From a historical perspective, it's always interesting to look at
the close-but-no-cigar victims of progress: those inventions that
sounded like a good idea at the time but were quickly supplanted by
ones that performed the same tasks better, faster, smarter.
The Stanley Steamer, the eight-track tape, the mimeograph
machine; all seemed sound until the real deal hit town. Anybody who
bought Xerox on the ground floor knows what I'm talking about.
Could Amtrak's Acela high-speed rail project be a candidate for
that list of also-rans? Acela's tilt-technology trains, which are
slated to be rolled out this fall, have been marketed as the last
word in high-speed rail. Now up pops Maglev, an electomagnetic rail
system that lets trains float above the tracks at speeds upwards of
300 mph. Maglev projects, already under way in Japan and Germany,
are quietly getting off the ground, literally, in this country.
As a history buff, I'm fascinated. As a taxpayer and a traveler,
I'd like to know if Amtrak is spending my money on a giant