As we face yet another round of freight congestion on the route of the Empire Builder, it is more imperative than ever to offer rail alternatives for the Northwest. We recently received this comment from a website visitor, which we’re sharing.
Have you considered a boot-strap approach to restoring service?
I know Amtrak will consider operation by private operators so you might consider the equivalent of a “Farmer’s Coop” approach to purchasing equipment. The equipment that might be suitable is made by US Railcar and is self powered, can have a ‘bistro’ and can pull up to two regular coach and or sleeper cars. I think you would need about 7 such railcars to restore service.
You could purchase the equipment through a coop arrangements where each city with a stop on the route could purchase shares. You could also seek out grants for the new equipment. You can hold fundraisers in the cities involved and give the host city shares based upon the donations of citizens who attend the fundraising event in the named city.
The plan has the advantage of some new equipment, for PR and reliability. The ability to use older equipment on lease from Amtrak to cover your need as ridership grows. As well as the use of modern and cost-effective locomotive power.
If ridership grows to outstrip the Railcar and 2 coach or sleeper model, you can consider further fundraising to purchase additional railcars and run an alternate schedule with two trains a day service.
I hope you give this concept some thought and a little research into the cost involved in securing locomotive power combined with coach capacity as in the US Railcar. This may well prove to be more cost effective than the proposed train from Amtrak and it gives you the added advantage of bringing capital to the table to negotiate the resumption of service.