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“It’s like having that sports car out in the garage,” he says. “You like to look at it and say, ‘I’m really happy I have that.’ And your wife is saying, ‘When are you going to get that damn thing out of the garage?’”
Unless you’re a fictional Old West secret agent or a modern dictator who likes to travel in bulletproof style, being a private railcar owner never made a lot of practical sense. They’re huge, heavy, and ruinously expensive to buy, maintain, and store, especially if you want to actually give it some exercise on the tracks. But recently, being a private railcar owner has become even harder. One year ago, Amtrak issued a policy notice saying it would make drastic cuts in operating charter services run by private owners. “These operations caused significant operational distraction, failed to capture fully allocated profitable margins, and sometimes delayed our paying customers on our scheduled trains,” read the notice from March 2018. “There may be a few narrow exceptions to this policy. ... Otherwise, one-time trips and charters are immediately discontinued.”
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In practical terms, that means that unless railcars belonging to a group or private owner are in some easily accessible rail terminal, like 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Amtrak is no longer going to great lengths to get private cars hooked up to...
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