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Watch American passenger rail shrivel up and die in this animated map

In the 1960s, the United States had an extensive network of passenger rail trains. All the major cities in the Midwest and South were linked by regular train service. You could get service on smaller routes, like the one from Boise, Idaho, to Portland, Oregon, three times a day.

Then a lot of lines got shut down in the late 1960s and 1970s, as this animation shows.

(Maps from the National Association of Railway Passengers and Malcolm Kenton via Greater Greater Washington. Animation by Joss Fong)

What's striking about this map is how differently the various parts of the country have fared. Service has been cut back in the Northeast, but the reductions weren't nearly as drastic as in other parts of the country. Amtrak's line between Washington, DC, and Boston is still heavily used by the region's business travelers.

Chicago, the Northwest, and parts of California have also retained significant rail coverage. California, in particular, has seen some new lines and service upgrades in recent years.

But for the rest of the country, the rail situation has been all downhill. The extensive network that once crisscrossed the American West has been reduced to just three east-west lines that don't cross one another at all. A lot of Southern cities are served by just one train a day, if they're served at all.

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