Tuesday, March 9, 2010


When my kids were five and seven, we took a train ride as an excursion. I wanted them to know what it was like.

Now that I live in Manhattan, I ride on trains all the time. Subway trains are my preferred method of transport, (taxis literally make me sick) and above-ground trains are the way I get from state to state to visit my family.

I've become a conoisseur of trains. The cheapest ones -- $2 for a subway ride all around Manhattan -- are also the ones that come with the stinky smell of someone eating an everything bagel or a guy panhandling or a woman selling Jesus by the pound. The moderately-priced trains are the in-state or interstate locals that are sometimes surprisingly good but could feature the man behind you making a loud phone call to his cousin Vinny or his broker in Philly. You just don't know. The best (and most expensive) are the Acela business class trains - and I especially LOVE the quiet cars. They are roomy and have an outlet so you can keep your laptop or phone charge throughout the trip. There are curtains on the windows  and the seats surround you like a cocoon. You barely know you are on a
train. Often they are non-stop, or minimally you have a very few stops to your destination.

When I was in Italy last year we took trains around the country and loved the experience. I felt like I was in a foreign film, really. Pippi Longstalking goes Orient Express.  It's a bit like flying, as your specific seat is reserved and the train attendant comes around and serves food and beverages rather than having to go to the food car to get some burnt coffee and bagels. The first class cars are separated into little seating sections where you can face each other and actually--it's a pretty great way to travel.

Are you a train person?


Lizzi said...

Yes! I love trains! It's a family thing.

When I was in Paris one of my favorite things was taking the metro all around. It was an adventure in itself. I loved the different train stations; some were a little scary, but others were beautiful (the one at the Louvre especially. )My mom and I trained (?) from Paris to Florence and then to Rome and it was wonderful! I felt like I was in an old movie, with the window open looking at the French countryside pass us by. During the middle of the night as we crossed the mountains and our ears popped the attendants came around to collect our passports and stamp them. For the hour our so they had my passport I felt incredibly vulnerable.

I wish I lived in an area that had trains. Phoenix has the new light rail but I have yet to ride.

teri said...

Wow Lizzi, I loved reading that. What a wonderful window into your experience. It all sounds so romantic (well, except for the ear popping part).

Bea said...

Love trains. Got my own model train set from Zeus when I turned 52. My Great Grandpa was a trainman from age 14 until he retired. LOVE TRAINS. Loved your piece about trains and subways. Wonderful. :)Bea

teri said...

Bea it's CRAZY that your grandpa worked on trains at 14. They are definitely a lifeline in this country.

Brenda said...

When I was in Rome, three days before I was to go home, my friends and I were taking a train to the Italian countryside, but the train conductors were threatening to go on strike (so common in Italy). I was secretly praying that they would so we would miss our flight and I would never have to come back to USA.

As a kid, I lived one block from the Broad Street Subway. I would cut classes with my friend, Lorraine, and ride up and down for hours in the front car. I loved it!

As for Teri, in NY, I was amazed at the subway system. I remember going there as a teenager and my father saying stay out of the subway system. Of course, that only made me curious.

I was absolutely in awe when we took the train from Manhattan to Coney Island. Awesome...a train to the beach!

I have more train stories.

I love trains. thanks for forcing out these wonderful memories.

paperqueen said...

Yes....and no. I do not like being underground, so locally I bite the bullet and take buses, though they take longer.
For distance and above ground travel, I LOVE trains.
I have fond memories of being 20 something, armed with a Eurail Pass and little else, wandering all over Europe...taking night trains to save $ on a hotel room...something my much older back couldn't stand now!

teri said...

Brenda, the train conductors in Rome were threatening a strike when my son was there too. I have heard they threaten that a LOT. What a funny thought. In your dad's defense, I do suspect the NYC subways may have been a bit worse years ago. The city in general is a lot nicer than it used to be when i worked here in the 80s, so I'm guessing the trains are, too.

Eileen, once again, I can see that you were such a hippie. Peace and love, my friend.

Brenda said...

Teri, I didn't really think NY was that bad when I visited back "then," and the subway was fine. I think my dad was just worried. They were much better lit and cleaner the subway system in Philadelphia, which isn't a very sophiscated system at all.

Everyone always threatens to strike in Italy. I think it is there way of life.

Don't know Eileen, but I was thinking oh my, she sounds like such a hippie. Which I think is a really cooooool thing!

Tammy Freiborg said...

My husband and I went by train from the Twin Cities to Seattle for our honeymoon.

I've given you the Kreativ Blogger award. See my blog for details.

teri said...

Yes...trains are romantic! Thank you, Tammy. :-)

Sydney said...

I love traveling by train! I've taken the train from IL to CA as a kid, used the metro in both DC and Paris, the El in Chicago, the T in Boston... and various trains in Europe. We went from Paris to Cannes, to Rome, to Florence... then on to Germany and Switzerland. It was amazing! Once the boys get bigger I think it would be fun to go to the Pacific NW by train!

Holli said...

I have always loved trains! My grandpa took me as a child on the Amtrak train 4 towns south of us so that I could experience one. We had ice cream together and came back home. I used to take the train 4 hours to my mom's in San Francisco quite often in my 20's and I loved it. Amtrak is a great way to travel thru Ca and see things you never normally would.

Lisa said...

We don't do trains here but when the hubby and I rode the train around the east coast and I loved it. The subway, not so much!

Viscountess Sheshire Kitten said...

I absolutely love trains.... not the metro, the real train... when i was a little girl, my grand-mother came at home to take me for hollydays, we went at her home by train, the night. We slept in the train. my grand father worked as "chef de gare" and we lived all our life near railways. when i am in a train, every thing go away, i love the tchatchatcha of the train.....