I had several relatives come into town this weekend, so I spent my weekend acting like a tourist in Little Rock. We made two visits to the Historic Arkansas Museum to show off my photo show (which will only be up for a few more weeks). Then we visited the River Market and rode the trolley on a day when downtown was surprisingly busy.
On Saturday night I travelled out into a storm - the same one that was dumping several inches of snow in the Ozarks. It was just a cold rain in Little Rock, but I had my rickety but trustworthy umbrella with me. I ended up stopping at Union Station, the old train station downtown. The station was built in 1921, and at the time was the largest train station in the country that only served one rail carrier.
I really like the idea of rail travel, and wish we had a better rail system in this country. Right now, Amtrak is just too inefficient to actually be any good. You can still catch an Amtrak train at Union Station, heading off towards either Dallas or Chicago. To head down to Dallas, you have to be there at 3:10 am. And for Chicago, the stop is at 11:40 at night. Not all that convenient, is it?
The problem with Amtrak is that it is set up wrong. What we really need are shorter connections, between closer cities. How cool would it be to be able to take the train to Hot Springs for the day, or to Fayetteville for a football game? The closest major city to us is Memphis, and if you wanted to take a train there it would involve leaving Little Rock and travelling to Dallas, and then San Antonio. Then you go to Houston, then New Orleans, and then north to Memphis. A trip that takes maybe 2 hours by car would end up taking over 2 days by train.
To fix our rail system would take a lot of money and investment, and would be expensive. But then again so is the interstate highway system. It's not practical to take a trans-continental rail journey anymore, but shorter trips between cities would make more sense. I've given this a lot of thought actually, so if President Obama is reading this, please feel free to email me and ask me about my ideas - I'd be happy to help!