Monday, December 2, 2013

Train Travel Magic

 I love train travel.  I am not a railfan but I've ridden many trains in my life - mostly, the New York City subway system, but also the Long Island Railroad, and PATH (a commuter train that travels between Manhattan and New Jersey).  I traveled once on the late Atlantic Coast Line railroad (connected New York with Florida), and have traveled several times, most recently this past March, on Amtrak's Auto Train between northern Virginia and Sanford, Florida.  Eventually, I hope to ride a train across the United States or even Canada - that planning, though, is in its early stages.

When you travel on a train, you see the country in a way totally different from a car (even on local roads) or from 35,000. feet. It is just, for many of us, a special experience.

I love the sounds and motions of the train. I find them soothing.  Others enjoy the opportunity to make new friends, to socialize, and to be treated to excellent service (at least on the Auto Train, I have seen many examples of caring, patient service on the part of the Amtrak employees).  In some ways, it is a window to a time past.  We can get their quicker, but we make the slower decision on purpose.

My sister in law travels, a lot, on Metro-North trains between her home in the New York suburbs and Grand Central Station in midtown Manhattan.  She attends a lot of cultural events in the city.  My spouse and I have joined her twice to sightsee and shop.  It's an enjoyable trip-it even travels through the neighborhood in the Bronx where I grew up in.

Train travel in the United States  is normally quite safe. But, as demonstrated today, with a Metro North Hudson Line train traveling between Poughkeepsie, New York and Grand Central Station derailing in the Bronx, it can be dangerous.  Of some 100 people on the train, some 63 were injured - four fatally.  If this had happened on a weekday, and not on a Sunday, this toll would have been higher, perhaps much higher.

My heart goes out to the survivors, and the families, and all those who use this train to commute to and from work.  Tomorrow will be a stressful day for many.

The Hudson Line travels through some very scenic areas of the Hudson Valley - and, if you have a few minutes, please treat yourself to some fall foliage video of the Hudson Line - taken not that long ago.  So many people think of New York State as one huge New York City.  It isn't.

There's been talk, although not recently, of building light rail service from Binghamton, New York, where I work, into New York City, through Scranton, Pennsylvania. We lost our Amtrak service many years ago.  The way it looks now, it will never return.

But a part of me hopes for train travel to come back to Binghamton. We need some train romance here.  Maybe one day...

Do you enjoy train travel?


  1. The problem is that train travel is slow- and priced too high... (Service no longer matters, since the air service, with which it competes, offers dismal service, as well.)
    We need creative concepts- like running NY-DC trains on an express basis, with local service to get feeder and drop-offs. We need rails to be maintained. (Of course, we do not infrastructure in this country.) Unless and until, trains will stay romantic and not functional.

    1. We do need creative concepts. Train travel is far from obsolete. I was fortunate to have grown up in a city that depended so much on the subway system - I may never have appreciated trains the way I do, otherwise.

  2. What?? When was the last time you traveled on Amtrak? There are occasional exceptions, but service on Amtrak trains is generally very good … excellent on most of their long distance trains. Yes, of course Amtrak is slower, but so what? In fact, you can travel overnight from New York to Chicago, have an excellent meal in the dining car, get a good night's sleep in your own berth, have breakfast bright and early the next morning, and make a 10:00 a.m. meeting anywhere in downtown Chicago. You can do the same thing between Washington and Chicago. You are correct that we "need rails to be maintained". We also need more trains running more often on more routes. But as long as the conservative ideologues in Congress insist on cutting Amtrak's already paltry subsidy, you'll have to make do with what we've got … which a not bad at all!

    1. I briefly explored your blog, Jim-thanks for commenting. I think your blog will help me in planning a cross country trip on Amtrak -something that probably won't happen next year but I do want to make it happen.

  3. One of the train trips I'd love to take is on the Orient Express. Seated in luxury, rocked by the train motion, I'd gaze at other lands and distant plains.

  4. That sounds incredible Francene, my Grandparents went on the Orient Express in about 1998!
    I do like train travel :)

  5. I used to take the train to school. From a rural part of NJ I traveled about 30 miles to Summit, NJ. It was really cool. I love the British trains and the way their compartments are. I think a train trip to Canada would be a wonderful, leisurely, comfortable and safe way to travel!


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