Travel Talk

Let’s Take The Train

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Often, I hear people say they would like to take a train trip. So would I.

The popularity of train travel has greatly increased since gas prices have risen and air travel costs have soared. And, let’s face it, flying is a pain in the nostril these days. America’s passenger rail network is AMTRAK. This was a government takeover of our passenger trains in 1971. Since then, the system has struggled for funding and with the use of privately owned rails. Today, it is attempting to purchase new equipment, modernize its systems and realign its network to fit the needs of today’s market. Recently, Congress gave AMTRAK a good slice of funding toward these goals. It will take time, but for now many of our trains are quite nice and comfortable. Service standards are improving along with the amenities being offered on longer distance trains.

Where does AMTRAK go? In the West it provides services up and down the Pacific Coast from San Diego to Seattle.

Across the country you can travel from Los Angeles east to Chicago and beyond to New York. The same service is available from San Francisco/Oakland and from Seattle and Portland.

From Payson, you can drive to Flagstaff, park the car and board a train to Chicago or Los Angeles. From Maricopa you can train west to L.A. or train southeast to New Orleans and on to Florida.

Trains are more plentiful in the Midwest and East.

From Chicago, train travel is available to many locations with rather frequent schedules. The Northeast portion of the U.S. is where high-speed trains operate especially in the corridor between Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. The Acela trains travel up to 155 miles per hour on some stretches.

From Washington, D.C. you can travel down the east coast through the south into Florida.

One of the nicer trains operating with improved services, food and amenities is the Coast Starlight, which travels from Los Angeles up the coast to Oakland and on to Portland and Seattle. The dining car now offers freshly prepared cuisine. For the children, the Arcade Room will entertain kids of all ages with a great selection of arcade-style video games. Coach passengers will find big, comfortable seats, plenty of legroom and new, larger pillows plus available at-seat meal service. Sleeping car passengers can experience a full range of exclusive services available in the Parlor Car. Passengers enjoy complimentary meals in the dining car or the parlor car, plus a welcome gift and amenity kit that includes shampoo, soaps and lotions.

Trains Unlimited offers space on the Sierra Madre Express traveling between Tucson and Mexico’s Copper Canyon. This charter train will travel through Mexico’s rugged region of the Sierra Madre Mountains, down the west coast of Mexico and through 87 tunnels and over 35 bridges as it climbs into Mexico’s version of our Grand Canyon. The train is privately owned by a U.S. company and consists of six rail cars that were built in the streamlined era of American railroading. These cars have been beautifully maintained and updated as necessary to provide first class rail travel. The all-Pullman train offers a selection of various sized staterooms. The train also has a round-end observation car.

All your meals are included plus a stay at Hotel Mision in the village of Cerocahui and Hotel Posada Barrancas Mirador at the rim of the Canyon. For this eight-day trip, fares begin at $3,895. Phone 1-800-359-4870 for more information and a brochure.

Another company, L.A. Rail, offers an interesting trip from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, N.M. departing Oct. 2. This six-day rail journey travels to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque and returns to Los Angeles via private restored rail cars with Pullman accommodations. You’ll travel on the Santa Fe railway which was once the route of the famous Super Chief. This trip is available to only 40 lucky travelers. You have a choice of spacious suites to comfortable fortable roomettes. The train will have an “open back porch car” to enjoy each mile ticking off as the track passes beneath you. Fares begin at $995. Phone L.A. Rail at 1-714-309-3925.

Another fascinating vacation includes historic rails and scenic sails exploring the sights of five New England states. Mayflower Tours is offering a nine-day trip beginning in Boston with tours visiting the important sights of that city then to some of the most scenic and historic parts of New England. You’ll enjoy the Green Mountains traveling on the Green Mountain Flyer, cruising on the riverboat Becky Thatcher. You’ll also travel on the Essex Steam Train, visit Hyannis Port with a cruise, and enjoy a lobster dinner at Cape Cod. This inclusive tour departs Boston Oct. 4, 7, 9 and 11. The colors of fall foliage will be a bonus on these departures. Rates begin at $1,769 on a twin basis. For information and reservations call Accent On Travel at 1-800-347-0645.

Brewster Tours in Canada offers an eight-day, seven-night tour of the Canadian Rockies using VIA Rail’s Canadian. Departing from Vancouver, your streamlined train will travel through some of the greatest scenery in North America. The Brewster Tour offers sightseeing in Jasper with excursions to Medicine Lake, Maligne Lake and Canyon then back on the train to Toronto crossing the parries while enjoying the amenities of this first class train. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and offers great shopping restaurants and attractions you would expect in a city of this size. This inclusive vacation begins at $2,954. Call 1-800-347-0645 for more information.

Also, in Canada, Rocky Mountaineer Vacations offer spectacular rail adventures using its own private rail cars. It is a first class operation with years of experience providing inclusive rail tours lasting from five days to 12 days. You can see as much of the Canadian Rockies as your time and pocket book permit. It’s hard to find better scenery than this part of the world. Contact this company at 1-877-460-3200 for a brochure outlining their fantastic rail tours.

We can’t forget the wonderful one-day rail tours on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad operating form Chama, N.M. to Antonita, Colo. Phone 1-888-CUMBRES.

Another near-by train adventure is the Durango & Silverton excursion, operating from Durango, Colo. to Silverton, Colo. To learn more, phone 1-877-TRAIN-07.

These two trains operate during the spring, summer and fall.

Another company you may wish to check out owns three cars from the famous California Zephyr and run rail tours to various parts of the U.S. You can call them at 1-714-751-2032.

Rail travel is “in” again, so look into the various offerings provided by some of the companies we have listed. Accent On Travel specializes in rail travel all over the world, so give them a call. They are the experts. Phone 1-800-347-0645.

Your local travel professionals can also help you plan a train trip.

Have a wonderful time wherever the rails might wander. All aboard!

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