America Rediscovers the Joy of Riding the Rails
Due in part to higher gasoline prices and frustrations associated with airline travel, long-distance rail travel has been increasing by about 20% per year. Amtrak, America’s passenger railroad, is busy improving speed and customer service, while building new routes to include underserved and unserved communities. The company is benefiting from reauthorization of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, robustly supported by the Obama administration.
Current U.S. routes comprise 22,000 rail miles. Lodging and features range from roomettes and bedroom packages that include meals to family suites with showers. Passengers enjoy panoramic scenic views from second-story sightseeing lounge cars and can gather to mingle, watch a movie or share a meal and refreshments. “The relaxed atmosphere seems to encourage people to [open up and] tell their life stories,” comments John Pitt, author of The Bradt Travel Guide, USA by Rail.
Tips for traveling the rails include: make friends with the car attendant; pack easy-to-prepare foods and water from home, small toys and games for the kids plus pillows and blankets for everyone; and stock an essentials bag with binoculars, books, cards, maps with rail lines, earplugs, eyeshade, pocket flashlight, sunglasses and a cheap digital watch with an alarm.
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