“If a train leaves Springfield, Massachusetts at 5:55 am, heading south at 75 miles per hour, when will it reach Windsor Locks, Connecticut?”
Yes, it’s National Train Day. Before I proceed with my annual NTD post, I want to thank a few friends for joining me this year. Sharukh is giving us a series of posts about trains in India. Mary snuck in two posts, one about trains and just to get my full attention, one about a train-depot-turned-brewery in Wisconsin. In addition, Mary talked Joanne into sharing a post about trains in Canada. Cheryl and Kate are posting today, I’ll put their links up tomorrow.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, an industrial city, where trains were essential to the economy. Trains, rail yards, bridges and hundreds of miles of twin steel rails were important. Seeing a train moving alongside of us or sitting at a grade-level crossing, counting the freight cars, were special moments in my childhood. Both still make me smile.
During the past two years, I’ve made the longest trip I’ve ever made by train – Windsor Locks, CT to Washington, DC, three times. Some people look at me and shake their heads at the thought that I’d choose to spend 6 ½ hours on a train instead of flying. I tell them that even if air travel was like it was in the 60s, I’d still take the train.
The train, by the way, is AMTRAK’s Northeast Regional. Specifically, it’s the version of that train that originates in Springfield, MA, as opposed to the one that starts in Boston. Oh, the answer to the word problem, yeah, I didn’t give you enough information, I am all-aboard at 6:13 am. I settle into my seat and before we get to Hartford, I have my coffee, and maybe a snack. I do my best to check email, work on a few projects and read stuff for work, but there’s an infinite distraction whizzing by me at (up to) 80 mph. Nature. History. America. It doesn’t get any better than seeing that from a train.
The naysayers would tell me that the railroads are in need of repair. The trains are slow, compared to trains in other countries. The America unfolding alongside the tracks is old, often failing and covered in graffiti.
That may be true, or at least partially true, but it doesn’t bother me. Once I get on that train, I am stoked! I ride by historic train stations in New Haven, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, under two rivers, over several large bodies of water and along one of the few paths in America that has been traveled for centuries. I could fly with the politicians, diplomats and lobbyists. I could drive with the caffeine powered crazies that grind their way down I-95, but I choose the luxury and comfort of a train.
Luxury? Comfort? AMTRAK? I see the doubtful thought bubble forming over your head. Yes, luxury and comfort. A nicely padded seat. Lots of legroom. A restroom I can turn around in. An outlet for my gadgets. A free place to put my luggage and free WiFi.
I could take a faster train to Washington, DC. AMTRAK’s Acela makes the trip in less time, but I’d have to drive to or change trains in New Haven to get that train. I don’t want to drive. I don’t want to change trains, and I don’t really like the Acela. The Acela is a modern train, with airplane like seats and, as far as I’m concerned, a less comfortable ride. The Acela is a train that caters to your desire to get from Point-A to Point-B. I want to get there, but I want to enjoy the ride.
Regardless of the direction I’m traveling, the ride can be broken roughly in half at New York City. From Windsor Locks, I head south to New Haven, then we turn right (west) to New York/ I get to see New York City as the train rolls above the streets of Queens and Brooklyn, before heading under the East River. After a stop at Penn Station, we see a little sunlight, then the train proceeds under the Hudson River. We arrive topside in New Jersey, and, after Newark, we hang a left (south) on our way to DC, via Trenton, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
I could talk about trains and this particular train, all day long. But, I have a ton of pictures today, so I’ll stop blabbing and let you get to the galleries.
Windsor Locks to New York City
New York to Washington, DC