Until the passenger service left the mainline railroads in the 1970s most folks in America new a great deal about trains. Passenger service had been the hart of the United Stats transportation system and the best means to travel.
Today it is all gone except for Amtrak. Kids today are not subject or exposed to the big freights trains and steam locomotives. They are generally not exposed the railroads of today. The Freeway Highway System has moved away from the tracks of our railroads. In the past, highways were usually built next to or within visual sight of the railroads. Kids like me would look out of the car and see all kinds of trains.
From this kind of experience kids, boys in particular, would be looking for model trains at the local department store for birthdays or Christmas. It brought excitement when kids would see a model train at the local department store at Christmas. Children would want to see the latest catalogs from Lionel or American Flyer.
Visiting a train depot was always a great experience to see the new streamliners and other railroad equipment. Many children lived very close to the mainline of a railroad or roundhouse. They could see the operation of a railroad in action.
Many of my friends grew up in the Midwest where a large number of railroads existed. In some cases, kids might have a chance to ride on one of the big steam locomotives.
This was a great learning experience for young people. Some of them became famous photographers of the steam age and trains in general. There have been several artists who lived in the 20's through the late 60's who painted some of the most famous art work of trains anywhere in the World.
Unfortunately, this wonderful period of American History has almost disappeared. The steam engine was replaced by diesels, the roundhouses are gone, access to any railroad in this period of time is practically impossible. Because of the lawyers and law suits are common when someone is given access to a railroad and hurts himself. No one takes responsibility for their own actions so all of us suffer because of a few.
Unless you have been exposed to the world of railroads, it is very unlikely that you will ever be interested in them and their unique history. The libraries in this country are filled with historical books on the American railroads. However, if you are not exposed to this way of life it is improbable that you will pick one of these historical books to read.
Children are being robbed of the great sagas of American History. With out the railroads, the expansion of this country would have been very difficult. Trains are colorful and nostalgic and bring out the kid in us that makes us dream wonderful adventures about trains. Transportation devices have always fascinated the people of this country and should never be lost. The train may be the exception.
Even so people will flock to a train station or highway where one of the few big steam locomotives is visiting their area. Several railroads including the Union Pacific have kept or rebuilt steam engines for advertisement, excursion trips, and special train fares such as the one held in Sacramento, California a few years ago. Unfortunately these occasions are rare and most folks never see these huge steam giants.
The only way an American and others will ever understand the various histories of this country is to be proactive in enlightening our children. The transportation in this country is appalling. We have the technology to produce and build high speed trains in this country but are to involved in making that first saw buck than taking care of the needs at hand. . In fact it has been around for thirty years. We are to self centered to doing anything about anything unless something bad happens or a huge need is required for our survival.
To give you an example of what we can do we go to China where they have contracted the Germans to build those, Maglev trains that travel in excess of 300 miles per hour. This technology has been around for several years and has been tested on a regular basis in German.
The system uses magnetism to generate a high speed system which rides on top of magnetic coils. By giving the magnetic coils a great deal of electricity polarizes the magnets, causing the vehicle to accelerate down the Maglev track. If you have ever tried to press magnets together with the same polarity, you can't. The plus ends of a magnet are attracted to negative ends of the magnet where the same polarity pushes away from each other. By increasing power to the magnetic coils, increases the magnetic flux which accelerates the vehicle even faster.
This is only an educated guess from watch the Discovery Channel of what really makes Maglev work. The concept is fascinating and it works most efficiently however, my knowledge is limited on the subject. I've just tried to give you look at a system based on my understanding.
There are other systems being developed by the Europeans. The railroad test track in Colorado run by the U. S. government is used to determine what would be the best technology for the United States among other railroad needs.
The old excuses prevail, “it costs too much money. " By allowing politicians to dictate what is best and reasonable, we the tax payer ignores the issues and allow costs to escalate when it should have been fixed in the first place. These technologies need to be taught to our children so it peaks their interest in trains and other types of transportation. If we intend to hold the technological edge, we better fix what we have and worry a little bit less about everybody else's problems. That said, we should never give up our freedoms and placate threats to our nation.
In the years I've spent in the Aero Space Industry, I've learned that this country can do anything it wants to do. Nobody wants to do anything except indulging themselves with as much gratification as humanly possible. What a sorry state of affairs that is especially to our children. The old adage is zero equals zero.
Joy Ball has been involved in the restoration and maintenance of a variety of Brass Model Locomotives. Through her years of expertise, Mrs. Ball has perfected the art of train restoration often spending countless hours preserving vintage Brass Locomotives to running condition of even the newest Brass Model Replicas. It should be noted that the above article was written by Joy’s husband Michael Ball. Receive her free newsletter at http://www.brasslocomotiveworks.com