Photograph by PTG Dudva, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

On this day in 1938, the Mallard set the speed record for a steam locomotive at nearly 126 miles per hour, or about 44 miles per hour faster than the average speed of Amtrak’s high-tech high-speed twenty-first-century Acela service between New York and Washington.


  1. RepubAnon says:

    But – did the Mallard have WiFi?

  2. RepubAnon says:

    More seriously, the way to bring back passenger rail is incrementally. Start with getting passenger service back to where it was in the 1930s and 1940s, concentrating on cities within 100-500 miles of each other, with trains running at 100 MPH on a regular, reliable schedule. This would build up a passenger base of folks who would rather sit on a train with a dining car than drive, and would be take about the same (or less) time than short-haul air travel (once security lines and airport congestion are taken into account).

    After a customer base has been established, the high-speed bullet train projects would be more feasible. They’d have a base of advocates saying “Why can’t the passenger service be faster” to counter the folks saying “why not fly/drive”?

    • Dr. Boli says:

      It’s worth noting that, where rail is an even moderately attractive alternative, people choose it. According to the omniscient Wikipedia, Amtrak has 75% of the combined rail and air passenger traffic between New York and Washington. The BosWash corridor is the one place in our country where intercity rail works moderately well, and it beats the pants off airplanes. This is why you never see aircraft in the Northeast wearing pants.

      • Von Hindenburg says:

        Take a look at Bright Line in Florida: the country’s only current private inter-city service. They operate from Miami, up the coast a ways and will be opening their second phase, providing rail service between Miami and Orlando in the next few months. They have also broken ground on a Las Vegas to souther California.

      • tom says:

        I believe that you will find that far more people travel in the NE Corridor by bus, which is much cheaper than Amtrak. But the all-time best way to go was the old Eastern Air shuttle.

  3. Von Hindenburg says:

    If I ever chose a weird, unprovable hill to die on, it would be transubstantiation. After that, it would be the legend that a Pennsylvania RR T1 broke the 126 mph record in an unsanctioned and unofficial run near the end of its life. Either way, I’ll donate to my local Eucharistic adoration society and the T1 Trust.


    Also, per your image, if you are ever in York, England, the National Rail Museum is *very* worth a visit.

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