A class of graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania has created a plan to rebuild the Northeast Corridor as a true high-speed rail line that would transport passengers from Philadelphia to New York City in 37 minutes.
Today, French engineers, welders, and electricians work in long sheds for the French manufacturer Alstom Transport, building the great-great-grandchildren of those early trains. They hope their new customers will include the old bosses, the Americans.
As the United States takes its first tentative steps toward high-speed rail travel, the initial hurdle is the biggest: money. In the past, the nation's enthusiasm for fast trains has evaporated. This time, politicians and railroaders believe the momentum is greater than ever before.
In Europe, fast trains are transforming the continent, bringing cities and countries within a few hours of one another, creating new economies and manufacturing jobs, and making some air travel obsolete. Is this America's future, or simply a glimpse of a far-off world we'll never inhabit?