with whether or not there are trains serving the district of any
given member of Congress.)
The funding method devised to launch Amtrak was pretty
complicated. Essentially it allowed private railroads to make cash
payments, which would provide start-up funding for Amtrak
while giving the railroads permission to get out of the passen-
ger business. On a case-by-case basis, Amtrak could also elect to
accept payment in the form of passenger equipment or operat-
ing crews. By the time it all shook out, 20 railroads had given
Amtrak nearly 1,200 pieces of equipment and a total of slightly
more than $197 million in cash. Congress added $40 million
to the pot and another $100 million in loan guarantees, giving
Amtrak some $340 million to begin operations.
The final hurdle was a presidential signature. Richard Nixon
had been keeping a low profile on the subject, but in retrospect
that part of the process was probably never in doubt. Nixon was
already looking ahead to his reelection campaign in 1972 and
worrying about how the unpopular war in Vietnam would affect
his chances. As a matter of practical politics, he couldn't afford
having the death of the passenger train laid at his doorstep too.
He signed the bill on October 30, 1970.
Any sighs of relief from pro-rail people were premature, how-
ever. Many who were there at the time now believe that it was
always the intent of the Nixon administration—if not the president
himself—to give lip-service support to the creation of the new rail
system and then quietly kill it behind the scenes. These suspicions
were subsequently borne out by a succession of power plays and
roadblocks aimed at undermining Amtrak, usually orchestrated
by Nixon aide John Ehrlichman (later of Watergate fame).
A Shortage of Know-How
The formal name for this new public/private corporation was the
National Railroad Passenger Corporation—as a matter of fact,