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When Amtrak started operation in 1971, there was actually some optimism about investment in passenger train travel. In those days before it became the political football it is today, plans were being made to do some great things for passenger trains.

Among them, Amtrak had identified what we now know as the Cascades Corridor as a key place where improved passenger service could likely make a huge impact quickly.

Little time was left for the dust to settle after Amtrak started service. In late August of 1971 the Department of Transportation and United Aircraft brought to the northwest one of the new Department of Transportation TurboTrains to give a demonstration run between Portland and Seattle. It was part of a national tour to get people thinking about what a future with better passenger trains could be.

One of the people invited to ride on the demonstration train was a member of the Pacific Northwest Chapter (the Portland, Oregon Chapter) of the National Railway Historical Society. His report was featured in the organization’s newsletter of September of 1971.

Over the last year or two, this organization has made a huge effort at placing historic copies of its newsletter on its website.

Those interested in reading up on the events of August of 43 years ago may now go to the September of 1971 issue of the group’s newsletter and read it, starting on page 3. Sadly, Amtrak would be stuck running outdated coaches on the corridor into the early 1980s, and light weight trains with a comfort enhancing suspension described in the article would not arrive in regular service here until 25 years after the article was published.

Perhaps even worse, the speeds described in the article reached by the demonstration train can not be reached on the line today.

Glenn Laubaugh (Glenn in Portland) has a diverse set of responsibilities at a small company in Portland that builds electrical equipment for railroad cars. Any opinions expressed here are most certainly not approved by or the opinion of his employer or any of its customers.

3 Replies to “Amtrak Cascades – in 1971?”

  1. This is a fun story, Glenn. The TurboTrains were pretty spiffy, but boy were they fuel hogs! The second Oil Embargo put them to rest rather rapidly.

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