For my American Nomad blog, I recently posted an article about train travel. Although Dan and I frequently travel by car, we’ve certainly been known to board a train or two over the years. Before I even met Dan, I had ridden my fair share of trains, even taking Amtrak’s City of New Orleans from the Big Easy (my hometown) to Chicago (where I was attending college at the time). And right after meeting Dan (but before we were an “item”), I took a trip to Italy, where I experienced a six-hour train ride from Venice to Rome – what an amazing journey that was!
When Dan and I lived in England, we often used trains to get from Henley-on-Thames, where we were living, to towns like Reading and London. It really was a more efficient and less harrowing way to travel than driving on Britain’s poorly marked roadways. And, of course, while residing in places like Chicago and Los Angeles, we used the public trains a lot – especially in the Windy City, which has a truly incredible system. Chicago’s trains almost always got us to our destination on time – whether it was an office building in the Loop or the Midway airport – and it was so much cheaper and faster than driving in the Chicagoland area.
Although I never collected trains as a child, I’ve always been fascinated with them. Despite the decline in U.S. train travel over the past century, America’s history will forever be intertwined with locomotives – and there’s nothing quite like riding the rails. If you don’t have time for a lengthy Amtrak journey, there are plenty of smaller lines throughout the country, offering short, nostalgic train rides for visitors. And, in lieu of that, you can always take the silly tourist train rides on offer in certain resort towns, such as Key West’s Conch Tour Train. Hey, don’t laugh – it’s fun!
While doing my research for the travel article, I discovered this interesting partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service. Called Trails & Rails, the program “provides rail passengers with educational opportunities that foster an appreciation of a selected region’s natural and cultural heritage... promotes National Park Service areas...” and attempts “to encourage train ridership” – which I think is pretty awesome. Apparently, Amtrak and the National Park Service are also helping to celebrate the next National Train Day (yes, we have one of those), which is scheduled for next May. I’m personally heartened by all this attention to train travel, which is slowly becoming a thing of the past.
So, do any of you have fond memories of past train rides? Or is it time to take your first trip?
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