April 7, 2021

BUILDING BACK BETTER:

They're obsessed with trains. Will Biden bring them Nirvana?: Three rail superfans gathered on Zoom to take in the president's remarks last week. They geeked out quickly. (EUGENE DANIELS, 04/06/2021, Politico)

Dan Cupper owns more than 10,000 train timetables -- little cards and brochures detailing the accommodations, times and appearance of trains; his oldest is from 1858. Ron Goldfeder and his wife collect kerosene lanterns that used to light the way for trains. Larry Shughart owns hundreds of American Flyer model trains. And you're damn right they work.

These men have loved trains for years; and by love, we're not just talking about the type of affection young kids have for toys gifted from their parents; we're talking fanatical obsessions that take up every part of life's free moments and the mind's free space.

On Wednesday, that lifelong love affair hit a remarkable political climax as America's most powerful railfan -- President Joe Biden -- stepped behind a lectern to outline the most ambitious infrastructure plan since Dwight Eisenhower. Moments like these don't come along all that often; for lovers of trains, they are like a Halley's comet. Naturally, the three jumped at the invitation from POLITICO to get on a Zoom call and watch it together. Copper and Goldfeder are old chums but Shughart, who they've not met, fit right in.

For just over 30 minutes, Biden laid out the broad strokes of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which included investments in things like roads and bridges, electric vehicles, clean energy, affordable housing and public transit. The three men watched it on a shared Zoom screen, taking notes the whole time. Cupper, bespectacled, with white hair, sitting in front of his beloved timetables, Goldfeder, also bespectacled with white hair, in front of dozens of train books and the lanterns, and Shughart, sans spectacles but also with white hair, in his bedroom because the trains have their own space in a barn out back.

They had, by that point, already heard the toplines of the plan. Cupper paraphrased a quote from Daniel Burnham, the architect of D.C.'s Union station, to describe his feelings about it. "He said 'make no little plans, they have no power to stir men's blood.' And certainly what Biden has proposed is not a little plan, it's a visionary plan. And I think that is one of its strengths."

Posted by at April 7, 2021 8:20 AM

  

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