I like trains

 If you know Fred Eaglesmith, you will recognize the reference to his ardent ode:
" I like trains that call out through the rain..."



I, too, like trains, from the nearly jogging-speed Adirondack Special, leaving Montréal in early morning, travelling through the Adirondacks and down the Hudson River Valley to arrive in New York's Penn station by evening, or the serene, steady run between Montréal and Québec City.

I've ridden high-speed European trains and taken a brief jaunt on an Indian one, which I remember for my desperate avoidance of a second trip to the toilet.

I devoured Caity Weaver's account of crossing the US by train (via several connections); whenever I feel like getting lost, my first thought is not a flight to a remote island, but a step onto rolling stock.

Do you have a favourite route?

Train travel is a world away from flying; passengers are more convivial, whether they offer a brief hello from behind earbuds, or an engrossing conversation. I met a woman who started a wine consulting business, a young lawyer who agonized about whether to have a child; a widow in her sixties who was being courted by two men and wanted to choose one.

Comportment is more civil on a train than plane'; maybe without enduring security lines, we board in a better mood? I'm often helped to stow my bag by the kind of young man who bumps past me on a plane.

The new "train case"

I like to carry a vinyl or nylon bag; train carpets disguise dirt that's unkind to fine leather. I can wipe vinyl clean or machine-launder nylon microfiber (in a mesh bag). This Matt & Nat Ville bag looks perfect: ample enough to hold gear, smart enough to disembark in the centre of the city and go straight to dinner. The Ville comes with a removable long strap.


In that bag, I pack a stash of at least a half day's worth of calories, and water. (My go-to: Kind Bars, fruit, nuts, and Lindt chocolate.) Trains are occasionally stopped en route for a long period, and the food cart is emptied in the first hour. I've been there.

There are a few rules: no drinking (i.e., your personal alcohol) or smoking, and be polite. Years ago, the Adirondack Special had a second run, an overnight trip between Montréal and NYC; I deeply regret not taking it then. Apparently it was such an convivial party that the railroad shut it down, the killjoys.)

I will wear jewellery on a train because I'm going somewhere, but not for eternity. Flying scares me. I've stopped saying goodbye to Le Duc and tidying my desk; however, I still think, Maybe this is it. I board a train blithe and relaxed, and stay that way. Trains sway, that's pretty much the worst of it.

On top, I choose a forgiving pattern or darker solid, with a sleeve. For spring, those below would be contenders depending on the climate, and I'd slip a solid-colour scarf into that bag:


Left: Sahara Chambray Cotton Check tunic, £119
Upper right: John Lewis and Partners ultramarine/white crew £45
Lower right: Banana Republic Cashmere Stripe v-neck, $CDN $250.

Anatomie Thea pant
I like techno-fabric trousers, much lighter to carry than jeans. Now that they are made in current styles, they look polished enough to wear to any but formal occasions at the destination.

Löle's Travel Pant is my all-time favourite bottom piece: well-made, adaptable, quality fastenings, and washes/dries in a flash.

I shorten them so they are closer to crops for spring; they look better in person than on the site. If interested in navy or grey, check out Anatomie's "Thea" pant—warning, they are pricey.

Pashko, another popular maker, have some styles up to XXL; anyone tried theirs?

Whatever the brand, the key is a breathable, substantial-enough fabric to hang well (some of the microfibres are paper-flimsy) and a cut that fits. I avoid puffy drawstring waists, more campfire than bistro, or tight, leggingish styles.

I'm on the train today,: a visit with Katrin, a friend in  Québec City—and I hope to take at least one more ride this summer. And one day, that Chicago-LA run described by Caity Weaver.

No matter that the old cry of "All aboooooard!" is defunct, I still enjoy the first clack of the wheels, the whistle, the view unfolding from my window, especially Quebec's glorious new greenery.



Comments

Laura J said…
I agree! I often imagine Nick and Nora Charles just down the corridor! Fond memories of the Halifax to Toronto journeys with the children and solo jaunts to Montreal. I can knit! Look out the window! Also enjoyable. Did you see the articles lately in the Guardian about moves toward more train travel — easier in Europe I expect
LauraH said…
I've 'trained' around England which was so comfortable and also here at home, Toronto to Montreal. You're so very right, train travel is much more relaxing and worry free than air travel. The seats are a lot roomier too...that may have something to do with it:-)
Anne said…
The first "favorite" that comes to mind is the Ligurian coast of Italy - the train from Genoa to Nice. So glorious to watch the sea frolic as we pass - and absolutely marvelous at sunrise! I'm so glad we had the privilege of experiencing it with our daughter and grandchildren one time!
Fritinancy said…
Like you, Duchesse, I prefer trains to almost any other mode of transportation. (I still hold out hope for a Queen Mary crossing someday, so my vote isn't completely unqualified.) I've taken the Coast Starlight several times in both directions--south to Los Angeles, north to Portland (twice) and all the way to Vancouver, BC (with a luxurious bus connection from Seattle). Last year I came home from Chicago via the California Zephyr, which made the spectacular 52-hour journey through the Rockies (literally: 20+ tunnels) and over the Sierra Nevada, which had received a dusting of snow the night before. I'm now planning an early January trip on the Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to New Orleans and back, with short layovers in New Iberia and Tucson to visit friends.

I love the pace of rail travel, the scenery, the feeling of connection to my fellow passengers--and the ability to shut it all out if I feel like it. Big bonus: no security checks. I've read whole books on trains, listened to audiobooks and podcasts, or just stared contentedly out the window.

I'm able to treat myself to a roomette for free, or almost free, because I have an Amtrak Mastercard. Unlike airline credit cards, the Amtrak card has no blackout dates, and the points roll up quickly. When you book a sleeper, your meals are included; on the routes I've traveled, the food isn't bad at all.
Madame Là-bas said…
I was fortunate to be chosen as a student to travel from Vancouver to Sherbrooke for a French exchange. Ever since, I have loved trains. My dream is to take Amtrak to the South Eastern states. I use it now to travel to Seattle. It is so much more civilized than flying or driving. From the south of France to Paris, Paris to Geneva, London to Aberdeen, Lisbon to Rome, there is no better way to see countries.
I love trains as well. Yes, we know trains have also been used for evil ends (the Hitlerian genocide of Jews, Roma and others, sending dissidents to the Gulag archipelago in the Stalin era, the destruction of many Plains Indigenous peoples and doubtless other grave human rights violations) but trains have a far gentler environmental footprint than L'auto solo (one person in a car) or flight.

And all the pleasant and civilised perks you mention, even in economy. We've never had problems drinking a bit of wine with our picnic meals, out of other containers. Usually they are just clamping down on rowdy people, though one never knows.

Via sent a message of a summer partnership with Le train de Charlevoix. That is such a beautiful region.
Jane in London said…
Oh yes, I like trains too! I use them to avoid long drives here in the UK, whenever practicable.

I really love travelling on Eurostar - it's so much fun rolling out of london and then arriving in Paris just a couple of hours later. Plus, you travel underneath the sea!

I always enjoy train journeys within Wales, where all the announcements in the stations and on the trains are made in Welsh first, then in English. The place names sound so much more inviting in Welsh...

Jane in london

Duchesse said…
Fritinancy: I bow before your train choos, and maybe our tracks will cross. The Amtrack Mastercard... brilliant.

lagatta: Over the ages, mode of transport we have developed from carts to drones has been used for good or evil.

Jane: I will have my first trip on the Eurostar this fall. The last time I crossed was nt Hovercraft!

Mme Là-bas: To New Orleans? Hope you do that.

Anne: Magical. And impressive to be up at sunrise.

LauraH: And we can accumulate VIA points!

Laura J: Halifax to TO with kids is a long trip. On the last trip I saw everything from placid children to a quarrelling pair whose parents had to be told by staff that they had to control them.
materfamilias said…
I like to take the train from Paris (a direct flight from Vancouver during the right season, so easier to use as a launchpoint) to Rome, changing at Turin. My daughter and son-in-law are amused, might even roll their eyes a bit, point out how much faster the plane is. But it's not really so many hours different, given the time to get to the airport, the need to be there ahead of time. And then the stress, so much more than on the train. Plus I don't need to worry about what liquids or creams I'm carrying on and I'm so much more comfortable during the journey -- and free entertainment just out the window. Add in much lower level of environmental costs, and it seems a no-brainer to me.
I'm guessing you'll love the Eurostar!
The Eurostar resembles a dream I've often dreamt, bridging elements from different cities or continents, usually by rail (métro or railway).
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