As the Millennial Trains Project begins, I wanted to resurface a piece I wrote in 2013 when I took my first overnight train. Little did I know that a 10 day cross-country train journey was in my future...
There’s something magical about trains.
First and foremost, trains don't make me abhor traveling long distances. Other forms of transportation encourage gritted teeth and a racing pulse with the pressure of getting ahead- whether that’s switching lanes on the highway to get in front of that lumbering tractor trailer, or scooting in front of that guy with a million bags at the airport security checkpoint, our minds are programmed to hurry through the transportation process as quickly as possible. Gone are the days of glamorous air travel and leisurely Sunday drives. Cars and planes are simply vessels to get to our destination.
But trains…trains are different. I’m talking traditional, long distance passenger locomotives, the kind with dining cars and conductors. Picture the ones from children’s storybooks or old movies; gleaming machines that creep through the countryside like great beasts.
From the moment you step off the platform into that great metal car, you sacrifice all control of the trip. No amount of scheming or frustration will make an ounce of difference in your arrival time. You just have to trust that the train will get there when it gets there, and you are simply along for the ride. There’s nothing to do but settle in and peer out the window at the passing countryside. If you were on a plane, you’d see nothing but clouds and distant skyline. If you were in a car, your eyes would be confined to the road below and bumper in front. But trains give you a ticket to experience sections of the country that you may never have seen otherwise. The land passes by the window like an elegant motion picture, and you are one of the few lucky enough to see it. As the world passes by, the steady, rhythmic motion of the tracks makes you pause, if only for a moment, and breathe.
Traveling on a train is truly an experience, not just a vessel to deliver you at your destination. They add a touch of luxury in a world where people tolerate travel only as a means to an end. And although I’ll quickly return to the necessary car trips and flights, I’ll always view train travel as bit of a treat.