Chattanooga maglev choo-choo?

Chattanooga maglev choo-choo?

April 28th, 2010 in Opinion Free Press

We all remember the world-popular song of the World War II era about the "Chattanooga Choo-Choo."

It's a catchy tune with fun words about a make-believe passenger train from New York's Pennsylvania Station to our Chattanooga. Tex Beneke memorably sang about it, somewhat nasally, on 1 million-plus phonograph records with the famed Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Chattanooga long had been a railroad center in early years, when trains led to our city's industrial, passenger and War Between the States importance. But while freight trains remain very important here, we haven't had any extensive passenger train service in Chattanooga for a long time, except for the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum's fine local excursions.

But from time to time, there is renewed "talk" about the possible development of a "maglev" -- magnetic levitation -- passenger train connecting Chattanooga with Atlanta, and eventually Miami to the south and Chicago to the north.

Mayor Ron Littlefield has been talking about a maglev version of a modern Chattanooga Choo-Choo recently.

As fast as passenger air flight is, just think of the time it takes to get to the Chattanooga airport, Lovell Field, check in, get through security and then board an aircraft. You can drive to the Atlanta airport in less than a couple of hours and connect with the world. But even that's not very convenient.

Just "imagine" boarding a maglev train -- propelled along a rail with magnetic force causing the train to rise above the track and smoothly reach speeds of hundreds of miles an hour!

There are some maglev trains in existence now -- for example, between Paris and Marseilles, France, and even out of Shanghai in Communist China, among others. Maglev trains are realities.

So there have been dreams of being able to have maglev trains between Miami and Chicago -- via Atlanta and Chattanooga.

Mayor Littlefield says Chattanooga and Georgia should be thinking about maglevs.

The "catch"? The mayor said, "We've got to come up with the money." Isn't that often the problem? There has been talk of a federal transportation grant to study the idea of having a maglev train ease the Atlanta airport overload by connecting with the under-used Chattanooga airport, for one example.

But, "Pardon me, boy," while the maglev idea is intriguing, and could in time become reality, it's an expensive proposition. It's worth studying, but don't expect to buy a ticket on a Chattanooga Choo-Choo to Atlanta very soon.