Film Treatment Summary

The image of a train brings with it a myriad of emotional reactions from the average person. From the early steam train voyages west across America to the futuristic monorail of Disney World, these Pavlovian responses are ingrained into our memories. The chrome of the engine on a sleek passenger rail triggers thoughts of a Capra-esque black and white film full of humor and romance. A dusty, steam engine takes us back to the gold rush of the early 1900’s. The relaxing, sumptuous leather of a dining car seat, the humorous possibilities of a crowded sleeper car, the thrill of adventure while journeying toward previously uncharted territory. For most of us these emotions are as clear as the movies and stories which first introduced us to this brilliant mode of mechanized transportation. In examining the glorious, and sometimes tumultuous history of the train, we can not only be transported back and forth through eras and life-styles, but come to the end of the line with the knowledge that we are once again about to board the resurrection of the train.

The train has become a nostalgic icon representing a more leisurely time in our history. Television and movies have helped to build the emphasis of glamor, intrigue and a slower, more peaceful time in society. While this all still holds a certain degree of truth, what is rarely pointed out is the ever-changing usefulness and personality of the train. Whereas in the classic western, a train is used because it was still a novelty and was the only real mode of transportation for those who could afford to purchase a ticket from the conductor. By the 1930’s and 40’s, films were more likely to portray the train as the preferred mode of travel and highlighted the romantic and mysterious aspects of a long, secluded ride through the night. Even now, as we celebrate the fact that the passenger rail has been in existence for nearly 200 years, trains have not outlived their usefulness. Many European countries have never left the age of the commuter train. They have not only kept it alive, but it has proven to be quite beneficial to their tourist trade. Here in the United States, California is instituting high speed rails and most major cities have some type of commuter train to help with their traffic needs. In fact, what is abundantly clear is that trains have evolved with the changing of our societal needs, our economical requirements and our desire to become one with and preserve our overextended environment.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

~George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume 1, 1905

While the average American is probably unaware who wrote those words, this quote is widely known. The obvious reason for it’s appreciation today, over 100 years after it was written, is that it still holds true. As a country, we have seen both great progress and great setbacks in every aspect of our lives. As we embark on an era which has become known as a time for change, we must look backwards in order to look ahead to a better future. When President Franklin Roosevelt first instituted “The New Deal” to combat the overwhelming effects of the Great Depression, he was met with skepticism and derision. After all was said and done, we, as a country were able to build ourselves back up to become an even stronger nation. Now, 75 years later, we find ourselves in a similar situation as a nation.

When we rebuilt and reemployed America, we did so in part by rejuvenating our transportation systems. At the time our focus was more on roads and automobiles, but in those 75 years we have learned a little more about the long-term damage of the single-car driver and what a dependence on oil can truly cost us in the end. Our focus needs to be a solution which will solve our problems on larger scale. A design which will serve multiple purposes and achieve a plethora of goals in one fluid movement. That movement is the resurrection of the passenger rail on a national level.

Bringing the passenger train to an area such as Asheville, North Carolina could be the advent of a change that is both remarkable and calculable. In measuring only the drivers who commute in the greater Asheville area and down through to the highly utilized Interstate 26 to Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina, the train could become the necessity that it is in larger cities like Chicago and New York. While it may not evoke those same images of gleaming silver and brass rails to rest your feet, the modern commuter train has evolved with the times. These days travelers prefer to use their blackberries, their wireless laptops and their PDA’s. The modern traveler has an iPod and sends texts on their cell phone. Methods of communication and work or leisure activities which would be encouraged on a train are being banned on our roadways due to the dangers which they create.

Now is the time for the train. Now is the time to embrace an integral part of who we are as a country. Now is the time to resurrect the philosophy of George Santayana and learn from the mistakes we have made with our environment. Now is the time to stream-line our lives and move forward into a better future. Now is the time to sit back on a train with our families and really have an opportunity to see this great and wonderful land that we have cultivated into our home. Now is the time to take those negatives of modern communication and turn them into possibilities of a more effective way of life and travel. Now is the time for the train. Now is the time to sieze a thought, a hope, an ideal…and turn it into a reality.

Now is the time for the train.



Filed under Documentary

ACTION NEEDED asap contact the “Transportation Advisory Committee” in Asheville

ACTION NEEDED asap… read on.

The TAC (Transportation Advisory Committee) of the French Broad River MPO meeting tomorrow (Thursday 6/24) at 12:30 p.m. The MPO is working on the Long Range Transportation Plan, which is a prioritization process of all the transportation projects that will receive funding over the next 25 years. The TAC arm of the MPO is composed of elected officials from the towns and municipalities in the French Broad River MPO. MPO staff has 10 million of funding allocated for a Passenger Rail Station in Tier II (2016-2025) and in Tier III they have $104 million for passenger rail/rail improvements. MPO staff and the TCC (Technical Coordinating Committee…all the city planners, etc in region) approved these funds. Councilman Jan Davis is the Chair of the TAC and has voiced concern on whether rail should receive priority funding.

Natalie Murdock, of the Land of Sky Regional Council, will be in the meeting and says that if people email letters of support to her then they will read during the meeting. This could have a very powerful impact in letting members of the TAC the level of desire for passenger rail to Asheville.

People are looking for direct ways to take action….here is what to do…

Send your email message to requesting the TAC to follow the TCC and MPO staff recommendations, to provide $10 million for an Intermodal Passenger Rail Station in Tier II (2016-2025) and in Tier III the $104 million for passenger rail/rail improvements.


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Letter from Jeff Joyce re: Rail to Asheville

Jeff sent this message out May 20 at 2:09pm:

Hello all,

I wanted to thank Stephanie Monson for all of her work and insight in setting up this meeting on May 26. Unfortunately, the Chamber has our business delegation in Raleigh on the 25-26 and I will not be able to attend. However, I wanted to let everyone know that I am on the agenda to speak to Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti, House leadership, and Senate leadership about our desire to bring passenger rail back to Western North Carolina.

I also wanted to make everyone aware of the Lt. Governor’s Logistics Task Force, which was in Asheville on Monday (May 17). The task force has a commission from Governor Perdue and are meeting around the state to discuss North Carolina’s transportation needs and provide two updates a year to the Governor through 2011. The Logistics Task Force includes Mayor Bellamy, Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti, Walter Dalton, and many other prominent figures in NC politics and business. I bring this up to let everyone know that the need for passenger rails return to Asheville was mentioned many times. Mayor Bellamy, Secretary Conti, Scott Hamilton (head of Advantage West), and Pat Simmons (head NCDOT Rail Division) all spoke about the importance of having passenger rail return.

Finally, today I was at the French Broad MPO’s Technical Coordinating Committee meeting. The group is currently working on the regions Long Range Transportation Plan and has been tasked by the NCDOT to prioritize projects for funding. It was mentioned in the meeting the need to set aside funding to assist in track improvements for passenger rail and also to set aside money for helping with the multi-modal depot.

I hope these words are encouraging to everyone as passenger rail is clearly on everyone’s minds.

My best,

Jeff JoyceJeff

Jeff Joyce, Governmental Relations Manager
Workforce Development/ Public Policy – Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce
36 Montford Avenue – Asheville, NC 28801

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Local potential partners to pursue

Biltmore Estate
Advantage West
Asheville City
Asheville Chamber of Commerce
Asheville Businesses
Asheville Foundation
Community Foundation
this is an organic list to be continued…

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Documentary Project unfolding…

I am working on the documentary project. The project will follow the process of the train returning to Asheville. As the train makes its way back to Asheville the story is about the history of the trains across the continent, why they are in the current condition they are in and why its important that rail returns.  The main premise being that Rail is on its way back into as a highly desirable form of mass transportation.

I believe that by 2020 Rail will be as popular for cross-country travel as planes were in the 80s and 90s.  Its time America!!

From the infrastructure and the politics to the stories of those who have lived through the removal of the train line back in the 70s, the documentary will chronicle the past, present and future of these rails.


Filed under Documentary