) were to be found, or specialty rarities like the "Big Boy" were developed for the freight runs over the hills in Wyoming. Or I got told where to pick him up at the end of a run, and got to hear all about the history of the particular line and service as I drove him back to an airport or another steam power adventure.
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Old 10-18-2010, 12:00 PM
 
Location: Littleton, CO
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Default ski train

As best I can tell the ski train is no longer operating. Is that correct? Then, on the ski train's website it say that Amtrak offers daily trains to winter park, but I can't find any of that info on Amtrak's website. Is there a train out of denver to winter park?

thanks
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Old 10-18-2010, 12:45 PM
 
Location: Ned CO @ 8300'
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The ski train is not operating.
The California Zephyr goes to Fraser. Amtrak - Stations - Fraser, CO - Winter Park (WIP)
The Amtrak site is a little difficult to navigate. Amtrak - Reservations - Fare Finder Put in DEN to WIP. The fare is $21.
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Old 10-18-2010, 01:13 PM
 
Location: Littleton, CO
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would that be the same train stop that the ski train stopped at?
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