Riding the Rails

Trains are still outdoors

     We have all seen a movie with people traveling on trains. Romantic, exciting, adventurous, peaceful, scenic. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when brainstorming about train travel. And every one of them is accurate.

    Trains aren’t just for the movies. They are REAL. It is all the things they make it out to be in the movies. All that and more. 

    A surreal experience that you just have to live to understand. But I can guarantee if you take one trip on a train you WILL take another. It will probably become your favorite way to travel, especially for vacations. As a lover of the outdoors, I love train trips. Most of the time on the train is actually through wilderness areas. 


     People go on hiking trips to see parts of the world they can’t get to in a vehicle. Cars are limited to roads, highways, and interstates. Planes only give you a view from thousands of feet above the scenery. Trains are going right through the scenery you would normally have to hike to see. 

     Trains intersect roads occasionally but for the most part they are going right into the wilderness. And they have many, many windows to watch it all from. Big ones. You’ll get to see part of the world you can’t access except by walking it, but it’s a lot easier. You can save your energy for a hike when you get to a destination.

    Go explore, stay a couple days if you want, get back onboard, and it;s off into the wilderness again. It’s like having a movable house that goes into the wilds but still has all the accommodations of a hotel. Food, drink, showers, wifi, privacy if you want it, or socializing if you want.

    You’ll have to look into all the places you can get to by Amtrack but I can tell you this. They go to most National Parks, including Alaska and Canada. That’s only a fraction of all of them. There’s about 500 destinations in all, including all major cities and sites to see around them.

    You can even get to a couple islands in the Great Lakes by train. 


    Trains have a lot more room than planes and definitely more than cars. Trains only have two seats per side and a lot more leg room even in coach.

    They have different classes of seats just like planes, first class, business, and coach. But each one is better by far on a train. Even the coach seat has 3 feet of leg room between you and the seat in front of you and 2 feet between the seat next to you. So you can stretch out and relax a lot more than on any other form of transportation.

   They also have rooms on trains. The smallest is a roomet. Which has two private seats and 2 private bunks and access to a private shower and bathroom. It also includes your own passenger car attendant to help you with anything you need.

   Then you move up to a bedroom. Which sleeps 2 or 3 and has a bathroom in your room plus all the other amenities of the roomet.

  Then the family room which can sleep 6 comfortably plus all the other amenities too. Great for families or groups who really like each other's company.

   All rooms come with complimentary meals and lounge access at the station. You also have boarding priority. Which means no waiting in lines or carrying your own bags. The rooms aren’t that much more expensive and I personally recommend one no matter how many you’re traveling with. A solo room can be great if you work remotely, which I do.

Better prices

   Think traveling by train is expensive, think again., it’s cheaper than a vehicle with gas prices being what they are, and rising. It’s probably closer to the cost of a hotel room. A hotel room that moves through the wilderness and has an ever-changing view. One that you don’t have to drive either. You can relax and enjoy the whole trip for a lower cost than if you drive it yourself. 

    If you factor in the reduced stress level from being cooked up in a vehicle and having to drive yourself, it’s the only way to travel. Well, it’s my favorite way to travel.

   Don’t have a destination in mind, just want to go explore. They have plans for that too. You can get a US Rail pass from Amtrak and ride to wherever you want to go. You can stretch it out for about a month after you take your first ride on it. It’s done by segments not exactly miles. From Chicago to glacier national park is one segment. For the $499 pass you can get 10 segments in. That’s a whole lot of sightseeing.

    Even first class isn’t that expensive. It would be a lot more expensive on a plane. On a train you get treated a lot better for the price. More bang for our buck.

   The prices vary depending on the time of year, time of departure, and where the train is going. It’s not a huge difference but it does fluctuate a little. Check with Amtrak to get an exact quote.

Eco friendly

    Concerned about the environment, then trains are definitely the way to go. They produce less CO2 than planes. They also produce less than cars. Up to 83 % less than cars and up to 73% less than planes. And they continue to make improvements year after year.

    So, if you want to make the world a better place, start making your travel plans on a train. 

The Experience

    There is also the experience of traveling by train. It is unlike any other. The closest comparison I know of is sailing. In sailing it’s not so much about getting there as it is “you are there.” traveling by a train is like that too, but different.

    Better, way better.

    When you travel by train you are going through some of the most amazing scenery you will ever see. The destinations of trains are some of the most sought after travel stops in the world. And you get to see it all while having all the climate control and modern amenities you would in a hotel. 

    The food on the trains is good too. The menu depends on which train you are on though. If you get a room you can eat in it or you can go to the dining car and socialize. It would be like the restaurant of the train. They serve meals and drinks depending on the time of day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served. You just have to check with the train to find out the times they serve each but they are open all the time.

   You can also bring on your own food and drink. Yes, that includes alcohol. Which they also serve on the train. I’m not a big drinker but if you are, this is definitely safer than driving. Safer for you and the rest of us. 

   Then there is the observation car. While there are windows on every car to look out of, the observation car offers a more spacious or relaxed viewing area. All the seats face the windows and have small tables next to them.

     So if you plan on working while you travel this is the place to do it. Working away on your laptop while an amazing scenery unfolds feet away. This is how work should be.

   Or you can just take pictures that people won’t believe. Selfies with the wilderness running past in the background. Or maybe just nature pic’s. Think Anzel Adams if he was moving over 75 miles an hour. Oh yeah, it's amazing

    So, go to https://www.amtrak.com/ and look around. They have more ways to have a memorable experience than you can count. A lot more than one article can capture. This is just a glimpse into the world of traveling by train. A glimpse is hopefully enough to get you interested. Enough to entice your spirit of adventure. The explorer in you.

    It’s in us all.

 We should all be traveling by train.


Enjoy the outdoors. Life is out here. Trains can get you there. And back.   



written by Benjamin Evans