The Trains in Spain

Move speedily across the plain, much faster than those in Maine. Or even between Boston and Philly.

TPM has a rather pathetic feature about the future present of High Speed Rail around the world and what several countries have been able to accomplish with some wise investment, imagination and planning. Pathetic in the sense that it makes the US look like chumps, real and actual morons for being lead by our loyalty to outmoded technology and means of transportation. But look Ma, we’ve got all these awesome tanks and bunker-busting bombs! Yes, there is shock, and more than a little awwww… but not the good kind.

Look at the pics they’ve put up and then compare them to this:


I took that right before we boarded for a trip to NYC two years ago. It was an all night trip, great experience, priced comparable to flying except for far less hassle both departing and arriving, thus exacting a far lesser human toll. But look at that train. Our National Train System. It was rickety; there was still a space in the wall of the sleeper where a monitor with VCR had been installed, then taken out. But even so, there’s still nothing like seeing the countryside passing by the window next to you. Plus the conversations you get into over twelve hours together. And the Porter was the same vintage as the train car – tons of great stories he didn’t even need to tell you, so clearly were they written into his face and wrinkled hands.

We took the Eurostar with garcon d’verte in 2000 and the TGV many times before and since – the comparison is not the point. Look at the slide show above, it’s like another planet somewhere. They’ve left us far behind and long ago. A guy in the 3rd this summer described to me how they were testing a newer, faster TGV that met some crazy speed for a mere electric train – at nearly 600 km/hour it was outrunning the current that powers it, creating a new array of problems for the engineers, problems that they will solve.

The point is how much of this future present we are deliberately denying ourselves, all for the sake of infinite hegemony for car maker and oil companies. We are powerless before their century-plus of lobbying and propaganda, the individual freedom we believe was immaculately conceived within the sacred chambers of the combustion engine, from which we must not be sundered.

Meanwhile, we munch a Gordita and listen to Beck on the Interstate while a dude in Shanghai is sleeping on the maglev, dreaming of a day or a girl or a boy or a house or a song or a cure or another train, to somewhere. Who’s future is it, again?