"Train travel will supplant highway and air travel in the next few decades. Furthermore, electric railroads will increasingly be used to distribute freight items -- such as coal and grain -- as well as mail and express packages."Sounds romantic. But have you heard of any major infrastructure or rolling stock investments being made by the railroads or government? Where's the proof of a railroad renaissance?
The signs are scattered, Stilgoe says, but they add up to a powerful trend: smart money is chugging toward trains. He provides his insights in this interview with the Harvard University Gazette.
Here are some of the dots he connects.
- The Buffett Factor. Crazy-successful investor Warren Buffett last year bought 39 million shares, or 11 percent, of Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and the prices of railroad stocks generally are doing well.
- Property Dealings. Investors are snapping up properties in the Midwest that are adjacent to old railroad lines.
- Political Pressure. More local governments in auto-intensive cities such as St. Louis and Atlanta are conducting railroad feasibility studies.
- Improving Technology. Railroading is high-tech industry, Stilgoe says. "We have the technology to revitalize outdated tracks, to turn them into electrified rails that can support high-speed, on-time trains."
Do you agree that railroads are making a comeback?