Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Best 15 Minute Train Ride I Ever Had!

ALVARADO CENTER, DOWNTOWN ABQ--I have often wondered what it would be like to sit in a railcar pulling out of Alvarado Station in downtown Albuquerque. There are historical pictures showing movie stars and Presidents doing the same thing. And now NewMexiKen and I were sitting in the brand-new cars of the Rail Runner...starring at the activity on the platform as politicians made one more phone call and vendors set up their tables for the 12:30 arrival of the eastbound Amtrak.

Oh I had seen these cars before...sneaked in the railyard and took pictures, followed the train on a bicycle down the tracks in the south valley, been to a Rail Runner open house, and even interviewed roadgrader drivers working on the north valley station. And I have been to Belen checking on the location of the station down there. I have talked to the planning office in Bernalillo to get the exact location of that station and scouted it out for possible commercial opportunities. I watched as the number of Bombardier engines stored in the Albuquerque railyard went from zero to 2 to 5, plus about a dozen passenger cars. But today...well today we're riding!

  • This train runs quiet and smooth! Even as we passed cars while doing a top speed of 79 mph, there was no noise and very little sway.
  • The view from the train in Albuquerque is of a part of the north valley few people see: alleys, salvage dumps, appliance graveyards.
  • Further north, artifacts of the pre-1937 Route 66 are still visible near Sandia Pueblo and Bernalillo. In fact I think I remember seeing a Fred Harvey railroad poster showing the grade crossing at Sandia Pueblo. Abandoned gas stations and small roadside stores are also along the way.
  • The total trip time from downtown Albuquerque to NM 550 north of Bernalillo was 15 minutes! That's smokin'.
  • ABQ transportation director Greg Payne had not been on the Rail Runner train until today. Even today he was too busy to ride up to Bernalillo.
  • The seeds of the Rail Runner car logo came from an idea by MRCOG Executive Director Lawrence Rael, who suggested something with "flying feathers coming out of a tunnel." Well, I knew what he meant.
  • The logo itself was actually designed by the same firm that did the Flying Star logo: Vaughn Wedeen Creative.
There Is Always a Downside...
  • The Rail Runner is FREE for only 3 months!
  • Then the price climbs all the way up to 2 bucks for the rest of the year!
  • Augusta Meyers is probably not going to be there when you get on it.
  • It is very difficult to find anything to complain about.
The Train Starts in Late July...

At least the section between Albuquerque and Bernalillo will be operating. The train will start service to Belen in September. Not all stations will be open by then. This includes the Rio Bravo and Sandia Pueblo stops. Apparently there is a delay with some of the switching equipment, according to Chris Blewett, Director of Transportation for the MRCOG. For a good account of today's ride make sure you read NewMexiKen's post.


ace_kimballi said...

Rail Runner very cool.

And I think there is a Taco Bell at the last Bernalillo station, too!

Phil said...

Johnny - Wow, I'm jealous! Who do you have to know?

Thanks for the update - my enthusiasm for the RailRunner just keeps growing...this hearkens back to a much saner transportation age that can hopefully come again.

Carrie said...

On our field trip to Casa San Ysidro yesterday, our school bus was stopped on Alameda at the railroad for the RailRunner. The students (and the chaperones) were all very excited to see those three cars go whizzing by us.

I was a bit of a naysayer until I actually saw it. Hopefully, the RailRunner will be able to live up to its potential.

peg said...

I'm jealous too! Now I can't wait for my first free ride.

You may have gotten to ride the rails, but in all your elbow-rubbing and preview riding, have they given you a "paper doll" train? It's a cardboard cutout of the Rail Runner. Suitable for your desktop or vanity. I got one from a colleague whose spouse helped design the thing.

Now are YOU jealous? No? Can't blame ya. I'd rather have a real ride anyday.