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Mad About Trains—High-Speed Trains

All Aboard, America!

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Vincent Kartheiser (Pete Campbell) and Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) have cut a Mad Men–style web commercial with U.S. PIRG [1] and Funny or Die [2] to show that high-speed trains [3] are cool. It’s 1965. When Pete tries out a pitch, Harry says, “Why are you worrying about this? . . . Trains make sense. They’re efficient, they’re convenient, they’re good for jobs. Hell, I’d rather take a train than fly or drive anywhere. We don’t need to sell trains.”

Harry adds, “I read a piece that said in 40 years gas is going to cost almost a dollar a gallon. . . . America always makes the right investment. . . . Cities are getting bigger. Trains are the most efficient, economical, best investment. It’s obvious. We do not need to sell trains. Now are you gonna make me a drink? I’ve got a long drive home.”

As Pete pours a drink, Kartheiser adds in a voice-over:

We can’t wait another decade to move forward on high-speed rail. The future is now. Tell your friends, tell your family, but most importantly, if you agree, then tell your senators. Find out how and get a bumper sticker to show your support at madfasttrains.com [4].

There’s humor but also a sad irony in that in 1965, when this ad is set, developers in New York City were already demolishing the grand old Pennsylvania Station [5] to build Madison Square Garden and Penn Plaza and the down-the-rat-hole maze known as Penn Station today. (Yale architectural historian Vincent Scully once wrote, “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”)

 

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The Once and Future Pennsylvania Station

But wait—there’s more: the New York Transit Museum’s gallery annex and store at Grand Central Terminal has a gorgeous and well-stocked new exhibit, “The Once and Future Pennsylvania Station [6],” running through Oct. 30. The show features films of tunnels being dug, footage of 1964 protests against the disastrous demolition of the grand old station, wonderful illustrations and diagrams, and inspiring maps and plans of the new work being done on the forthcoming Moynihan Station [7], the underground extension of the present, dismal relic of Penn Station [8], and the extension of the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central [9] (it presently runs only into Penn). Long-term projects that are under way. Your tax dollars (including stimulus) at work. It’s a great exhibit, so make plans to visit at least once a month, through Oct. 30. Read more about the new Penn Station [7], to be called Moynihan Station, slowly being extended across 8th Avenue into the old Post Office (shown below as the building appeared about 1912). Below the Post Office is what old Pennsylvania Station once looked like.

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