Can “getting there is half the fun” really be true? It all
depends on how you get there. Ask most anyone if flying is fun anymore and
you’re likely to get an answer that we can’t print. It is often compared to
riding a bus in the sky. Guess folks don’t like buses very much either. Driving
doesn’t usually fare much better, as happy tales of traffic jams and potholes
are few and far between.
What’s a traveler to do? Perhaps it’s time to rethink taking
the train. On shorter trips, less than a couple of hundred miles, the train can
actually be faster than flying. With no need to check in two hours early, or
find a way back into town from the airport, it is certainly more convenient.
And it can all be done without removing a single shoe.
Longer journeys are where the fun gets into the getting
there. It is a worry-free way to see some of America’s great cities while
rolling right through the center of town… without a road to keep an eye on.
Dine on fresh meals, often featuring regional favorites, served on real china
at a real table, relax in seats large enough for real people, or even sleep in
a real bed. Several trains even have wine & cheese tastings.
Many Amtrak trains, especially through the West, have Sightseer
Lounge cars with giant windows for amazing views of the mountains, forests,
deserts, and scenic coastlines. A few of these great routes include The
California Zephyr across the Rocky Mountains from Denver to California’s gold
rush country, The Coast Starlight that hugs the Pacific from Los Angeles to
Seattle, and The Empire Builder which goes right through Glacier National Park
on the way from the Pacific Northwest to Chicago (especially beautiful in the
winter). Most of the trains that pass near parks or historic sites participate
in the Trails & Rails program, a partnership between the National Park
Service and Amtrak, where rangers come on board to give talks and
Sometimes a train can be the destination in itself. The Grand
Canyon Railway takes passengers right to the rim of one of America’s most
amazing natural wonders, or The Royal Gorge Route travels along the bottom of an
incredible chasm twelve hundred feet deep. For rail fans of the bygone narrow gauge
steam era, Colorado offers both the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge
Railway and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. These are incredible
examples of mountain railroading dating back to the 1800s.
There are over one hundred historic, scenic, and tourist
railroads across America, even a handful in Hawaii, but for a real frontier
adventure, go north to Alaska. From Anchorage, The Alaska Railroad rolls along
the base of Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, on the Denali
Star; or delivers awe inspiring scenes of ice flows on the Glacier Discovery. From
Skagway, the White Pass & Yukon Route carries passengers over the mountains
and back to the time of the Klondike gold rush. No extra charge for moose,
bear, or wolf sightings.
If a more elegant trip is preferred, Pullman Rail Journeys
offers the classic railroad experience by adding a few luxury cars to Amtrak’s City
of New Orleans. It’s a step back in time to the golden age of train travel
aboard lovingly restored Pullman sleeper, dining, lounge, and observation cars.
While they may look like the originals, even painted in the old Illinois
Central colors, they have been updated to include Wi-Fi, electric outlets, and air
conditioning. Porters tend to every need, and there is even room service
available in the private compartments.
Traveling in style like that might just make getting there all
of the fun.
Which of these classic rail journeys tops your list?