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America’s (Conventional) Rail Renaissance – Urben Field Notes


You can hear them as they plug in their devices at their seat. You can hear them as they pass through the hissing automatic doors between cars. You can hear them as they enter the spacious, sparkling restrooms.


“Wow.” “Nice.” “Is this a new train?”


To which I reply to my fellow passengers, “Yes. Yes, it is.”


Siemens Venture cabs started rolling onto Amtrak Midwest routes in 2022, and by now they’re a ubiquitous sight in this corner of the Amtrak system. These are the same cab cars used by the privately-owned Brightline system in Florida, and are considered the top-of-the-line for passenger rail in North America. Northeast Corridor riders won’t be able to experience the new train smell until 2026, since the Airo trains slated for those routes keep getting delayed.


For once, the future came early to the Midwest. Riding in these new train cars, as I did on four journeys this month, the excitement around the revival of passenger rail is palpable. State-of-the-art rolling stock is the most vivid sign that train travel is no nostalgia trip. It’s modern, it’s efficient, it’s comfortable, and it’s only getting better.


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