Thursday, November 05, 2009

Buffett Bets Big on Railroads’ Future

I admit it; I love Amtrak.

So, my interest in the recent acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe by Warren Buffet is not about the commercial interests of transportation in the USA. My interest concerns the silly thought that if Warren can enhance the profits of one of America's largest transporters of goods, he might take on the increasingly important issue of transporting people.

Please keep in mind that I have chosen to live in a little prairie town built by the railroads just before the turn of the last century. Actually, it is more like the building of this little town was a profitable deal for the railroads. Once the line was built, the railroads, who had been given vast blocks of land along the railroad right of way by Congress, sold off those blocks for town development.

Flaxton was one of those commuities. Today, the railroad prospers in this area of the great plains - lots of oil and scads, slight understatement, of grains to transport to Chicago and other trade corridor partners. Each midnight or 3 a.m. the fellows are out on the lines putting together huge lines of rail cars before they leave our little town and move on down the line in mile or more long entourages.

Like the few other folks in town, I have grown used to and almost look forward to the early morning clashes of combining railcars. When the engines whail as they approach the main intersection in town, I smile and somehow feel included in the process of moving goods across North America - cause, you see, many of the trains coming through our town, originate in Calgary or Edmonton in Canada and are destined for Dallas or El Paso and on south to Mexico.

We may be small, population around 60 these days, but we are a hub for this activity, alive and well here on the prairie.

However, it is not the oil and grain that interest me the most. It is the rail transportation of people that concerns me. Amtrak has been robbed regularly by every federal government in power for the past twenty years and yet, because some of us love the ride, Amtrak has prevailed.

I so much want Warren's investment to prosper and hope mightily that he will eventually consider supporting another potential money maker - people moving across the nation, not in fuel guzzling airplanes that render us all more radioactive than we were before we left the ground, hasseled by security personnel at every stop, stuffed into seats where our knees knock the back of the person in front of us, shoulders bumped by the 'trolly dollies (both male and female) along too narrow aisles high in the sky.

No, I want more Americans to sit back with a good book or their laptops and enjoy the roomy, larger than the living room lounge chair seats, the wide windows and beautiful mountains or golden prairies, as well as views of small town America as they whisk on Japanese style bullet trains from point A to point B with plenty of stops along the way.

Yep, Warren, that's what I really want you to invest in!

p.s. click on the title of this blog post to go to the NEW YORK TIMES article