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CARTOONIST SEAWARD TUTHILL crafted this excellent cartoon for us way back in 1974, when this publication was just starting out of the gate, much like the new national pas- senger carrier depicted above. Amtrak was still on wobbly legs as it tried to carry out its mission with grace and dignity. No small task given that most of the politicians who voted in favor of saving the passenger train did not expect the new corporation to outlast their own terms in office. You had to hand it to the marketing folks


who worked for Amtrak, as they certainly tried their best to convince America that the trains were indeed “worth traveling again.” As the jet age had matured, it seemed the airlines were doing everything right as they continued to erode what little traffic the railroads enjoyed. By the time Amtrak took over, most long-distance trains were little more than quaint “cruise” experiences, a rel- ic of the optimistic postwar era. Hostesses aboard trains were nothing


new, especially in the streamliner era. In the age of airline travel, they were ubiqui- tous. However, if Amtrak was going to make an impression on the traveling public, they’d have to make a bold move. A number of young, attractive hostesses were clad in vi- brant red uniforms, complete with white go-


go boots appropriate for the era. It was a short-lived experiment, but it proved that Amtrak was open to new ideas to draw pas- sengers back to the rails. The same old ideas were not going to work in the modern era. So much has changed in the almost 40


years since this cartoon was first published. Gone are the cab units depicted, as is the rag-tag assortment of equipment inherited by Amtrak. Gone even is the old “pointless arrow” logo, replaced a dozen years ago by another modern symbol. The punch line above is not really about the hostess so much as it refers to how little the average Ameri- can understands about rail travel. Has that perception changed at all in 40 years? The answer may be “yes,” as Amtrak re-


ported a record 30 million passengers in 2011, compared to a little more than 23 mil- lion who rode in 2001. Yet, as more Ameri- cans are turning to rail travel, there are those political candidates who wish to re- duce or eliminate Amtrak funding altogeth- er. As we go deeper into this most recent presidential campaign, the rhetoric is heat- ing up from both sides. Unfortunately, rhetoric doesn’t pull passenger trains. It’s a hell of a way to run a railroad, but I guess some things never change? —OTTO M. VONDRAK


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