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Veeger
2008-Jun-13, 10:16 PM
A few years ago, my company wanted me to go to Portland, Oregon from Ohio for business. I had to be there on a Monday so basically had several days to travel before arriving. With the company's permission, I booked myself, wife, and daughters on a train called the "Empire Builder" and embarked on a three day journey to Portland. We actually boarded the "Empire Builder" in Chicago which then travels to Milwaukee and Minneapolis before turning west, more or less along the Lewis and Clark trail.

Lets face it, cities do not build their nicest neighborhoods along the rail lines, but once in the country, it is possible to see some of the most stunning views not even possible from the interstates. I recall breathtaking beauty as we crossed the Glacier National Park region, and later as we made our way down the Columbia River Gorge. Imagine passing through the mountains in a car with glass walls and domed glass ceiling.

On the train, you meet people from all walks of life, many whose passion is trains and the glories of an industry which is all but faded. The conductors make it a policy in the dining car to seat you at the same table as another group of total strangers which inevitably leads to unique and interesting conversations. Life on the train is such a different pace from airports and flight schedules. Sadly, there was not a lot of time to spend at the various stops along the way, but it hardly mattered.

It will always rank high among one of the most memorable and enjoyable trips I have ever taken.

Tobin Dax
2008-Jun-14, 01:43 AM
A few years ago, my company wanted me to go to Portland, Oregon from Ohio for business. I had to be there on a Monday so basically had several days to travel before arriving. With the company's permission, I booked myself, wife, and daughters on a train called the "Empire Builder" and embarked on a three day journey to Portland. We actually boarded the "Empire Builder" in Chicago which then travels to Milwaukee and Minneapolis before turning west, more or less along the Lewis and Clark trail.

Lets face it, cities do not build their nicest neighborhoods along the rail lines, but once in the country, it is possible to see some of the most stunning views not even possible from the interstates. I recall breathtaking beauty as we crossed the Glacier National Park region, and later as we made our way down the Columbia River Gorge. Imagine passing through the mountains in a car with glass walls and domed glass ceiling.

On the train, you meet people from all walks of life, many whose passion is trains and the glories of an industry which is all but faded. The conductors make it a policy in the dining car to seat you at the same table as another group of total strangers which inevitably leads to unique and interesting conversations. Life on the train is such a different pace from airports and flight schedules. Sadly, there was not a lot of time to spend at the various stops along the way, but it hardly mattered.

It will always rank high among one of the most memorable and enjoyable trips I have ever taken.

I was always tempted to make that trip in grad school, but never had the time. I wanted to be at my parents' a few days before Christmas. That, and after squeezing into the public bathrooms on trains between Chicago and Champaign, I didn't want to spend three days in such accommodations. I may do it someday. The Gorge is gorgeous from I-84. I sure it looks just as good from the train.

Trebuchet
2008-Jun-14, 05:07 AM
We took two train trips the same year about ten years ago and loved every moment of it. The first was from Tacoma via Portland to Chicago on a more southerly route than the Empire Builder -- I've forgotten the name of the train, which has been discontinued. The second was from Tacoma to LA to visit Disneyland. We really must do that again some day. Even the city scenery along the rails was at least interesting.

Despite being in the business of designing them, I don't really care if I ever get on another airplane for a trip.

Edit: The train may have been called The Pioneer? Ran from Seattle to Portland then east across southern Wyoming, south to Denver where it joined with another train from LA and on through the midwest to Chicago. Three days, two nights.

Veeger
2008-Jun-14, 06:43 AM
"The Pioneer" is history as it stopped running in 1997, but it sound like it would have been quite a trip. Here's some detail on it:
http://www.trainweb.com/routes/route_25/rg_25a.html

Gillianren
2008-Jun-14, 05:00 PM
I took the train south to visit my mother once, I think for my younger sister's high school graduation. It was much more pleasant than the Greyhound, and on the way home, all the people in my section of the train car were going all the way north, or at least into Washington, so we got to know each other pretty well. It was a lot of fun.

The Supreme Canuck
2008-Jun-14, 05:13 PM
I frequently travel by train. When I need to travel from Kingston (university) to Ottawa (home), that's how I do it. Takes about two hours, it's cheap, and I find it relaxing. I've also done Ottawa-Halifax a few times. That's always great. The view from the side of a mountain in the middle of the Quebec forest is stunning.

Veeger
2008-Jun-14, 06:03 PM
Trains are still a pretty good deal in spite of fuel costs. This morning I checked fares on the "Empire Builder" Union Station, Chicago to Portland, Oregon and the basic rail fare for two adults traveling coach was as low as $286. A coach seat is fully reclinable but not the more comfortable or convenient option for privacy. A sleeper adds $512 to the fare but you get a private coach with picture window, table, seats and fold down beds, meals and amenities included. The sleepers with private bath may be slightly more costly but they are hard to book because they sell out well in advance.

Its certainly not the fastest mode of transportation but it now seems to be cheaper than driving. Perhaps in the present situation, with gasoline costs skyrocketing, North Americans will "rediscover" rail travel. When I was in europe, I frequently traveled by train as did many others. Of course 10 years ago, gas in the place I stayed was about $1.25 per liter.