In this blog, I look for connections between growing up in the High Plains to life in the Deep South. Sometimes those connections come from unexpected places.
The connection I’m writing about now is trains. Kearney, Nebraska, where I went to junior high and high school is a train city. Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where I live now, also is a train city.
The Union Pacific dissects Kearney, which exists in part because of that railroad. Hattiesburg is cut in wedges by two major rail lines, the Canadian National and the Norfolk Southern. It was founded because of the location of a new rail line. It used to have several more railroads, ones that either shut down or have been consolidated.
More than 150 trains a day run on the Union Pacific through Kearney, many of them coal trains carrying loads from Wyoming and other points west to the East.
n Hattiesburg, the Norfolk Southern line carries the Amtrak run between New Orleans and New York City, running northeast out of New Orleans in the morning and back south late in the afternoon. It also carries lots of freight from the Gulf Coast ports to points north and northeast.
The Canadian Central transports mostly fuel in the form of coal or liquids. These runs are made up of 150-200 cars each. In the middle of downtown, both rail lines make up and add to trains in switch yard areas.
One can see, then, that in both of these cities, rail traffic is a major issue. We know that rail transport plays a significant economic role wherever it is, but we also know that the daily lives of residents of such train cities are affected in negative ways by such traffic.
In Kearney the negative factors are mitigated because the City has seen to it that there are four overpasses (another on the way) that carry travelers safely over the lines with passing trains. Folks traveling to and from work, school, medical centers, business appointments, commercial delivers and so on are not delayed because of rail traffic.
In Hattiesburg the residents have no such advantage. Only those traveling on U.S. 49 have safe passage and it is only over the Norfolk Southern line. Other than that, all those traveling to work, school, medical facilities, business or personal appointments and so on are at the mercy of the passing trains.
Every day folks commuting from the east side of the metro area are delayed trying to get to their destinations. This situation also applies to folks trying to go north or south as well. Some commuters have to transverse both sets of rail lines and also deal with long sessions of train cars being switched in the downtown area. Traffic gridlock is common.
Kearney is a city of about 28,000, while the Hattiesburg metro area is more than 150,000. Kearney has acted to protect the health, welfare and safety of their citizens from the negative impact of rail traffic. Hattiesburg, in its 128 -ear history, has not.
The information above sums it up, readers. My formative years were spent in a place that is basically more progressive in its approach to making life good for all its citizens. My senior years are being spent in the Deep South, which is decades behind where it should be in delivering an all-inclusive approach to providing for the health, welfare and safety of all its citizens.
That’s just the way it is.