Happy National Train Day

“Railroad iron is a magician’s rod, in its power to evoke the sleeping energies of land and water.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844)

Did you know that 11 May is the National Train Day in the US? Celebrations, big and small, are taking place around the country. Sadly, I can’t go this year, but what a great experience this would be for a child. I was fascinated with trains growing up. Not that I had much exposure, but train trips were always such a grand adventure, and I remember every one vividly.

There is something magical about traveling by train, watching the scenery glide by, your destination arranging itself gradually before your eyes, meeting people you would never otherwise meet, making unexpected connections–fleeting connections, yes, but memorable connections nevertheless, the kind that live on in stories for years to come.

Grand Canyon train

In the US, my train trips have been brief–between DC and New York, usually. Last fall, though, we we were ready for a real train journey: from DC to Chicago, and Arizona after that. Curled up in our sleeper roomette, we watched towns, cities, fields, and hills at our side, county after county, state after state. This was not quite the Orient Express sensation of the Agatha Christie stories, but the old-world romance, the thrill of the road was there. And then there were the people, the railfans, such a colorful, eclectic tribe, a culture worth stumbling upon once or twice a year, I think.

Here are some snapshots of the places we passed, the in-between places. I don’t know what many of them were, or even where, but I remember the feel of them–and that’s what I miss when traveling sometimes, the feel, the texture of the spaces I cross on my way to where I’m going.

Gather around, everyone, here’s what America looks like between DC and Arizona:

View along Capitol Limited train lineFields out of train window

Fields, along railroad

Town along Capitol Limited train line

Field between DC and Chicago, railtrip

View along railroad, DC to Chicago

Trinidad, Amtrak station

DC to Arizona, train views

Raton Tunnel, along Amtral train route

View along Amtrack train DC to Arizona

Raton, NM, along Amtrak train tracks

Along Amtrak rail line DC to Arizona

Along Amtrak rail line, DC to Arizona

Mountains along Amtrak train tracks, Chicago to Arizona

Mansion along Amtrak route, Chicago to Arizona

Amtrak, between Chicago and Arizona

Mountains, Southwest Chief Route

Church along Southwest Chief route, Amtrak

At the end of it all, we arrived in Williams, Arizona, our launching pad for the Grand Canyon Railway and the first chapter in our Southwestern getaway. That, though is a story for another day.

Grand Canyon Railway train Related posts: 

10 thoughts on “Happy National Train Day

  1. There is nothing grander than a train trip. I grew up in Illinois on the train lines so I had a lot of experience with trains at even a very young age. I really enjoyed the pictures and the shared memories.

    • Thank you, Bella. This was great. I remember reading Mark Twain’s grumblings about how the railroad took all the romance out of travel by the boat–the real way to see the land. Instead, these railroads were just so fast, you barely got to experience where you were going before you were at your destination. Now it’s that way with the trains. And there were all these colorful characters we met who purposefully traveled only by rail because they found travel by car on highways or flying so dehumanizing and disrespectful to the land they were covering.

  2. I like the photos but I myself am more of a plane person than the rails. I know it holds allure for some but for me I prefer to get to the final destination (most of the time) speedier. I do like the smaller town and scenery aspect of the trains though. Something to consider perhaps when time isn’t as important.

    • This is not my preferred way to get to places, but as for leisurely travel–I found myself enjoying it: there are the views, the small towns you pass by, with signs directed at the rail traveler, the [REALLY] eclectic crowd, and the gradual emergence of the place you are going to (that said, I think the length of this trip was as much as I could handle, probably about once a year).

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