A Train A Train A Train A Train

imageWould you, could you on a train?

If you have kids, had kids or have been a kid at any point since 1960, you probably recognize the title and the first sentence as being from “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. We read that story so many times to our daughter that we still repeat the title almost every time we see a train. I think it’s an appropriate response because seeing a train remains exciting for me. There’s just something about an oncoming train or a passing train, even hearing a train whistle in the distance makes me happy. So, it’s no surprise that I’m choosing to focus on National Train Day instead of Mother’s Day this weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against mothers. I like mothers fine. I love my mother. I love my wife, she’s been a great mom and we’ll do something to celebrate on Sunday, but let’s get back to those trains.

Unlike last weekend’s post, where I subtly tried to get you to doimage something, this time I’m going to ignore that goal. They (the people who tell bloggers how to blog) say “you should always include a call to action!” Well, act if you want to, I just like trains. On Foursquare, I’m the mayor of “Stuck waiting for train” at a grade-level crossing in Windsor, CT. I’m also the mayor of the Texas and Pacific Room in Union Station in Dallas, TX – the best place ever to have a business meeting. I’m also the mayor of my dentist’s office, the Salvation Army collection bin and the local Spirit Shop, so…

When I was a kid, grade-level railroad crossings were imageway more common than they are today. For one thing, there were more trains and for another, there were fewer highways. When we would travel on vacation, I used to quietly wish that we would get stuck at a railroad crossing – preferably the first car at the gate. I loved love watching freight trains go past. I like reading the information on the cars, imagining what might be inside, where it’s been, where it’s going and how they keep everything running. Unfortunately, as I grew older, trains began losing the battle to trucks and cars and planes. The first time I had to make a long trip by myself (Pittsburgh to Atlanta) the only real option was to fly.

My first chance to ride a train was when I started working. I lived in Queens, NY (long story) and I tried just about every way imaginable to commute to Piscataway, NJ without going crazy. The drive was 51 miles. It was a smooth one-hour trip in the morning, but it could easily extend to 2-3 hours at night. I would drive to work on Monday, leave my car at the train station in Edison, NJ Monday night and take the train back and forth until Friday night. Well, I took the train to Penn Station in New York and then took the E train (subway) home. It took longer than driving on a good day but way less than driving on a bad day. The real benefit was that the length of time was consistent. I did that for several months until I needed my car one night and realized that there was no way to get it. Short-lived as it was, commuting by train(s) was the best way I’ve ever gone back and forth to work.

AMTRAK, several New England states and the Federal Government are currently working to build a high-speed light rail line along the CT River between Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT. Unfortunately, I work on the other side of the CT River from Hartford. Even more unfortunate is the fact that by the time that line is running, I will be retired. CSX advertises that it can move a ton of freight nearly 500 miles on a gallon of fuel. Doesn’t it just make sense to move thousands of people 10-15 miles? (By the way, watch that ad and tell me that it isn’t exciting).

Later this year, I have to attend a meeting in Washington, D.C. You can count on the fact that I will go by train. It will take 6 hours and 45 minutes to get there, but I can get on a train 2 miles from my house, sit down, plug my laptop in stay there until we stop in Washington. The whole time, I will be in a nice comfy seat watching the world go by outside my window. I might even do some work. It doesn’t get any better than traveling by train. It certainly doesn’t get any better by slogging to the airport, checking a bag, crawling through TSA and hoping that my bag and I meet up in Washington. Air travel might be efficient, but efficiency is really only good for cargo.

The pictures below are my two favorite trains. I’ve never been on a train pulled by a New Haven RR loco, but I still have hopes. I just think it’s a beautiful engine. The picture at the right is the train at Kennywood Park near Pittsburgh, PA. Every year that we went there, I had to ride that train with my grandmother. I would have rather been riding something fast, but it made her so very happy that I always enjoyed the ride. Happy Mother’s Day!

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About Dan Antion

Husband, father, woodworker, cyclist, photographer, geek - oh wait, I’m writing this like I only have 140 characters. I am all those things, and more, and all of these passions present me with opportunities to observe, and think about things that I can’t write about in other places. I have started this blog to catch the stuff that falls out, overflows and just plain doesn’t fit the other containers in my life.
This entry was posted in History, Nostalgia, Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

78 Responses to A Train A Train A Train A Train

  1. Dan Antion says:

    Pictures – The top picture is the AMTRAK regional crossing the Farmington River in Windor, CT. The stone arch bridge is one of my favorite things to photograph. The building in the upper right of the second picture is Union Station in Dallas. The green area on the far left is the “grassy knoll” of Dealey Plaza (President Kennedy) fame. The grade-level crossing is in Ames, IA and the two lower trains are described in the post.

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  2. katebortell says:

    Men seem to have a thing for trains ive noticed. I like them just fine but ive never understood this obsession. That having been said my collection of Amish novels would probably be lost on you. Lol. I like trains that go cross country, theyre very cool but the LIRR which ive been on countless times gets the job done But thats pretty much it for me. You would have liked Thomas the Tank if you had been a boy when that show first came out.

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  3. Dan Antion says:

    I blame it on “The Little Engine that Could” one of my favorite stories from my childhood. One of my favorite sights is when the AMTRAK train to NY turns to head into Queens and I can see the NY skyline (and I can stare at it without worrying about the driving). Thanks, and I do hope you have a happy Mother’s Day!

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  4. Sammy D. says:

    We had a ski train that went from Denver to Winter Park on weekends. Such fun because no worry about road conditions and everyone could kick back with boots off and drinks in hand after a long day on the slopes. It spoiled us for day ski trips by car!

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  5. You and I love trains. As you know, I have for many years built US Outline model trains here in the UK. Do you remember my joy when I found a copy of Mixed Train Daily by Lucius Beebe in that bookshop in Bellows Falls when we had that great ride on the Green Mountain Railroad! I also remember the pride when you pointed out to me the locos still in the New Haven Orange and Black when we changed trains in New Haven. I still read the History of the New Haven that you sent me. Dan – keep loving trains!
    David

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  6. Of course, I did recognize the beloved Dr. Seuss’s book.
    You hit home with a post about trains. I’m not a pro like you are and don’t know much about trains and even less in the US. I wish we could rely on a better system here because I would definitely travel more often aboard a train. Amtrack, here in California, takes detours that make traveling long and less pleasant than it should be. But my daughters who live in the Bay Area use the trains and rely on them. Recently I heard on NPR about a deal between Amtrack and some writers who can apply for a Writer in Residence. There are applications and the writers must write an essay about the train. But aboard Amtrack they can write anything they want. How cool is that?
    I love trains and the most exotic train I took was in Africa in the mid 80s before I started to work.
    Your post brings some nostalgia for my childhood too, because trains used to run close to one of my favorite aunts’ home, and I loved to listen to the sound of the unique whistle of the late night trains.

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks. I heard that story on NPR and I thought what a wonderful way to write. I really was happily surprised to hear that Amtrak agreed to support it. The North East Connector is probably the most reliable segment of Amtrak’s route but there are those in Congress who think it should be privatized. I hope to take the trans-Canada train, maybe after I retire.

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  7. Damyanti says:

    Reblogged this on Daily (w)rite and commented:
    Daniel Antion has been a huge supporter of my blog, and I love the way he writes. Honest, straightforward, not a word wasted.

    Today, I’m sharing with you one of his posts– he talks about trains, how they add so much meaning to a journey, and I could not agree more.

    I hate air travel (which is another way of saying I’m scared of flying), and I find the wait at airports annoying. I’d much rather be moving towards my destination than sitting on a chair waiting to get inside a tin contraption, which, as the MH370 has proved, is not adequately tracked by anybody on the ground.

    Trains, now, you could get off a train, you get to watch the scenery, and many more things besides. To tell you the rest about it, here’s Dan’s post.

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  8. Damyanti says:

    Dan, I reblogged this post. I loved everything you had to say, and I especially loved the respite from Mother’s day (more about that some other time).

    Like

  9. Julia says:

    I enjoyed your post. I too love the train, although I have limited opportunities to ride. I think the first time I was really captivated by the possibilities was reading the Dick Francis mystery “The Edge”, which is set on the trans-Canada rail crossing. I have taken Amtrak from Iowa to NYC twice and would happily do it again over driving. My goal one year soon is to head the other direction and take the Empire Builder up through Montana and the Pacific Northwest. And of course, that trans-Canada journey awaits an unexpected windfall.

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. The Trans Canada is a goal of mine. I’m on the NE Corridor 3-4 times each year, but sometimes only as far as NY. I visit Iowa each year but I’ve never gone by train. Thanks again.

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  10. josna says:

    Thanks for this post. I love trains, and wish that we could rebuilt the culture of train travel in this country. And I agree with the earlier commenter, there’s nothing like the sound of a lonely train whistle in the night, and nothing like the distinctive rhythm of a train. Train songs, too, are my among my favorite songs of all time.
    The Indian railway system is great, and in my childhood most of the engines were steam-powered. Here’s an old post of mine on the subject: http://josna.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/from-a-railway-carriage/
    and one from just the other day, after running to catch up with a steam train in England:
    http://josna.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/264-railways-real-and-imagined
    Your post does spur me to action: bring back train travel!

    Like

  11. Dan Hennessy says:

    1.We in CA are wondering whether or not we’ll build a bullet train down the middle of the state .2. I once took a train from Florida to Chicago . At that point I’d had enough and flew home . 3. Train travel is always better than air travel . 4. Rode a bullet train near Shanghai . Nice ! You got me thinking about trains . Great post .

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ve been following the debate about trains out your way a little here and there (we don’t get a lot of news from CA over here). I’d like to see trains going every which way in this country, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen.

      Like

  12. phillip says:

    Yes, trains are beautiful, journey by a train is even more beautiful and fascinating. Trains may not be as fast as aeroplanes but every train journey is worth remembering. Sometimes I wished we could travel through the entire world by train even if it took days and weeks.

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Phillip. I agree. Even the somewhat routine journey from Hartford, CT to New York City is still fascinating to me.

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  13. I prefer trains over planes myself.

    You bring up an interesting point about bloggers and their spoken (and unspoken) rules about how blogging should be. I guess you could say I do that in a way, but I always check myself to do it as suggestively and compassionately as possible.

    Trains have an alluring effect on me too. I used to dream about them ALL the time. Now I dream more about buses and planes which feels right for the season I’m in. I also started dreaming about house construction, but that’s probably because I am in the process of building my own tiny mobile home.

    I’m in the DC area myself. It’s nice to feel connected!

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks for reading Sandra and for taking the time to comment. I dream a lot about construction. I once owned a cabinet shop and home improvement contracting business. It didn’t work out, but I have done a ton of projects around our home – I’ve even finished some :)

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      • That’s amazing. You’re just the kind of person that I need to network with. Judging by your post, you seem to live in or around the Mid-Atlantice region, yes? Do you have any pointers for me as I prepare to build my tiny mobile home? I need a site to do it and I want to use as many salvaged materials as possible.

        Moreover, do you know of people I can reach out to to assist with construction? Volunteers, organizations, groups, hobbyists, etc.

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        • Dan Antion says:

          I’m in CT, so a bit north. I don’t know of any groups that focus on this. I would recommend searching through back issues (if there’s an index) of Fine Home Building. The featured projects are usually over-the-top, but the construction techniques are pretty sound. I’ll look for the specific issue, but a recent issue had an article that focused on small spaces and how to get the most out of them. You can get a lot of ideas that you can apply to almost anything. If you get the project ready to go, you might pitch it to the This Old House folks, you never know. They have worked the other side of salvage, having homes torn down by companies that reuse the building materials. You can also look to see if there are any Habitat for Humanity ReStores in your area. We have bought a few odd items from http://ecobuildingbargains.org/ in Springfield, MA – you might contact them to see if they could point you to someone in your area.

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  14. Hey. Trains, my favourite way to travel! I did an inter-rail around Eastern Europe when I was younger and all the trains had the old style corridor-and-cabin carriages (technical term??? :S ) A great experience! Saw your post through Damyanti’s blog, by the way. Happy train-journeying!

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  15. Hi Anton, I love your flight of ideas – very refreshing reading when I take a break from my routine work. Thanks :)

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  16. Deficio says:

    Several disjointed train thoughts: I love the way a rushing train pushes a wall of air that can shake your car as you watch the train pass at a crossing. As kids, we’d occasionaly cut school and sneak off to the railroad tracks and place a few coins on the track which the passing train would flatten. My wife and I plan to one day ride the Orient Express, dressing as if it were 1934.

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope your plans for that trip come to fruition, that would be an amazing trip. I do like the rushing air, even when it’s from an oncoming train on the next track over. Sometimes on the Northeast Corridor here in the US (not sure where you are) the opposite train sneaks up on a curve and catches me by surprise, but my only complaint is that I wasn’t able to get a picture.

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  17. Hey Dan, what a fantastic post! I love trains and prefer them a million times more than planes. Where I live in North London, we’re not too far from the top of the tube line and I love lying in bed on summer nights, listening to the trains setting off across the city. There’s no sound better than the rumble of wheels on a steel track for conjuring up all the romance and possibilities of setting off on a journey. When I was (much) younger, I took the train from London Victoria to St Petersburg in Russia, a journey of three days – an amazing experience that’s stayed with me ever since! And as a student in Russia, I occasionally travelled on the overnight “Red Arrow” between Moscow and St Petersburg. Of course Anna Karenina invariably came to mind as I lay in cosy bunk, watching the moonlit forests slip by and sipping hot, sweet tea made by the carriage attendant and served, even at the height of the Soviet Union, in glasses with silver filigree holders. You’re probably familiar with Paul Theroux’s work, but if not, he’s written several books about train journeys and they’re well worth a read.

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks so much to the delightful comment Veronica. I had to be in London last September for business and I took the train out to Bletchley Park. I did pretty well with the train, but I got lost a few times walking to the station from my hotel. I tacked on a couple of vacation days at the end of the trip to visit a friend in Ipswich. With his help, I found the London area station that wouldn’t involve changing trains. I really enjoyed the ride through the countryside and I was so glad to be traveling by train.

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      • Thanks for the follow! Bletchley makes a good day trip with the kids for us, and well worth a visit. Did you get to see the Lorenz machines and the Colossus? Amazing aren’t they?

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        • Dan Antion says:

          I did get to see those machines. I had never been to England and my friends were all surprised that the one tourist attraction I wanted to see was Bletchley Park but it was amazing and very much worth the effort. The mansion was off limits that day, but I hope to be back again.

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          • Yeah, it’s not terribly well known about even here, though it’s become more so recently. During the war, and even for many years afterwards, it was very much kept secret and people weren’t allowed to talk about the work that was done there. I guess enough time has passed now and besides, these days, spying takes place in other facilities and with much newer technologies. What happened there definitely shortened WWII, but I’m not sure the legacy of it is wholly beneficial, or sufficiently within public control…

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  18. stephie5741 says:

    We priced a train trip out west last year and it was way too expensive, especially if you wanted a bed. That was a multi-day trip, though, so a bed would be required. A six-hour trip might not be so bad…

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Yeah, thew trip I want to do across Canada requires a bed and it is very expensive. Maybe a retirement gift to myself :) Thanks fro stopping by and leaving a comment.

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  19. Paul says:

    Another good post, Dan! You’re right about trains. They just have this appeal that other modes of transportation lack. I remember waiting at railroad crossings when I was a kid and counting the cars. Nice memory!

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  20. Tom says:

    Hi Dan. I spent five years commuting by train. I would cycle to the station, take a train lasted an hour. Get in a nine-hour day at work, and then reverse the travelling, but usually with a 30 minute wait for the return journey.
    At first I wasn’t too pleased because I’ve always enjoyed the independence of my car, but I soon realised that instead of being caught up in traffic, and getting stressed, I could be on a train, reading my Kindle, or working on my latest story.
    I’m not a massive fan of trains for what they are, but I do appreciate what they can provide with regard to other forms of transport.
    Good post!

    Like

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Tom. Cycling and trains are my two favorite modes of transport. Unfortunately, I don’t get to do either often enough. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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  21. elixired says:

    I loved what you said about train travels. Indeed they are best for short journey. I love traveling through train when journey is not more than a day- enjoying nature, talking to fellow passengers, working with full concentration or reading a book! While Planes when train journey is longer than a day!!

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks! When the travel is longer than a day, I do fly, but that’s usually because I’m visiting someone and I’d rather get there to see them than indulge my fantasy :)

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  22. sinnerz13 says:

    I love travel full stop! I have travelled 5 continents and seen different parts in different ways. I have treked, sailed, driven by car, taken buses, taken trains, canoed, cycled and flown. I don’t think I have left any type out.

    The best way to see the world is on foot, but of course that is not always possible. I love slow travel by bus as you can see everything through the window. I have travelled by luxury bus and travelled like a a squished sardine, both ways were exciting.

    Trains are also a great way to travel. I remember the excitement as a child when my grandma took me to London by train. The views of fields of beautiful country side before seeing the cityscape of the greatest London monuments were amazing. I still feel the same excitement now. Trains in India are out if this world as they go on and on an on. People hanging out of doors and windows before rushing out at the station and then back on again when the train starts to move. I have slept on a train through Thailand as we had bunk beds. The novelty of travelling this way was very exciting. I had the surprises of taking a train in Bolivia where one carriage was a restaurant and the seats were so comfy. Seeing a new country by train is a real eye opener. Seeing the landscapes change as the train chugs along.

    I live near a small town where steam trains still run. The posh interiors of first class travel make you feel very special. Drinking tea as you hear the choo choo of the train fills me with excitement and it helps me imagine those English gents and ladies as they travelled through the Victorian era when trains were a thing of majestic engineering. I agree trains are a great way to travel :)

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    • Dan Antion says:

      That all sounds so wonderful. My travel has mostly been limited to the United States, although I have lived north, south, eats and west so I’ve seen a bunch of it. I’ve been on historic railways that run steam locos for 15-20 miles, but not really anything you could call travel. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your perspective.

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  23. I didn’t travel on a train until I came to live in the U.S.A. I love “people watching” when I am on the train in NY. I’ve traveled from Queens to Manhattan at different times of the day and the trains always seem to be full. Enjoy your train ride to the meeting! :)

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks for the comment. When I take AMTRAK into NY, the train turns and goes through Queens, It’s further west than where I lived, but it still feels good.

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  24. triplec97 says:

    I’m only 17 years old, but I am a strong supporter of increasing the number of passenger rail trains and freight trains through my home area near Seattle. I have only been on a train twice: once I was on a 3-mile steam-engine scenic railroad near Mount Rainier, and the other time was when I caught the Sounder Commuter Rail from my town’s train station with members of my school’s Honor Society to go watch a Mariner’s game in Seattle.

    The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro has some of the most congested highways in North America. Even worse, there aren’t any plans to improve the main freeways that span the region. Only the city of Seattle itself is benefiting. On the other side, a solution could be found with trains. There are multiple BNSF rail lines that span the entire state. Sounder already runs from Lakewood to Everett (over 50 miles), but more stops and trains could be added to boost ridership. Then there are the frequent Amtrak Cascades and Amtrak Coast Starlights that pass through the region. WSDOT does plan to introduce high speed rail between Tacoma and Portland sometime though, which should be interesting.

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    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a comment. I lived in Seattle from 1978-1981 and traffic was bad then. I’ve been back several times and I was amazed at how much traffic there is and how long “rush hour” conditions seem to last. I’ve never understood why they haven’t embraced rail travel in a big way, given the rich history and rail system. Thanks again.

      Like

  25. maximusaurus says:

    I too love trains, one of my Aspie passions!

    Like

  26. kristilynk says:

    I happen to live in one of the biggest metropolitan areas (Phoenix, AZ) that does NOT have commuter trains :/ It’s quite devastating. The 1st time I rode a train was in from CT to NY (visiting a friend) and I loved it. The smooth, yet slightly metallic giggle of the train, the power and the sight seeing were my favorite parts. Thanks for bringing those memories back to life for me :)

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  27. bythetrail says:

    What a great post! I love travelling by train/car/bus for the exact same reasons you`ve mentioned. It`s amazing to see the changing of the landscape, and also gives perfect opportunity to think.
    Last summer, I did a 24 hours long bus trip from London to Vienna, then did some sightseeing there while waiting for my family to pick me up, and finally two hours in the car home. It took much longer than by train but would do it again if I had the time for it – preferably by train next time. Trains are way better than buses.

    Like

    • Dan Antion says:

      Wow, 24 hours by bus seems tough but I can see how it would be interesting. Bus travel for me has gone badly at times. Train travel has a better history for me but I think the best part of both is that I’m a passenger. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  28. Miss Lou says:

    Some pretty rich history! I have not been a train for YEARS… I did get some awesome shots of one on a vacation recently as it went past – the Ghan (gorgeous luxury Passenger train that goes from top to bottom of Australia)

    The last time I went on one was through Cairns – and all I remember doing was looking out the window and there was nothing. Noth.ing. We were going past falls to the right and big gaping hole underneath. I almost crapped my pants! Never again I said! ( I was 10 lol)

    Then of course, I got into London and there was just no fast way to get from Heathrow to Earls Court and so onto the Underground I went. – Completely different experience and I have to admit I kept my eyes closed alot of the way…

    Great post!

    ML
    x

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  29. Dan Antion says:

    OooooooKay, maybe trains are not your thing :) I’ve always wanted to take the Trans Canada train. Of course I set aside the memory of having driven across Canada (as well as the US) and experiencing plenty of nothing between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Thanks for stopping by.

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  32. I rode a train in Scotland from Edinburgh through Glasgow and up the West Coast to Arisaig. The misty blue Atlantic on one side, forest and lochs on the other. I sat at a table making art with colored pencils while the wind smelled of sea and pine. It was glorious. One of the best afternoons of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. LindaGHill says:

    I really do love trains. It’s a great way to travel long distances – I was lucky to have had the opportunity to ride the Shinkansen (bullet train) when I was in Japan ten years ago, on a trip from Hiroshima to Kyoto. Funny enough, it didn’t seem that fast from the inside.
    I’d take the train everywhere if I could afford it. Here, gas is cheaper.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. afarawayhome says:

    I love trains (although I love funicular railways the best). I like seeing the countryside and cities you pass through. I travel in Europe a lot and it makes me sad when the American and Australian tourists travel from one city to another by plane instead of train. The trains in Europe are (in general) so comfy, quick and quiet… plus you get to feel like a proper old-time adventurer, listening to station announcements in strange languages and hoping you’ve got the right platform. You don’t get that magic on a plane.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I love traveling by train. I take Amtrak whenever it’s possible, which unfortunately isn’t that often. I enjoy it, though, when I do. It’s the only civilized way to travel. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Every time we see a train we also say “a train, a train, a train, a train”, even if my girls are young adults now. Nice piece Dan. Juliet

    Liked by 1 person

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