Train travel is gaining ridership in North America. Why? It is comfortable, relaxing and in some cases rather inexpensive. For more than 40 years the government has operated the passenger train service in the United States. In Canada it’s VIA.
There was a time in North America when rail travel carried the most passengers from point A to point B and almost everywhere in-between. Shortly after World War II rail ridership began a decline and finally in 1971 the government took over passenger train service in America. For many years AMTRAK operated a rather skeletal route system with poor schedules and even poorer equipment.
More recently new equipment has been placed in service and schedules have been improved. On most long-haul routes Superliner equipment is in use. These cars consist of two levels. The upper level is for passenger seating while lower level is for baggage storage and restrooms. The Pullman (sleeper) accommodations use both levels for private rooms. These rooms vary in size from roomettes (for one person) on up to bedrooms (for two persons) and family rooms for more than two persons. All private room accommodations offer toilet and washbowl facilities, which are enclosed. In the larger rooms you have your own shower in the bathroom. The chair-cars give you roomy seats with plenty of leg room much like that found in aircraft business-class. The Superliner equipment provides a smooth ride and plenty of glass to see the wonderful scenery as it whizzes by your windows.
On many longer routed trains you can enjoy three meals in the diner. Costs are just a little higher than you find in a restaurant at home. However, you are in a special situation riding the rails at 80 MPH and enjoying a meal and accompanying service.
Train travel is usually hassle-free. You don’t have to show up at the train station two or more hours before departure as you do with air travel. Just 20 minutes ahead of schedule is usually sufficient to purchase tickets and board the train. AMTRAK also does not charge for bags in the over-head or baggage car. More and more airlines “little you to death” with extra charges which not only can be costly but annoying.
The main rail routes in the United States operate up and down the West Coast between San Diego and Seattle, across the country between Los Angeles and Chicago, San Francisco and Chicago, Seattle and Chicago as well as service to smaller cities throughout the West and Midwest. There is also good service from Chicago south to New Orleans and all points in-between and trains to New York and New England, and south to Florida.
In Canada VIA offers good schedules and equipment out of Vancouver to various points North and East including the dazzling Canadian Rockies.
Important points in the Rockies include Jasper National Park, Lake Louise and Banff. There are many other important scenic points you will discover while there.
If you have the time and pocket book to travel by train from Vancouver East to Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City do so. This is a four-night passage on the famed Canadian. This train provides great service, meals and memorable scenery. You travel through the Rockies in the afternoon of the second day. The Canadian has both chair car and sleeper accommodations. It also has very fine lounge cars and a diner. If you have a sleeper ticket (private room) your meals are included. The long-haul trains make several stops along the way where you can stretch your lets and get some fresh air.
Probably one of the best private trains in North America is in Canada and called the Rocky Mountaineer. Many rail cars on this train have been built more recently and many travelers find the Mountaineer newer and more luxurious. The Rocky Mountaineer is different from VIA rail in that it covers the scenery during the day then stops at night and places passengers in motels and hotels for a good nights rest, then transfers you back to the train which continues on to the next points of interest.
Today, 68 percent of rail travelers are age 40 to 70. Younger people use trains for shorter hauls such as San Diego to Los Angeles or Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.
Some train travelers consider train travel romantic. And, you travel from center of city to center of city. Some airports are located “out of the high rent district” quite far from the city.
Train travel is also ideal for families. The young ones can walk up and down the aisles and there are also interesting points of interest along the way. You will also find WiFi available on most trains at your seat.
Glacier National Park is one of AMTRAK’s leading destinations. You can train there from Seattle with an overnight along the way. One of these days we want to take the Starlight train from Los Angles up the West Coast to Seattle where we can spend a couple nights, then board the train for Glacier Park and spend three days there sightseeing. When I was quite young I was with the family on a train heading east out of Seattle and we went through Glacier Park and I still remember the beauty of the area. It’s much like the Canadian Rockies. There are tours you can purchase through
AMTRAK that will include Glacier National Park and surrounding area.
Other tours you may purchase include the West Coast Spectacular, a 10-night journey that includes Seattle, Napa Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles and more.
There are interesting train trips all over the world today. One is the Deccan Odyssey’s luxury train to the Deccan Plateau, India. You travel the state of Maharashtra including Mumbai, Goa and Kolhapus. The train has 44 air-conditioned suites for 88 passengers. Your meals are taken mostly in the diner with fine wines.
You can cross Australia by train using private cabins aboard and don’t forget the Trans Siberian operating between Moscow and Shanghai, which takes a week.
Here at home you can travel from the West to Chicago, change trains to New York for a few days, then head south to Miami and soak up the sun before returning home in the West. You could also spend a couple days in New Orleans visiting some of the famous restaurants while in the French Quarter.
The fares vary depending on the season you wish to travel. Most vacationers use the rails during May through September. There are rail passes, hot-deals and discounts. It all depends on the age of the passenger and date of travel.
Be sure to take interesting reading material in case the scenery becomes boring.
In the future, there may be high-speed rail service in the United States. Right now there is talk of a line running between San Diego and San Francisco, which will run through Los Angeles. If the train travels at 250 MPH it will take a very short time between L.A. and San Francisco.
I have also read that there may be a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando, Fla.
Some have talked about a line between Southern California and Las Vegas.
I don’t know where the money will come from to build any high-speed rail line anywhere in America but, one never knows!
To get important information contact your experienced travel agent or phone Amtrak at: 1-800-872-7245 or VIA Rail Canada at: 1-888-842-7245.
Have a wonderful time!