Trains, trains and more trains

April 11, 2018

   I have never booked a flight that had more than one connection. I think if I were ever forced to board, say, three planes in one day, I would go the room where the TSA stores all the loaded firearms they’ve collected from carry-ons that day, pick one and then blow my brains out. It would have to, of course, be a gun with the safety already off, since I don’t know what a safety even looks like.

   Yet twice now I’ve booked trains that had two connections associated with the itinerary, and I didn’t blink an eye either time. I prefer a straight shot of say four hours and regally attended to in the train’s first class car. But to get on and off three times in one day posed no annoyance or inconvenience to me. Why I wonder, from someone for whom inconvenience and annoyance is a part of a daily routine?

   First, getting on and off a train is a breeze. Many I’ve been on do not require a security check. You can spread out along the track, instead of bunching up like cattle in front of the chute taking them to slaughter. There’s maybe ten doors to get on by, not one. Some of the larger stations provide an electronic board informing passengers where their car number will stop along the platform. And you can pretty much detrain the moment it stops, instead of queuing up like hamsters stuck in one of their little tunnels. For connections, you sit in a comfortable waiting room until your next train is announced.

Would you rather look at walls of art, or walls of O'Hare, LAX or LaGuardia? ART. 

Would you rather look at walls of art, or walls of O’Hare, LAX or LaGuardia? ART. 

   Twice I’ve had delays of an hour. So? I just kept reading or ordered another glass of wine. Mind you, after a six or eight hour day of this, you are drained. But it’s a pleasurable, stress free kind of drain that leaves you relaxed,  if not serene, and ready for a nice dinner.

   Most trains I ride require a reservation and fee over and above the eurail pass. One has been hefty, but most are in the ten dollar range, which is perfectly acceptable to know you have a confirmed seat assignment. My eurail app includes a feature that permits me to order my seat reservation online for French and Italian trains,  so I don’t have to take a number and wait in a ticket queue at the station.

   I’ve been riding the rails for more than a month now, and the experience has not gotten stale in the least. The only disappointment with yesterday’s sweet ride in something called Business Quiet was that it was only a two-hour trip, instead of four or six.

Business Quiet ...and was it ever! Had the whole car to myself!

Business Quiet…and was it ever! Had the whole car to myself!

   I can’t avoid planes; I couldn’t practically be here riding these slick European high-speeds without a plane. But I’m definitely building more train travel into my plans. This summer I’m taking Amtrak’s Empire Builder sleeper service from Seattle to Chicago to visit the kids and grandkids. From there, I’m taking the California Zephyr to Oakland.

   My daughter who helped me design this site is now planning a train trip with her daughter, as a result of reading my experiences. So, yes, I am an ambassador for the rails, and an advocate for expanding high-speed service in the home country. No, trains will never make money, none of the European ones do. But it’s about a quality of life, and an engine for growth in other ways, not profit.

   Build them, America!

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