Ode' To A Choo-Choo Train..

I remember when... I took my first train trip... it was from California to Minnesota; oh, how I loved that ride. Now, I would date myself if I told you how long ago that was; but traveling the Santa Fe route opened up new vistas for me, ones that I would not have seen by air.

It seems like the pendulum is swinging back ... I see a future to that way of life; a way of traveling which suited me and anyone else who wants to see the country via the rails. With new technology we are seeing a cleaner way, a more enjoyable and energy efficient way to travel.
Take a look at what Sweden is doing... I just hope we all don't have to travel at the speed of light... I want to slow down and enjoy the ride.

Tips in traveling by train...

Traveling in an off-peak season... even leaving earlier in the week like a Tuesday will ensure a more enjoyable trip. And obviously the best way is first class; which should include your meals. To save you from walking through cars to the dinner car, ask for the car right next to it or as close as you can. And due to supply n' demand it is always best to go on first or second dinning call.

Booking first class compartments/sleeping cars go fast so its wise to make your reservations months in advance. My advice to anyone who travels first class and needs to make ( approx 12 hours) connections is to be in a city where you can find overnight accommodations in a hotel, B&B or motel. The 12 hours will allow you enough time to make your morning connection to continue the journey. Allow yourself time to breathe between connections.

Now the essentials... the #1 thing, is to wear comfortable cloths... especially shoes. Pack as lightly as possible; ship your large luggage ahead to your final destination. Check to be sure but usually you're allowed up to 150 lbs. in weight free (more if you pay a fee) and there's free insurance in case it gets lost or damaged.
Useful items you might want on your journey...
  • a pair of binoculars
  • a camera
  • a good book or magazines
  • a radio with headset
  • a deck of cards
  • maps (preferably showing rail lines)
  • a light blanket
  • a pillow
  • earplugs / eye shades (for sleeping)
  • sunglasses
  • grooming items
  • an inexpensive digital watch with alarm
  • a small first-aid kit
  • bottled water
  • fresh fruit, nuts and other snacks
  • enough money/traveler checks to last the journey... it's difficult to cash a check on the train.

When traveling with children fill a small carry-on case with quiet toys, crayons, colored pencils, drawing pencil, assorted stickers, stencils, white drawing paper, paper for word or other games, regular deck of cards and age dependent card games, such as Old Maid, UNO... Then there is games like "I Spy" n' "20 Questions" and don't forget the disposable camera(s).

It is important to remember others are traveling and it is good to respect their privacy and space.
Don't hesitate to seek help from the train staff; they are well trained, knowledgeable and friendly. Be prepared to meet new people and share your experiences and stories... you can always learn new things from people you encounter on the journey.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the trip!