For the second time in my life I had the strange privilege to gain the viewpoint of foreign visitors and their intense interests in American trains. In America, we take the length of our trains for granted as most of the rest of the world, particularly Europe and the East do not have they type of freight trains that we do in the United States. But I remember the magic of when my future son-in-law visited over a decade ago how he thought the length of our trains were simply amazing which surprised me because I took them more as a nuisance that was in my way when I wanted to cross a road. Then over this past week I had visitors from Japan and we were in a new office space that overlooked a very active railroad line that moved through West Chester, Ohio and they were simply amazed by the length and frequency of the trains. We were working on some very important things, but I had the seating in such a way that they were able to look out the windows, so they had a prime seat for several hours of the day to see how many trains moved along that track in both a north and south direction.
I noticed that they seemed very interested in what was going on outside the window which made me wonder if I had the seating arrangements correct—and after a few days of this they simply asked me how long those trains were. My reply was that most of them looked to be a mile long—or 1.6 kilometers as they understand it. Some of the trains were longer clearly. This information was simply stunning to these guys who spend a lot of time in places like Tokyo and London—even France. The length of American trains told them a lot about our culture and it was worth taking a moment to consider.
I’ve always loved trains—and like a lot of old men who have train sets in their basements, and like to visit the popular tourist destination in West Chester—Entertrainment Junction which features some of the largest model trains in the world—trains have an essence of optimism about them that largely goes unexplored. We love them, but often don’t understand why. After visiting Europe recently with this topic fresh on my mind I have some unique thoughts on the matter which might unlock better our understanding of this condition. From my vantage point in both Japan and England I admired their train systems which was mostly regulated to passenger transportation. People needed to get someplace fast so they took the train and it worked pretty well. I was impressed with the complex way the trains ran in England particularly around London. However, what was missing was the way that trains are used in the United States—you don’t often see the magic of an American train any place else even in places that are supposed to be the most popular and largest cities in the world.
Over the last year I had some very nice lunches in both Tokyo and London over looking their train systems and neither was as impressive as that display in this new office space where I had these Japanese guests. After all, it was a fabulous spring day on this occasion where my guests were so enamored with the trains going by my window—so we brought in some good ol’ American pizza from Donatos and you’d think I took these people to a 5 star restaurant. One of these guys had said that during this business trip they wanted to try some authentic American pizza—so you can image the elation that was experienced with a stack of five different pizzas with all different toppings sitting there being enjoyed while watching three, mile long trains all traveling south by our window while having lunch with a brilliant sun pouring in making us enjoy life that much more. Just a bit beyond the train tracks was the endless energy of the American highway system which was unique also in the world. Our big cars and trucks pouring endlessly by all day and night was another thing unique to American culture and we sat for about an hour eating our pizza and talking about trains and trucks in a way that impressed me with its philosophic content.
Japan for a small island economy produces about 4.4.trillion dollars a year which is impressive. To achieve that their people work very hard and intensely 365 days a year—you can feel the energy when you land there. The people are vigorous, industrious, and extremely well-mannered and it shows in what they make. And England where London is certainly one of the most important financial centers in the world produces somewhere between 2.2 to 3 trillion dollars if you count all the coins in your pockets on a rainy day—to be generous. You can feel the energy there too—but in both cases, you can tell something is missing from an American perspective. I knew what it was as I poured garlic sauce all over my nice juicy pizza watching the traffic under that morning spring sun in Ohio—and my guests were getting the gist of it too. The American economy produces an astonishing 18.5 trillion dollars over a larger land mass, but the effect was clear by counting the trains and trucks up on I-75 going by then multiplying that over the land mass then dividing it by the hours of the day. What we were looking at was a vibrant economy which was a product of mankind in all its glorious creativity emerging unencumbered by the powerful locomotives pulling freight from the north to destinations in the south.
The trains were a large part of that 18 trillion-dollar economy as some of the cars were double stacked and loaded with product headed toward distribution centers awaiting shipment. China has a nominal GDP of 11.3 trillion although they have a PPP projection of over 23 trillion this year which equates out to $11-15,000 per pupil. All that sounds impressive until you consider that they have over 1 billion people and in the United States our per pupil capita is roughly $53,000—quite a bit higher and that’s with 7 million people still unemployed as of this writing. What we could see from our vantage point looking at trains and highway traffic was a very efficient and productive country making a lot of money and our big trains were a tremendous part of that. Even the big tractor trailers cruising by down the highways couldn’t move the sheer volume of product that was chugging along by our train system. And none of us said it at the time, but the American economy has been stagnant for a long time functioning at only a fraction of its potential due to the weaknesses of several decades of American presidents and destructive politics seeking to duplicate Europe instead of continue on with the polices that built America in the first place.
The trains didn’t just represent massive power by the large diesel engines which propelled them—they were aspects of a very powerful economy and contained within them many hopes and dreams which spill over into the enthusiasm that old men who build train sets in their basements share with their grandchildren. It was the length and frequency of those trains that caught the attention of my guests. It’s one thing to read about the powerful American economy in a trade publication, or to watch a news story about it on television—it’s quite another to see it up close and personal and to see those trains going by our window was to confirm the majestic nature of American capitalism and the land of abundance that it produces. That’s exactly why we love our trains and they continue to hold a special place in our hearts. Trains are vital arteries of American capitalism and they continue to be impressive as the world watches jealously at how we took a relatively small country and made it into such an economy powerhouse. Many can hope through colleges and other liberal institutions to hide just how powerful the American economy is—but when they see our trains—they can’t escape the reality of it. Trains in America isn’t so much about taking people from one place to another—but in taking big things to large markets for income producing utilization and that is their specific purpose which is truly unique in the world. And that is a truly majestic concept worthy of all the imagination ushered forth by our human race.
Sign up for Second Call Defense here: http://www.secondcalldefense.org/?affiliate=20707 Use my name to get added benefits.