If you’ve ever spent time on the east coast, you’ve probably taken Amtrak at least once. It makes sense there. I could catch an early train in DC and be in the middle of Manhattan three hours later, then back home that night. Much faster than catching a flight.
If you’ve never spent a lot of time in the east coast, you may be one of those people who thinks we shouldn’t be subsidizing Amtrak. Once you’re west of the Mississippi River, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to take a train (unless you’re looking for the romanticism of crossing the country on a train).
However, a recent $16M grant to rebuild a section of the Amtrak Southwest Chief rail line highlights an important role that Amtrak plays: getting Boy Scouts to camp. With the new grant, the Boy Scouts who attend the Philmont High Adventure Camp in New Mexico can continue taking Amtrak.
The Southwest Chief line runs from Chicago to Los Angeles and passes about an hour from Philmont.
From Scouting Magazine:
Train travel has been part of the Philmont experience since the start. In 1941, Scouts visiting what was then called Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp were told that the railroad was “the best method for travel as it provides for greater personal comfort.”
These days, 80 percent of Philmont’s 22,000 summer visitors arrive by car or bus or plane. But the other 20 percent — about 4,400 Scouts and Scouters — choose the train.
Those traveling to Philmont make up half the boardings and exits at the Amtrak station in Raton. From Raton, it’s about an hourlong bus ride to Philmont’s gates.
Living in Colorado means a few hours in the car to Philmont. But for Scouts in the Midwest, the Southwest Chief provides a great adventure on a train to the high adventure camp. At $16M, that’s $3,600 per scout in the first year, $1,800 per scout after two years, and so on.
I believe we need to look at the rail infrastructure in this country the same way we look at the roads and bridges. Yes, Amtrak uses those rail lines to run their business, but so does the trucking industry, bus companies, and tour companies use our roads. Infrastructure is better for everyone, especially safe infrastructure. Better roads, better rails, better bridges, better water, better power. All of these are necessary for the lives we lead as Americans.