North America by train; a passion, not friends-with-benefits

“Railway termini are our gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return.” E M Forster

I’ve traveled across North America by plane time and again. It’s rather tedious. Traveling to an airport on the outskirts of a city in an expensive taxi or dirt-slow shuttle; waiting in line for ticketing; waiting in line to check bags; waiting in line for security; waiting in line to board; waiting on the tarmac; delays; turbulence; flatulence.

We take off. Then land. I’m magically in a new corner within hours. Maybe I crossed mountains. Perhaps a river. I’m pretty sure we passed farms, cities and villages. Flying is a friends-with-benefits approach to travel. You get there just fine, but it’s not as meaningful as travel should be.

So, when my schedule permits, I love to travel by train. Amtrak and VIA Rail are both awesome. Interesting fellow-travelers, plenty of space to stretch out and, of course, those incredible views. A chance to see the “real” America between glimmering cities. This is “slow travel” at its very best.

Many train stations epitomise a bygone era of travel… heightening the excitement and anticipation of fellow travelers waiting in grand concourses.

I’ve almost crossed America by train. Sadly, though, I have to wait until 2020 before a route might exist to complete my journey: Denver to Albuquerque. A neat interactive map heralds America’s hopes and dreams for an impressive high-speed network. This is exciting. This could be the future.

I mapped my rail and bus travel:

Travels to date by rail and bus

A couple of photos from recent train journeys…

Adirondack

View from the window of Amtrak's "Adirondack" train (New York to Montreal)

Another…

View from the window of VIA Rail's "The Canadian" train

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About Paul Chibeba

Paul Chibeba now lives in London and works for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew after having spent nine years living and working in New York City.
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1 Response to North America by train; a passion, not friends-with-benefits

  1. Tiera Laursen says:

    The network of railways in Plymouth, Devon, England, was developed by companies affiliated to two competing railways, the Great Western Railway and the London and South Western Railway. At their height two main lines and three branch lines served 28 stations in the Plymouth area, but today just six stations remain in use. The first uses of railway in the area were wooden rails used during the construction of docks facilities. ”

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