Inside Amtrak’s First ‘True’ Timetable

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Amtrak’s Nov. 14, 1971, timetable had a few errors that are humorous now, but were not so funny to Amtrak management at the time.

Amtrak issued three system timetables in 1971, its first year of operation. Two of those were just cut and paste jobs using graphics that the company that printed the folders already had on hand as a leftover from the days when the railroads operated their own trains.

But the first timetable that Amtrak could call its own came out on Nov. 14. Unlike the timetables issued on May 1 and July 12, the Nov. 14 folder featured more than minimal content and actually had been designed.

Reflecting the thinking of the an that the airlines did everything right and were role models to be emulated, Amtrak sought to create an airline-style timetable and a traditional railroad timetable.

In the front of the timetable were city listing that looked just like those of an airline timetable. The traditional linear railroading listing were relegated to the back.

Despite having had time to design the Nov. 14 folder, several embarrassing errors still crept in.

In the airline schedules section, Detroit was spelled “Detriot.” It was spelled correctly in the traditional railroad timetable section.

Also, the timetable for the Empire Builder had Fargo as a city in Indiana rather than North Dakota.

Despite the miscues, the Nov. 14 timetable was still one in which Amtrak could take pride and show that it was making the transition from the railroad era of passenger trains to the Amtrak era.

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