RailRoads Different Yesterday and Today

Posted on April 5, 2016

RailRoads Different Yesterday and Today

If you are an American, you can’t help but be nostalgic when you hear a train whistle. It is in our DNA to wonder where that train is bound whenever we hear that plaintiff hollow tune.  How many old men become young boys when they remember Christmas and their Lionel Train sets?

For over a hundred years beginning in the mid nineteenth century, trains meant freedom. It was the way America travelled. Our everyday mundane life was swept away.  White coated waiters were synonymous with dinner in the diner and nothing could be finer. Trains not only took you from hearth and home but brought you back to your loved one. Some of us can still remember taking a trip on a train, dressed in our Sunday best. Some spent the night sitting up because we couldn’t afford a berth never mind a private compartment.

The railroad was what gave life to Stuart and all the towns up and down the line.  It enabled growth and economic prosperity. The train connected the town to the outside world when there were no phones and no highways. The tracks coming down the center of town meant progress and served as a statement of arrival. Civilization, convenience and conviviality all met at the depot. Anyone coming or leaving had to pass through. News was gathered and sometimes made. Children dreamt of an outside world that perhaps someday they would see by hopping aboard the 11:33.

But we no longer live in 1850 or 1900 or even 1968 when the last passenger train went quietly away. The Stuart depot is long gone, and I can’t even imagine our city ever having one again (even though the promise is sometimes hinted at by railroad officials). Passenger trains have always been money losers. Even in the Wild West days, the railroad made their money by freight and by selling the land that they received free from the government to new settlers and immigrants along their right-a-way.

Perhaps BrightLine or All Aboard Florida or FEC or the Fortress Group have found a secret way to make people moving pay. I suspect not. I suspect like so many things that modern Stuart faces…it is really all about greed. They claim that they own the land. They are private. They are a capitalistic, free market enterprise. But in truth, they are just one more pig at the taxpayer trough. It is easier to buy political acquiescence and influence than to have a truly great new idea. Like all crony capitalists, they are looking for one more handout…one more welfare check.

The railroad whistle no longer has the romantic sound that it once had for me. The train will not take me to faraway places or introduce me to new and exciting adventures. I have grown up. What is also true is that Stuart and the rest of the Treasure Coast have grown up as well. This venture will only cause us harm. It brings nothing but expense, inconvenience and will act as a noose around our necks. We need to make sure that those in Tallahassee and Washington pay a price, regardless of party affiliation, for their actions.

This is not a done deal.

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