The Heartland Flyer. In my years as a business reporter, I can't recall any other topic that ruffles our readers' feathers more than this clearly beloved train.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a Brookings Institution report that analyzed Amtrak nationwide. It found the Heartland Flyer route, which connects Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, lost more than $43 per rider last year. However, it fared better than most other routes across the country. Only four Amtrak routes didn't lose money last year.
The day the story published, I received calls and emails from people in the train industry and those who just love trains, wanting a chance to defend the Flyer. One caller was so fired up, he yelled at me, my boss, and probably some other people within earshot. Buttons unintentionally pressed.
So this past week, I decided to do something I'd been meaning to do for a long time: ride the Heartland Flyer.
I planned a trip for myself, my train-loving 2-year-old son and my adventurous 4-year-old son to travel from Norman to Pauls Valley — a quick, 40-minute jaunt. Our purpose was to visit The Toy and Action Figure Museum (a must see, if you haven't been), but also to enjoy the ride.
The main obstacle to overcome was how to get home.
I wasn't confident I could keep us all entertained for nearly 12 hours while waiting for the northbound stop at 8:21 p.m. Besides, that would have gotten us home way past bedtime.