As a retired railroad employee of 32 years who was based out of the Duluth-Superior terminal and who worked on the Amtrak North Star train from St. Paul to Duluth between 1979 and 1984, I have a few facts to share that weren’t mentioned in the April 8 “Local View” commentary, “Local View: Like Amtrak did for Biden, NLX would bolster family time for Minnesota, Wisconsin riders.”
Ridership on the North Star varied tremendously from 1979 to 1984. There was one cold, wintry January day when we arrived in Duluth with seven employees working the train: an engineer, fireman, conductor, two brakemen, one sleeping-car porter, and a diner-car employee; and we had just five passengers who de-trained at the Duluth Depot. On the other end of the scale, we had days with hundreds of passengers, especially during the autumn-foliage season, who all de-trained onto the streets of downtown Duluth. When Amtrak wanted a subsidy from Duluth to help fund the train, the citizens and business people told Amtrak to take a hike. So Amtrak left. Ridership must be taken into consideration when requesting a new train service to an end-of-line location.
Also, the cost of upgrading the track to the standard of passenger-train speeds will cost money. Consider, too, the possible future replacement cost of the railroad bridge spanning the St. Louis River into Duluth, the Grassy Point drawbridge, which was built in 1912.
Getting an Amtrak train back into service would be great, but we have to be realistic as well.
San Diego, California
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