Train Travel

Amtrak does a good job with the Southwest Chief. It may have been at one point in time, or it may even still be one of their least profitable routes in the entire system, but there are plenty of people who ride it from Chicago to LA and back again on a regular basis, plus the regular helping of people who ride it for shorter distances, such as my ride from Flagstaff to Kingman.

One of the first things I noticed, and something about which I was very pleased, was the fact that the waiting room in Flagstaff was very full - there were an amazing amount of people waiting to get on the westbound Southwest Chief. It makes me happy that there were so many people waiting on the train.

Engines number 5 and 98 pulled my train. One of the Heritage Fleet baggage cars, followed by a typical Superliner consist, of the Crew Dorm, probably three sleeping cars, the Dining Car, the Sightseer Lounge, and the three Coachclass cars.

I heard the comment in the station that it was a lot like Europe, where we were all waiting for the train, but I realized that this is a distinctly American experience. Here I am sitting in about the middle of the top deck of a two-level long distance coach. I have more legroom sitting in this behemoth of a transport option than I do in any of my classes, and while I realize that it isn't going as fast as the cars on the road, or an airplane would be - I'm partaking in a unique and relaxing experience. The gentle swaying of the cars as they roll along the tracks, the Eastbound freighters zooming by us at regular intervals, and the ability to get up and go to the restroom, and then wander over to the Lounge car and buy a snack or some milk. Despite the supposed awesomeness of bullet trains, I don't hear about anybody telling you their latest Shinkansen journey was relaxing, or that they were able to roam the train and buy a snack.

I am definitely glad I was able to take the train, even though the trip was so short. I may make it a point to do a longer and more comprehensive journey by rail at some later point. I would one day like to do the whole Southwest Chief journey, as well as as much of the Coast Starlight as possible - and I would certainly love to see some of the other Northern and Eastern routes.

Maybe one day I will buy one of those 30-day North America passes from Amtrak and VIA and take all of the various trains I've read about and seen pictures of.

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