America By Rail Blog

posted on November 04, 2011

Rail travel was the primary mode of transportation in America for the first half of the 19th century. Railroads served as the connection between East and West and were by far the fastest and most convenient means by which to travel. Today, train technology has advanced and despite fewer rails, train travel can be a comfortable and exhilarating alternative to traditional forms of transport.

“I am not an expert. Just a fan,” says train enthusiast Marianne O'Hare, “And I have had some truly unimaginable experiences on trains. I live in Connecticut where the Metro North is a conduit into the City so you are bound to meet kindred spirits on the train, which happens constantly. I have several dear friends in my camp that I first met on that train. I got a job at the United Nations from someone I met on a train.”

John Pitt, the author of The USA by Rail guidebook and owner of weighs in: "A record 2.1 million passengers rode Amtrak trains in January 2011 as more people rediscover the benefits of US rail travel. Long-distance trains are romantic, comfortable, ecologically sound, inexpensive and full of character.” 

You can see all corners of the Earth via train and you need not search for platform nine and three quarters to hop aboard Hogwarts Express to do so. Not convinced rail travel may be for you? We did some digging and came up with these six reasons why a train trip may be in your future.

1.    Comfort

Traveling by train offers the luxury of being able to move freely around the cabin. Additionally, there is ample foot room, sleeper cabins, and restaurant cars providing amenities for long trips.  Train travel does not have the turbulence often experienced in airplanes, the seasickness felt in boats, nor does it feel cramped like car travel.

“More like mobile hotels, they have gleaming aluminum twin-decked coaches; air-conditioning, observation cars and uniformed attendants who make you feel as if you have stepped into a 1930s movie. Overnight trains also have sleeping cars with cozy bedrooms,” adds Pitt.

2.    Family Oriented

Rail travel is ideal for families with kids and the elderly as it allows for as much up or downtime as needed for comfortable travel. Families are easily able to spend comfortable, quality time with one another while the train is in transit, an added benefit that is not as easy to take advantage of when traveling by air or car.

“Children are particularly well catered for with games and other amusements, rarely becoming bored when they have the thrill of riding the tracks and making new friends,” says Pitt.

3.    Stress-Free Environment

Unlike hectic airports and traffic-laden highways, rail travel offers the chance to sit back and relax. There are private cars for quiet travel or multi-passenger cars if you prefer to make new friends. Security is not as time-consuming or stressful as airport security and baby strollers and larger luggage are able to fit on board without hassle.

4.    Scenery

Rail travel provides the opportunity to really take in the views. Unlike air and car travel, trains’ wide-open windows and relaxing atmosphere provide passengers with unlimited entertainment. Train travel, unlike its counterparts, offers a unique experience, as passengers are able to take in beautiful sights while making their way to their final destination.

The same level of sightseeing is difficult to achieve in a car, where access to mountains, overpasses, and remote locations can be limited. Being responsible for driving a vehicle and navigating also hinder travelers’ abilities to take in the sights, which is a non-issue on a train.

“Instead of racing above the clouds, you see an entire continent unroll outside the wraparound windows,” says Pitt.

5.    History

Rail travel has a rich history that can be seen in the various historic rail stations and felt in the onboard cabins. The vintage feel of railways takes passengers back in time making it a perfect way by which to view historic landmarks and landscapes.

6.    Camaraderie

Because of the relaxed environment of train travel, there are many opportunities to make new friends from individuals from all around the world.

“Trains foist upon us unsuspecting opportunities to connect with one another… and the rhythmic sounds of the train as a backdrop to the conversation only propels it into something more worthy of sensory memory,” coos O’Hare.

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