Begins with an historical overview of American railroads in the 19th century, examining in detail the place of rail in the national economy. Gives particular attention to the relationship between railroads and the federal government in the decades after the formation of Amtrak in 1971. Examines increasing ridership on Amtrak over the last decade, arguing for the potential viability of public-private partnerships to develop high-speed—or at least “higher” speed—passenger rail. Also considers the potential effect of shifts in federal subsidies, which currently favor less efficient air and highway travel. Concludes with a discussion of current planning for high-speed rail, beginning with upgrades to existing track, station houses, and control systems leading eventually to more ambitious jumps to dedicated, fully electrified rail in high-volume corridors.