Saturday, June 6, 2009

On the Tracks

[A brief note before I begin: This is one of those posts I meant to write a while ago, and hadn't written only because I was convinced I had already. But if I did it disappeared somewhere, so I rather think it didn't get written at all. Which is why I am writing it now.

Clear enough?

Ok, probably not, but there are days when that's just the way my mind works.]

I like trains. Toy trains, real trains, trains in museums.... you name it, I like them. I have no idea why, other than some overly-romanticized ideal about train travel. Which really isn't entirely accurate, because I've traveled on modern trains. Which is hardly romantic. No offense to Amtrak, who more or less got me where I wanted to go on time every time I took them, in far more comfort with fa less hassle than any airline, ever. But there was hardly the level of glamor, intrigue, and all-around mystique that one would associate with, say, the Orient Express, for example.

This does not apply to all modes of travel from by-gone days, mind you. I think luxury liners were, back when they were the best way to cross the ocean, much as they are today when they are used for just touring: overcrowded, overpriced, and overhyped. If I'm going to be on a boat, I want it something with as small a crew and passenger manifest as possible, preferably just me. (Which would be more easily accomplished if I knew how to sail.)

It might also have to do with my views on "Titanic," which were less than favorable.

Trains, on the other hand, don't suffer from that kind of bad publicity. Aside from the Orient Express, I don't think trains have ever been heavily hyped, and even then it was still more about getting from one place to another than anything else. The OE was essentially First Class train travel, back when much of the rest of it was still effectively coach.

Still is, in fact,

Yet no other mode of transit I know allows you the opportunity to walk about and admire the places you're going though, or going to, as much as being on a train does. There is something about wandering down to the observation car and looking out at the passing countryside that made even the otherwise mundane and repetitive cornfields of middle Illinois appealing. I like that there are still sleeper cars and diner cars, and even if the only dining car I've ever truly been in was little more than a snack bar, it was more than you'd find on a bus or a plane.

I also find trains to still retain their aura of mystery about them. I can still envision secret meetings and nefarious characters on board a train, much more so than a Carnival cruise ship or a 747. Granted, more Hollywood movies use planes as settings than trains, but that's because there's the added suspense of falling out of the sky, which you don't get with a train. And I know if I had the choice of where to set a story, I'd rather put it on a train - even Amtrak's more functional, less romantic trains - than any other method of getting from A to Z.

1 comment:

Kmcelhinny said...

Funny, I have always wanted to travel on a train, but haven't yet. Hopefully I'll get to someday. Just to say I did. Sounds fun, even if it's more romanticized in the movies.