Fascinating Vintage Photos From 1970s Reveal Amtrak’s Early Days

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As the result of the nation’s reliance on automobiles and increasing popularity of airplane travel that led to the declining use of passenger trains, Congress passed the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970. This legislation established the National Railroad Passenger Corporation to take over the intercity passenger rail service that had been operated by private railroads. Amtrak began service on May 1, 1971 serving 43 states with a total of 21 routes.

In late 1973, Amtrak ordered the first of 492 single-level cars, known as Amfleet I, that were based on the design of the popular Metroliner. With tubular bodies and ridged stainless steel fluting, they could reach speeds of up to 125 mph.

The Amfleet cars came in five configurations, including the Amcoach that was intended for use on short-distance routes. Weighing in at 106,000 pounds, it had 84 seats in a 2×2 configuration versus coaches with 60 seats used on long-distance trains. The coach interiors incorporated bold color choices such as red striped upholstery for the seats.

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