About ///

I was living nomadically aboard Amtrak May to November 2013, with stops about, supplementing with buses.

I made this, the travel narrative and Amtrak travel guide, in my free time. It was time consuming and entirely self-funded, though friends and family graciously let me sleep on their sofas and that was instrumental. If you want more stuff like this, let me know!

← Clicking this button right there would be demonstrative!!

Here is the Amtrak map. I dimmed out track I didn't transverse.

Here is an Amtrak system map, with track I didn’t transverse dimmed. Click the image for all the resolution.

On Facts & Sources:

As I didn’t intend to live aboard Amtrak much less make this web site, I didn’t initially take notes. As I heard things I wanted to remember, I wrote those down and that grew into all this. Everything happened as described. Scenes from different times were concatenated, but not combined. I tried very hard to be true. Words in quotes are direct from my notes, but a lot of my transcriptions don’t make no sense so I don’t know. I triple checked most of the facts. Most are cited in the footnotes and in the html.

If you find a mistake, please email me, spnzrr@gmail.com. As I learn more, I intend to update this.

Recommended Reading:

(these are Amazon Affiliate links)

The Great Railroad Revolution

The Great Railroad Revolution is a very readable introduction to the history of American railroads. It’s broad yet smart; emphasis is where it ought. Ideal!

Union Pacific: The Reconfiguration: America’s Greatest Railroad from 1969 to the Present

A dry wordsome business history of the modern Union Pacific. I loved it. All the deets on this modern massive corporation: The balance between longterm needs of a hundred year old enterprise and Wall Street. How labor and management compromised to success. How so much of railroading is yet a game of technology. How leaders stepped up and built. Fascinating!

Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America

Of the many books on the Transcontinental(s), Railroaded is my favorite.[1] It has an argument and even if you don’t agree, it’s worth reckoning with. Richard White even has a line (that’ll intentionally misquote) about travel writers using their personal experience to say more than can be reasonably justified. Truth!

Various necessary field guides:

Essays and links:

The Near-Death of Grand Central TerminalHarper’s Magazine. On how rentiers captured critical infrastructure and milked it (and the taxpayer) to exhaustion.

Pedestrian Observations is a policy-thick transit blog with reliable, well-argued insight.

Streamliner Memories is an archive of train memorabilia, some beautiful, some fascinating.

NYC Subway has fun images of abandoned subway stations and detailed track maps.

A Model for Christian Morality. I think this text is fascinating. From a people who murdered “witches” and believed in Predestination, here a call to a sort of cosmopolitanism. Too proscriptive, for sure, but also it’s all so compassionate. It asks, nay requires, that everyone be better.

On Photos:

This is a web site about humans with remarkably few photos of humans. That was unintentional. I am too shy to take photos of strangers. However, I like how (hopefully) the words allow one to entertain another person’s thoughts while the photos speak the scope of what we’ve wrought. Ultimately, both are human and equally so.

Nearly all the photos were taken with a Panasonic G5 and the Panasonic 45-200mm lens. I had a GH2 & 25mm Leica but unfortunately those were stolen very early on.

Most of the historical photos were retrieved from the Library of Congress. Many are by Jack Delano. Yale University made this wonderful archival web site. The other historical photos are in the public domain as they’re from before 1923 and were retrieved mostly from Wikimedia or Flickr Commons.

On Video & Music:

I went looking for some ol’ railroad blues and procrastinated my way to a YouTube playlist you can watch here.

  1. The Legend of John Henry — In a lot of contemporary storytelling the defining triumph is one brought by courage. In John Henry courage isn’t enough. John Henry has courage, he tries really hard, and it kills him (even in Disney’s telling).
  2. I DID IT! I FINALLY CAUGHT A HERITAGE UNIT! (UP 1989) — Some folk love trains. This is the original foamers youtube and by all accounts it’s 100% sincere (unlike some later ones).
  3. Amtrak Fast Mail train 13 — More railfan foaming — “I’ve always wanted to model this train”
  4. Norfolk Southern What’s Your Function — This is a commercial, and I love it.
  5. This Train is Bound for Glory — Terry McMillan 2012. Evangelical gospel music.
  6. Casey Junior — This is a mix of Disney’s 1941 Dumbo and Disney’s 1954 The Brave Engineer. p.s. Walt Disney loved trains.
  7. The City of New Orleans — This song was written during George McGovern’s presidential campaign.freight train elizabeth cotton — This is a classic blues ballad.
  8. Jubalaires Casey Jones — Another classic railroad ballad.
  9. Johnny Cash Wabash Cannonball — A classic sung by Johnny Cash.
  10. Steve Reich, Different trains mvt III : America-After the War — Innovative contemporary composer composes trains!
  11. And more!