This year I am to be lucky with the train journeys I am being able to make. Earlier in the year I rode the Serra Verde Express from Curitiba to Mohotes in the South of Brazil. As I type this I am riding along the north west coast of the United States crossing over the border to Canada on my way to Vancouver; considered to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the country.
In my experience one of the great benefits of train travel is the lack of stress compared to travelling by air. When you travel my any form of mass transit there is a collective consciousness that we all unknowingly become a part of. It is not hard to become attuned to the shared atmosphere as you are herded from check point to boarding to your seat and on. The invasive and inconvenient, but albeit somewhat justified, security procedures, which one has to negotiate before you even board a plane, create a tension across the collective being of fellow passengers; people become insular and short tempered. That rarely has happened when I have travelled by train.
Once again I am in impressed by the scale of American travel. The trains feel so much bigger than the intercity trains back home. They are certainly cheaper!
I boarded the 7.45am 510 Amtrak Cascade line at King Street Station this morning in Seattle. I arrived to check in later than I had planned so I was way at the back of the line to receive my seat assignment. As such I was not in a good position to take in the views. Fortunately I found a place to sit in the bistro car at a table where I could see from one of the large windows.
Almost immediately as we left Seattle there were spectacular views from the window. The train follows the Washington shore line North, sometimes only a few feet from the edge of the water.
At one point the conductor came over the public address system to tell us that if we looked out of the right side of the train, next to a bridge we were passing, we would see a pair of nesting, Ospreys, or Sea Hawks, and their 2 young offspring and sure enough there were the chicks sitting in their precariously perched home. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, just at that moment, I looked down into the water to see a seal surface and paddle out of sight under the bridge.
The ease of boarding the train and the space you are afforded to sit and relax or get up and move around allow for a much more easy going journey than travelling by air. People are just happier. Multiply that by the view on this journey and it makes for a pleasant trip.
Sitting a large table on my own meant that a few different people came and joined me and struck up a conversation. I spoke for a time to Bill from Texas, who, it turns out, used to be a professional football player (that’s American Football, not soccer). The giant red and gold ring he wore was his reward for and reminder of the back to back national championships he won for Oklahoma University. He told me he went on to play for the Pitsburg Steelers. Quite the career.
I also borrowed a pen from a chap from Kent, where I am from in England, small world.
The conversations and the views and the conversations about the views and the terrible breakfast sandwiches (the only negative thing about the trip) made the 4 hour trip pass quickly. Vancouver is appearing from the mist in the distance, the announcements are starting to tell us about the disembarkation proceedure. This is an international train now, we are told, subject to the rules of the Canadian Border Patrol. Having had experience with this process before I am pretty confident that they will be as friendly as the people on the train. Canadians generally are!
I am about to alight and begin another journey. This time by sea, to Alaska.