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Western Railroad Discussion > Free train ride to Galveston TX this weekend

Date: 08/26/02 11:22
Free train ride to Galveston TX this weekend
Author: PaulMerriman

Check this out. It is an experiment to see if there is interest.

League City-Galveston enticement: free rides

Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

GALVESTON -- Eighty years ago, 20 passenger trains departed Houston for
Galveston every day.

From 1911 until 1936, a fleet of electric trolleys carried thousands of
people by rail each week from Houston and other mainland cities to Galveston
and back. But as more people took to the highways in cars, the railroads
dropped passenger service to the island in the late 1960s.

Next weekend, however, many people whizzing across the Interstate 45
causeway will see a new passenger train rumbling across the "old causeway"
that parallels I-45 and is most noted for its drawbridge.

Indeed, the coming Labor Day weekend marks what many hope will be the first
step toward resumption of regular rail service between League City and
Galveston, and ultimately between Houston and Galveston.

The train, dubbed the Texas Gulfliner, will make two round-trip runs on
Sunday and Monday between League Park in League City and the Galveston
Railroad Museum on the island city's historic Strand. It can carry about 250
people each way.

The first run, scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Sunday in Galveston, will mark the
beginning of a million-dollar experiment called the Intelligent
Transportation System Rail Passenger Demonstration.

Financed mostly by a $750,000 federal grant, the alternative transportation
program also is expected to provide free rides from the mainland to
Galveston Island during the Dickens on the Strand Festival in December and
Mardi Gras and Memorial Day weekend in 2003.

"The initial demonstrations will be on holiday weekends, when the congestion
on the causeway reaches its peaks," said Houston transportation consultant
Barry Goodman, whose firm has helped develop the new rail plans. "We hope to
demonstrate the effectiveness of rail passenger service as an alternative."

If enough area residents support the rail service, U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson,
D-Beaumont, will try to get millions of dollars more from Congress next year
to ultimately establish regular passenger service from Houston to Galveston.

"That long-term prospect is really what we're shooting for," Goodman said.
"That would mean construction of a second rail line in the Union Pacific
right of way that would not interfere with freight traffic."

Including overpasses or other improvements to keep the rails separate from
other rights of way and allow speedy train travel, the project is expected
to cost perhaps $150 million or more and take at least eight years -- if
Congress funds it.

But while they have put up thousands of dollars to aid the long-term rail
effort, League City and Galveston officials are hoping the Texas Gulfliner
will boost tourism in the short run as well. Passengers who manage to get
reservations for next weekend will be greeted with live music, shuttles to
attractions in both towns and discounts from participating merchants and

"The Texas Gulfliner fits exactly into League City's goal for economic
development through tourism," Mayor Jeff Harrison said.

He and Galveston City Manager Steve LeBlanc are looking forward to the
hoopla that will accompany the novelty of train travel between their cities.

"The possibility of rail passenger service between Galveston and the
mainland can only enhance the quality of life on the island," LeBlanc said.

He and others hope the demonstration project will open the federal money
faucet that will allow creation of commuter rail service on the coast. While
many people in the Clear Lake area and Galveston County who work in Houston
might never be coaxed off the freeways, people who travel south to work
might be different, officials believe.

"About 65 percent to 70 percent of Galveston employees, most of whom are
going to a few major workplaces on the island such as the University of
Texas Medical Branch, live on the mainland," Goodman said.

With convenient stations in mainland communities, he said, those people
could take trains and then brief shuttle rides from the island station to
their jobs.

No one expects rail service to supplant cars as the main means of rush-hour
traffic, but Goodman and others say every option should be explored to help
solve a problem that has existed for decades.

"I have read discussions that go back at least 70 years in which the Houston
City Council was talking about the same problem," Goodman said. "They were
talking about how Houston was getting so congested and how they needed to
find alternatives to cars.

"You're never going to totally solve all the congestion problems, but at
least you can provide alternatives," he said. "It's taken us a long time to
get to the point of actually having an agreement with Amtrak and Union
Pacific for this holiday weekend, and we hope people will take advantage of

This will be the first such rail line since the Texas Limited, which Houston
businessman Franklin Denson launched in August 1989.

The train, five restored, vintage rail cars pulled by a modern engine, ran
excursions four days a week from Houston to Galveston and back. It started
with a bang, but the privately financed service succumbed in 1994 to high
insurance costs, high ticket prices and scheduling conflicts with freight

While people will get a free ride during this experimental year, Goodman
said the price they might pay for future travel will be well worth it for

Date: 08/26/02 12:17
Re: Free train ride to Galveston TX this weekend
Author: kenw

great idea.....rail travel in the Houston area. radical concept......

now if they had only done that on the Katy/I10 corridor.....

Date: 08/26/02 14:08
Re: Free train ride to Galveston TX this weekend
Author: mundo

Will use Amtrak equipment.

Lined up to go were power 15 and 41,
coaches 54507,54505,54532.

Those will not hold 250 passengers, so maybe one more car.

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