Some of the passengers aboard the Comet were awake. As the train started its coiling ascent, they saw the small cluster of Winston’s lights at the bottom of the darkness beyond their windows… A black veil went streaking past the windows at times, dimming the lights: it was the heavy smoke from the coal-burning engine.Everyone on the train died. Suffocated.
…It is said that catastrophes are a matter of pure chance, and there were those who would have said that the passengers of the Comet were not guilty or responsible for the thing that happened to them.
And now.....now we see the makings of the scene at Penn Station - a set up even more powerful than in Ayn Rand's book.
To get to New York’s Penn Station, every northbound Amtrak passenger makes the last leg of their journey, through tunnels beneath the Hudson River, in the dark. Trust me: They should be glad. One day this autumn, an Acela pulls into Newark, N.J., and a railway spokesman escorts me onto the rear engine car, where we stand and take in the view facing backward. As we descend into one of the Hudson tunnels—there are two, both 107 years old, finished in the same year the Wright brothers built their first airplane factory—a supervisor flips on the rear headlights, illuminating the ghastly tubes.When the tunnel collapses and hundreds of people drown....what then? What is the lesson? Will politicians finally go to jail?
Our train (unsurprisingly) is operating at reduced speed because of an electrical glitch, which just gives us more time to gawk at the damage. There are eerie, nearly fluorescent white stains on the tunnel walls that look like they were painted by a giant with a roller brush. The pale swaths are remnants of the salt water that inundated the passages five years ago, during Hurricane Sandy. Sulfates and chlorides have been eating away at the concrete ever since, exposing reinforcement bars underneath. “Keep your eyes peeled,” says Craig Schulz, the affable Amtrak spokesman, “and you’ll see some of these areas where there is literally just crumbling concrete.”
As we emerge into the bowels of Penn Station, Schulz points to wooden flood doors above the tunnel entrances. They were installed during World War II to hold back the river if the tubes were torpedoed by a Nazi submarine. In the gloom, the doors look a full century older than their vintage. They seem more suited for a dungeon than a modern rail system like this one—the Northeast Corridor, which runs from Boston to Washington, D.C., serving an area that generates a fifth of U.S. gross domestic product. Before we step off the train, Schulz repeats Amtrak’s mantra: The storm-ravaged tunnels are safe, for now, but the railroad doesn’t know how long it will be able to keep them in service.