What’s happening with the Train Campaign?

The Train Campaign has focused for the past ten years on the passenger rail revival in the tristate region of western Massachusetts, northwestern Connecticut, and New York.

Our primary initiatives have been the Berkshire (Housatonic) Line, and also working with the Western Mass Rail Coalition to promote the East-West Line.

It’s been a rough ride: a lot of bounces, switchbacks, and stop-starts. There have been exciting moments and times when I decided to give up entirely.

Today, I’m poised between those two points. Nothing is going to happen quickly on the projects we’ve poured our efforts into. In Massachusetts, the focus is going to be the flailing Boston subway and bus system. Cities, as ever, get the attention and the dollars, and the US remains sluggishly in the 20th century when it comes to rail. I can’t bring myself to sit through yet another committee meeting. I can’t get excited about yet another study.

For example, we’re talking about building high-speed train lines in the United States. But we also have a large network of old train lines. Some of my colleagues would like to rip them all up and replace them with electric trains. They don’t want to hear about modest upgrades that would let us get passenger service going quickly.

And no one seems to be thinking through how to divide funds between the “state of good repair” backlog and new, visionary projects.

We can “go big” but there still won’t be enough money for everything we’d like to see done, especially when infrastructure has been neglected for decades.(Believe it or not, many of the tunnels, bridges, and railway lines in the United States are close to 100 years old. I’m all for making things last, but this is ridiculous.

Does it make sense to spend $43 billion (yes, billion) on repairs to the Northeast Corridor train line between Washington and Boston without simultaneously making some of the changes required actually to modernize, including the transition to renewable energy?

Given my background in the environmentalist world, I’ve decided that I should focus on climate adaptation instead of passenger rail alone.

The Train Campaign is therefore on sabbatical and you will not be receiving further newsletters or meeting notices. Some of its activities and all of its concerns will be part of new efforts I plan to undertake under the auspices of the Barrington Institute, or as part of my day-job at Berkshire Publishing.

Want to stay in touch? Please click here to subscribe to the Home Ecology newsletter, which will include pieces about cars, bicycles, and trains as well as many other topics. For example, here’s a Q&A: “Should I buy an electric car?”

I also have a more general newsletter - lots about China just lately - at Substack. Check it out here.

For passenger rail news, Ben Heckscher at Trains in the Valley is the person to read. Sign up here.

Please feel free to stop or pause your donations to the Train Campaign, made via Barrington Institute. You should be able to do this by clicking into your account at

I was first inspired to start the Train Campaign by taking trains in China. I’ve been looking at the French TGV map and imagining what the US could do if we had a similar network. But to find the focus and determination we need, the willingness to fight today’s fight but also think ahead to better days, I look to Ukraine and its trains:

The defiance of Ukraine’s railways and the way they #KeepOperating

Shortly after Russian missiles rained down on Kyiv and different Ukrainian cities on Monday, Oleksandr Kamyshin, head of the state-owned Ukrainian Railways, posted a solemn tweet. “As of 21.00 we have 42 trains delaying [sic],” he noticed after a missile landed subsequent to Kyiv’s most important station.
Kamyshin went on to clarify that 14 trains have been greater than an hour late, two trains have been delayed by between 30 and 60 minutes, and 26 trains by lower than half-hour. “I feel sorry for [the] inconvenience,” he added. “We do our best to get back on schedule.”
If the state of affairs in Ukraine weren’t so ghastly — and Russia’s assaults not so brutal — this would possibly learn like satire. Particularly for readers within the UK, the place trains are famously held up by bulletins of “leaves on the line”, or within the US, the place the parlous state of Amtrak has lengthy been the butt of jokes and political fights. But Kamyshin is completely critical, and it’s humbling to observe, particularly from the peaceable west...
In the primary part of the assault on Kyiv, senior rail managers took completely different sleeper trains throughout the nation, to keep away from the danger of being captured, or injured or killed in a missile strike. Later, after Russia withdrew from Kyiv, rail managers continued to tour the nation, frantically attempting to restore damaged tracks and preserve morale with deft social media posts in each Ukrainian and English.
When Russian missiles knocked out the ability station close to Kharkiv in September, for instance, Kamyshin took an intercity prepare there from Kyiv, shortly saying that “out of 6 trains delayed, as of night only 2 are still delaying, +36 and +48 minutes”. A couple of days later, he gave an extra replace. “#Kharkiv is heavily shelled. Railway infrastructure damaged… One train departed +28 min and another one departed +9 min. #KeepRunning.” ... by Gillian Tett at

I send thanks and good wishes to all of you who have supported and encouraged my efforts over the years. With warm regards, Karen.

Karen Christensen
You can always reach me by email at either of these addresses:
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