I’ve always enjoyed taking the train. I grew up walking distance from the tracks. I remember going to sleep to the train whistle as it passed in the night. The train tracks were the shortcut to everywhere out of the neighborhood. In grade school it was an adventure to walk the tracks to our local McDonalds. In Junior high and high school we’d take the tracks from the suburbs into Minneapolis and catch a bus downtown.
I’ve ridden the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto. I’ve ridden the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I’ve had a Eurail pass and traveled through Holland, Germany and Switzerland (with a little stop in Austria just to say we’d been.) I’ve taken the train from Edinburgh to Salisbury. I’ve taken the train from New Delhi to Jaipur to Agra (are they still going by those names?) I’ve taken the commuter train from NYC to DC.
My sisters don’t really remember the train ride we took to vacation at Glacier Park in Montana. The old Empire builder was a little scary for a small girl walking between the cars and watching the rails go by underfoot. I may remember the trip because I got stuck there. The door was too heavy for me to open from the moving platform. Luckily it wasn’t long before someone else came through.
We took the Empire builder again with a 3 year old special needs child. Orion was particularly sensitive to noise so we went first class. We had a lovely sleeper car for the trip all the way to Seattle. This weekend Orion tried to convince everyone that he remembered it when we visited the historic Osceola & St. Croix Valley Railway.
It was a beautiful day and Orion loves people and motion. He talked to anyone who would listen about his “experience” on the rails. It was a complicated day for the volunteers who run the restored line. They got a call about a freight train coming through. Since freight has priority on American tracks they had to move the train out of the way, which delayed our boarding time. They also had a group of cyclists riding the train so when they moved the train back they parked to make it easy to load the bikes in the baggage car.
Orion patiently waited until everyone had climbed aboard. Then they moved the train again – just for us! They had to get the box car we were riding in aligned with the platform so they could use the portable lift. This was old fashioned technology – a hand crank! I told Orion he must be a VIP. It isn’t everyone who has a whole train moved just for them!
There are trains that I dream of taking. The Orient Express from Paris into Asia Minor, the Palace on Wheels in Rajasthan, the Queensland Rail across the outback all promise adventure and fantasy. I probably look every year at the possibility of taking the Amtrak to New Orleans.
The thing about riding the train is that it really IS the Journey not the Destination. It is in that spirit that we ride the historic train for an afternoon. Not so much an adventure as a chance to sit and enjoy the scenery and dream.