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Books On Amtrak

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Books On Amtrak

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"USA By Rail" the seventh fully revised edition of this excellent guidebook by John Pitt; is now available (October 2008). USA by Rail by John Pitt (ISBN 1 84162 255 2) is available from book stores or by mail order from Bradt Travel Guides, 23 High Street, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks, SL9 9QE, UK. Tel: 01753 893444. Fax: 01753 892333. E-mail:
In North America, USA by Rail is distributed by the Globe Pequot Press, 246 Goose Lane, Suite 200, PO Box 480, Guilford, CT 06437, USA. Tel: (888) 249-7586 or (203) 458-4500. Fax: (800) 820-2329. E-mail:


Amtrak Privatization: The Route To Failure by Elliott D. Sclar, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute since 1988 and a Professor of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at Columbia University. 36 pages, 6" x 9", paper, June 2003 ISBN: 1-932066-01-2. $9.95 online at:
Order by phone: 1-800-EPI-4844
Order by E-mail:

The Executive Summary to this book notes, “Once again, criticism of Amtrak is gathering steam. The passenger rail service is blamed for failing to show a profit....The unexamined assumption underlying such attacks is that passenger rail service is a private good. In other words the service ought to be able to defray its expenses and show a profit by charging customers...Amtrak is “failing” only because it is assumed it ought to pay for itself....The fact is that no transportation mode in the United States pays for itself. All modes have always been subsidized....Hence the decision to reject subsidies for intercity passenger trains is arbitrary and inconsistent with public policy....The insistence on Amtrak showing a profit is an effort to impose a highly selective business model on what is really a public service...the overriding point is that the benefits of rail services are not limited to those who directly patronize them. This study highligts the ancillary benefits of rail service in terms of economic growth, environmental protection, and national security....
Politics, not efficiency considerations, are the basis for the chronic underinvestment in rail, with the result that the service falls well below the potential realizable using contemporary technology. Apolitical analysis points to a completely contrary approach:
--unify and extend the system, rather than fragment it;
--invest sufficiently so that passengers can enjoy the full benefits of advanced technology;
--and expand the system to advance broader economic development.”


Train Travel Guide by Friends of Amtrak supporter Lynne Williams

Friends of Amtrak supporter Lynne Williams has published a small, twenty-two page guide to train travel, available online. This booklet does not include destination or route information, but rather is designed to give the traveler nuts and bolts information and advice about planning and enjoying a long distance train trip in the US or Canada. Lynne wrote the guidebook after meeting so many people onboard, who were dissatisfied with certain aspects of their trip, but who could have planned things a whole lot more successfully. Some of the chapters are: The Timetable, Classes of Travel, Overnight on the Train, What to Take and How to Carry It, Traveling with Children, Travelers with Special Needs, Discounts and Refunds, and What to Do on a Four Hour Layover (in nine different cities).


Getting There: The Epic Struggle Between Road and Rail In The American Century by Stephen B. Goddard. If you'd like to read about how the United States became a nation increasingly dependent upon the auto and off track so to speak try Stephen B. Goddard's scholarly but quite readable analysis. From the book's website: "Getting There describes how road and rail leaders learned that they must cooperate or die, as their global competitors became more productive. Goddard contends that for America to prosper in the new century, it must seize the potential of high-speed trains, 'smart' roads, the information revolution, and a landmark new law that empowers citizens to demand balance in transportation."

I read Goddard's critically acclaimed book several years ago when it was first published. I highly recommend it.


BROKEN RAILS by Christian Wolmer - If you want to read a definitive book on the absolute folly of the way British Rail was privatized, read the book "BROKEN RAILS" by Christian Wolmar, former Transport Correspondent for the Independent newspaper. It is published by Aurum Press Ltd. 25 Bedford Avenue, London WC1B 3AT ISBN 1-85410-823-9. It should be required reading for anyone foolish enough to want to privatise their own railway system.


New Departures: Rethinking Rail Passenger Policy in the Twenty-First Century by Anthony Perl, PhD. Perl a columnist for The International Railway Traveler for almost 20 years and an internationally respected scholar on passenger train policy, who has spoken at conferences and forums worldwide.


THE AMERICAN PASSENGER TRAIN - long time Friends of Amtrak supporter Mike Schafer has published this book (MBI Publishing/Andover Junction Publications, 2001). It chronicles the rise and fall and rise and fall again of the American passenger train, from 1830 to the present. I have not read the book but according to Mike "It should be required reading for our nation's so-called leaders." It's hardcover, 156 pages, and sells for $32.95. You can usually find it at any Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.


"All Aboard! The Complete North American Train Travel Guide-Revised 2nd Edition" by Jim Loomis; published by Prima Publishing Co.; 1998; $16.00 U.S./$21.95 CAN. in softcover; 411 pages. An excellent well-researched compendium on rail travel, mostly Amtrak, but not just another route by route guide. This book takes you behind the scenes to how trains work, various kinds of accommodations, tips on how to pack and an FAQ of sorts of everything from making connections to timetables. Includes info on excursion trains, railroad museums and rail travel in both Canada and Mexico. As the author says, "There are many societal and environmental reasons for being pro-rail...but for long-distance travel, the train is the only civilized option left for us."

"Zephyr: Tracking A Dream Across America" by Henry Kisor; published by Times Books (a division of Random House); 1994; $24.00 in hardcover. An entertaining and most interesting narrative account of Kisor's westbound trip from Chicago to Oakland on Amtrak's "California Zephyr." Kisor is an excellent writer and this book flows easily. You meet the people who ride the trains and especially the on-board staff who work for Amtrak.

"Amtraking: A Guide to Enjoyable Train Travel" by Friends of Amtrak supporter Mauris L. Emeka; Apollo Publishing Co., Box 1937, Port Orchard, Washington 98366-0805; 1994; $8.95 in paperback plus $3.00 p & h. Helpful hints on how to travel across the country on Amtrak by one of its on-board staff. Mauris Emeka can be reached at: 1-360-876-5376; 4564 Oakhurst Lane SW, Port Orchard, WA 98367-7455.

"Making Tracks: An American Rail Odyssey by Terry Pindell"; Holt Books (An Owl Book), 1990; OUT OF PRINT. Good narrative account of Pindell's three Amtrak trips covering 30,000 miles and the people he encounters who ride trains. Complete with many historical references.

"All Aboard Amtrak 1971 - 1991: A 20-Year Salute To The National Railroad Passenger Corporation" by Friends of Amtrak supporter Mike Schafer; Railpace Co. Inc., P.O. Box 927, Piscataway, NJ 08855-0927; 1991; hardcover for $49.95. Excellent historical information with a multitude of full color vintage photographs featuring Amtrak routes, trains and rosters. Includes an all time Amtrak route map and a 20 year time line chronology. A must for Amtrak history buffs.

"Booked On The Morning Train: A Journey Through America" by George F. Scheer III, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1991; $19.95 in hardcover. Another narrative account of one author's travels across the country on most of Amtrak's major trains. Less historical than Pindell's. More information on the places visited by the author on stops he made during his journey.

"Rail Ventures: The Comprehensive Guide to Train Travel in North America" by Jack Swanson; Published by Rail Ventures Publishing, P.O. Box 1877, Ouray, Colorado 81427; 1992; paperback copies may be ordered directly for $14.95, add $2.00 for p & h. This is a route by route, station by station tour guide, includes rail travel in Canada & Mexico. Good to take along on rail trips but not meant for leisurely reading.

I am told that The rights to "Rail Ventures, 7th edition" by Jack Swanson have been purchased by Roberts Rinehart Publishers, 6309 Monarch Park Place, Niwot, CO 80503-7167; Alternate address is P. O. Box 666, Niwot, CO 80544-0666. Phone numbers are (800) 352-1985 or (303) 652-2685; Fax numbers are (800) 401-9705 or (303) 652-2689.

The price was raised to $18.95 plus $5.50 shipping and handling. The next printing is not expected to be available until Fall, 2000.

"Train Trips: Exploring America By Rail" by William G. Scheller; The East Woods Press, Fast & McMillan Publishers, Inc., 820 East Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28203; 1981; $7.95 in paperback. Travel guide of routes and cities served by Amtrak. Somewhat dated.

I have not read the following books:

"Amtrak Survival & Pleasure Guide: A Detailed Guide to Traveling the U.S. by Train & Maximizing Your Enjoyment" by Kathleen T. Hill

"Amtrak System: The History and Politics of the National Railroad" by David C. Nice

You can find more information about these books as well as a list of every book about Amtrak that has ever been published at:
This list includes books about Amtrak currently available, hard to find books, and books no longer available. The status and other information about each Amtrak book is mentioned in the list.

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Changes last made on: October 19, 2008.

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