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Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Trip By Train

Before this weekend, I had never taken the train in the United States; the subway, yes, a train in Europe, yes.  But never in the United States.  However, I am increasingly disappointed and vexed with the rapidly degrading service and increasing cost of airplane travel, so I decided to try my trip by Amtrak -- I needed to get to Ohio to visit my parents.  Below is the travelog I wrote on my from Springfield, MA, to Pittsburgh, PA.

6:30AM departure.  We took the river route out of Springfield, past farms and forests, rolling across the countryside of New England. My seat was by the window, with plenty of leg room and two power outlets on the wall to my right. It was early and the train was quiet, starting off slowly and picking up speed. Occasionally the horn sounded, but it seemed quite in the distance. The seats seem more spacious than the typical airplane seats; they definitely have more legroom.
There is some sorrow in traveling by ground -- it means seeing not only the beauty of the country, but also the dirtier side of things -- like all the trash people dump behind their houses and in the wood where they think no one will see and the refuse from manufacturing.
We pass through neighborhoods and past marshlands and between trees of the forests, and though I brought lots of reading, I can't take my eyes off the window.  The train runs along the river much of the time.
A stop at a pass-through, and now stop at Windsor station. "Takeoffs" and "landings" are so smooth, with none of the stomach-jumping you get in an airplane. This car of the train is starting to fill up, and I guess I am surprised, not realizing how popular trains still are (or have become again).
Taking the train across the countryside of America, I feel like I should be singing "This land is your land."
Hartford. Lots of people getting on here. I might have a seat-mate.  Kensington. Stop. Wallingford.  I love all these classic old train stations, their stone and brick and wood architecture.

Amtrak 143, making all scheduled stops all the way to Washington D.C.  New Haven.  Train has nearly filled up.  8:37 Bridgeport, CT.  Stamford. Coming soon to Penn Station.  New Rochelle.
Penn Station. The bathroom stalls are much too small, but there is a nice waiting area for ticketed Amtrak passengers and plenty of places to get food.
The new train, Pennsylvanian 43, has curtains and foot rests, outlets at my seat, and even more space available. Some seats face each other. I, of course, in seeking a window seat, end up with a big curtain at my shoulder, but a nice big window ahead of me. Heading out any minute now.
Rolling along, the PA43 is not as smooth as the other train -- a bumpier ride, but faster with fewer stops.
I am reading "The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age," and there is quite a bit of railroad history included, which makes it seem like an appropriate read for the day.
With a thirty minute wait, in Philadelphia I got off the train; the station here is beautiful. It is full of little restaurants and shops, but the architecture is high. Such a pity that travel has become so low, when there once was such beauty and class. 
Apparently, rail travel has increased 44% from 2001-2011; that's fairly significant.

No wifi on this train, though it was promised on the website.  Perhaps I am not on the wifi car, or this is one of the trains without.
One of the best differences between train and plane is that when you look out the windows of a train, there's actually something to see -- for the whole trip! And I could spend hours, perhaps days, watching out a window; it is more refreshing than even watching a movie.

People still wave at passing trains -- kids boating down the river, people standing in their yard, a fisherman.
5:17. Soon to be rounding the famous Horseshoe Curve. Trains slowly making their way through the curves of the foothills of the mountains. I fear a freight train blocked most of my view of the horseshoe curve, but what I was able to see was impressive.
Dinner on the train is a chicken caesar salad ($8) and a carton of milk ($2!).  I have snacks, but am getting a bit tired of those.  The cafe car has a fairly decent selection of eats.
The train is quiet and not nearly as crowded.  With a few more stops to go, people seem to be settling in for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh!  Twenty minutes early.  There is a classic Ohio Railroad car on the tracks; I should have taken a picture. 
Now I have some time to relax before my ride arrives.

I did not write on my return trip.  I had three trains, instead of two, though the route was very similar.  One of my trains was delayed and overbooked, causing a delay all the way up the line and getting me into Springfield about 30 minutes late.  All the return trains had wifi, but functionality depended on how many other people were trying to access it at the same time as me.  Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed my journey by train and am looking forward to another trip.  And hopefully I can replace planes and automobiles with trains more often -- so many advantages..
Happy travels!


Melissa said...

Traveling by train is on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing the experience!

emily said...

It is definitely worth it -- even with the few problems (like maybe it should be faster and more stations should have a little parking), but I can't wait to do it again!

Dennis said...

Loved your trip blog. How long did it take to arrrive in Pittsburg?

emily said...

Thank you, Dennis! My trip to Pittsburgh took about 13 hours. I can drive it faster than that (trains with a little more speed would be appreciated), but I can't drive and read, or drive and nap, or drive and walk around.... Well worth it, I thought.