Sunday, April 24, 2005

Amtrak Agitation

Amtrak's flagship service, the Acela, which run between Boston and Washington D.C. have been sidelined. Again. Inspectors found problems with the train's braking system, and have pulled the high speed rail cars from service. This is not the first time that the Acela has had problems, but it is hard to say if Amtrak is being overly cautious or not. While I'm not advocating risking lives, this latest issue may prove fatal for the already troubled Amtrak.

Let's not forget that all new forms of transportation have had problems and casualties in their early years. Rail travel in particular was extremely hazardous at first. The lack of signals, communication, or common time standards let to many collisions. The technology of the day (pre ~1860) could not easily produce rolled steel or even wrought iron rails. As a substitute, strap iron was often laid on top of wooden rails. The stress of the passing trains would often cause the iron to curl in a phenomenon called a snakehead, skewering wooden cars and fragile passengers.

My point is this: The first time you do anything, you are likely to get part of it wrong. Engineering builds on past experiences. You have to persevere.


Post a Comment

<< Home