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Old 16th May 2020, 18:20   #1
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Default A Short American Train Journey

A trip taken a few months back before the pandemic struck. A really short travelogue just to share a glimpse of it. Memories haunts as I sit through this lock down.

During our occasional official trips to the US, Once we land in the west coast city of Portland, there is a small stretch that we usually undertake by a shuttle or self drive to reach a little southern city of Albany where our office is located. This time I decided to take the train instead to cover this stretch, just to explore a bit, look at the country side and basically just to experience an American Train Journey.

I love trains and immensely fond of train journeys, just like most of us. You can rant for the life time about the sub standard Indian train system, but the memories that it offers surpasses all its downsides. Barring the low quality food and toilet, a train journey along the country side is always a bliss. There really is something nostalgic and romantic about train travel. You can peek into a stranger’s life, exchange stories with them, share their food or just be a silent observer which I mostly am. Taking the train is about letting go. It’s smooth, it’s free, and the route is set. That’s a huge contrast to a road trip, where you’re paying attention to your driving, ensuring the safety of yours as well your passengers, make sure the gas doesn’t run out, staying alert in traffic and rains and so on..

Alright, back to the topic - Tell your American friends that you plan to take a train, and their reactions will range from amusement to surprise. “Well, if you like Indian trains, you will certainly like ours”, says my American friend when I told about my plan to him prior to the trip. He said go ahead, It can't go wrong. And that gave me a boost.

The United States is the single most car-oriented country. As a result, long-distance or even short distance train travel isn’t nearly as common in America as it is in other regions of the world.

The trip:

Landed at Portland and spent a night there. The next day morning headed to the railways station – Portland Union Station. It was just a short drive to the station from the hotel where I was put up. The tickets were pre- booked online.

The railway station welcomes you with signs that read "Go by Train" on one side and "Union Station" on the other side:

A Short American Train Journey-1.jpg

The signature piece of the structure is the 150 ft clock tower. The charm factor of train stations far outshines any airport:

A Short American Train Journey-2.jpg

Embellished with designs in fancy terracotta and molded brick, historic Portland Union Station is a regional landmark known for this sign encouraging travelers to "Go By Train." The station building also contains offices on the upper floors, as well as Restaurant and a Bar on the ground level. Picked up some snacks and refreshments from there.

The entrance:

A Short American Train Journey-3.jpg

Interiors:

A Short American Train Journey-4.jpg

A Short American Train Journey-5.jpg

Amtrak - A little about the train service:
The Amtrak Cascades is a passenger train route operated by Amtrak. It is named after the Cascade mountain range that the route parallels. The Cascades covers a 446-mile (718 km) rail corridor and connects 18 cities in the Pacific Northwest from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia.
A Short American Train Journey-6.jpg

The entrance to the luggage drop counter:

A Short American Train Journey-7.jpg

Initially I didn’t knew that the luggage has to be dropped separately like in flights. The bigger ones need to be certainly dropped here and that will be loaded separately into the same train’s luggage compartment and will be pulled out when my station arrives. The gentleman at the counter stroked a nice conversation on my trip and travel. He explained me about the process and was extremely generous to transfer my luggage free of cost. Great gesture. Else I guess there is a small fee for extra larger luggage.

Entry to the platform: This opens up only when closer to the departure time.

A Short American Train Journey-8.jpg

Once the train arrived, We were permitted to get on to the platform and head towards boarding. Everything is well guided and there was absolutely nothing that could go wrong.

A Short American Train Journey-9.jpg

A Short American Train Journey-10.jpg

A Short American Train Journey-11.jpg

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Do not expect there would be any general compartments like Indian Railways. All are air conditioned coaches which just resembles our trains FC, 2A, 3A classes from outside. Inside story is totally different.

The interiors are class:

A Short American Train Journey-13.jpg

A Short American Train Journey-13b.jpg

The interiors are top notch and luxurious and even the economy class resembles our Rajadhani or Shatabdi classes. Pretty clean, spic and plan. I would even consider these are on par with the Maharaja classes of Indian Railways. And like said, this is the cheapest class in the train.

Hardly any passengers in the train. Just about less than 10 people in that particular coach.

Window view Willamette river in Portland:

A Short American Train Journey-14.jpg

There is small café/pantry inside. Got in there to grab some snacks as the train picks up the speed.

A Short American Train Journey-15.jpg

A Short American Train Journey-16.jpg

The ticket examiner comes over to check-in on the tickets. A polite smile and she is back to her work.

Some window views of the country side:

A Short American Train Journey-17.jpg

A Short American Train Journey-18.jpg

A Short American Train Journey-19.jpg

A Short American Train Journey-20.jpg

There were about 3-4 stops en route before the station where I need to get down.

The staff (who was also the ticket examiner) getting ready to open the door as the train pulls over to the station, which I am also de-boarding at.

A Short American Train Journey-23.jpg

Got down and you get a small stool to step out as the compartment is at a height from the platform. Such minute details are taken care so you do not face a hassle – Amazing I would say!

A Short American Train Journey-24.jpg

A Short American Train Journey-25.jpg

Another staff has pulled out my luggage from one of the rear compartment and drives it to me on a small goods cart.

A Short American Train Journey-26.jpg

It was such a lovely gesture that he drove all the way to where I stood and handed it over. Remarkable people these are. These little things makes the experience memorable.

Closing shot by posing in-front of my friends Toyota FJ cruiser which came to pick me up at the station.

A Short American Train Journey-27.jpg

Though it was a short trip, it was an awesome experience which I will always cherish than any other mode of travel.

Wish to see long-distance train travel become more common in America. If you really want to see America, I believe this is the way to do it.

Last edited by balenoed_ : 16th May 2020 at 18:22.
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Old 16th May 2020, 18:50   #2
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

Beautiful travelogue, mate.
One thing I wanted to ask was how much time did this journey take, and how much would driving down take?

Asking because USA has a reputation for slow trains, and fast highways.
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Old 16th May 2020, 19:15   #3
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You need not write an epic if the beauty can be shared in short.

Last year, I took train journey from Chicago to Philadelphia which involved change at Washington D.C.. Though it was a memorable trip, but I could not click scenic Pictures worthy of posting as the windows had thick panes. The best part was Horse Shoe Bend (claimed to be the shortest) where we could see the Engine and the Rear of the Train and this view was announced on PA System well in advance.

Earlier I had landed at New York and had to travel to Philadelphia carrying 4 Check in Bags + 2 Cabin bags. As we do in India, I started gathering my luggage near the door when a polite Conductor asked me to be at ease. To my surprise, on his call, a Porter waited for me with a Cart at the Coach door on station.

Quote:
Originally Posted by turbo View Post
Beautiful travelogue, mate.
Asking because USA has a reputation for slow trains, and fast highways.
Fast Highways ??? I do not understand why they build Muscle Cars when they had to cruise at 70 MPH ? At places, this gets reduced to 60, 55 or even 40 MPH (you can go 10 MPH above limit if there is no traffic). Add to it another reduction wherever Road Works are in progress and believe me, Road works are endless. Yes, you cruise comfortably on Highways which have plenty of Service Plazas, well informed of the services available and its driving distance.

Last edited by vb-san : 16th May 2020 at 19:38. Reason: Back-to-back posts merged. Please use edit/multi-quote option when posting back-to-back.
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Old 16th May 2020, 21:05   #4
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

Quote:
Originally Posted by turbo View Post
Asking because USA has a reputation for slow trains, and fast highways.
Yeah, I got your point, that is primarily the reason the train is least preferred. This journey took about 2.5 hours plus the time for other formalities and reaching the station in advance, whereas a car drive would have been about an hour point to point. It takes incredibly longer time for the ones that cut across multiple states.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amrik Singh View Post
As we do in India, I started gathering my luggage near the door when a polite Conductor asked me to be at ease. To my surprise, on his call, a Porter waited for me with a Cart at the Coach door on station.
Absolutely, They'll make your life easier much more than you imagine.
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Old 18th May 2020, 10:45   #5
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

Quote:
Originally Posted by balenoed_ View Post

I love trains and immensely fond of train journeys, just like most of us.
Suggest taking a train ride in Alaska between Anchorage and Seward when you get the chance to. It has one of the most stunning views you'll come across. Attaching a picture I took during the ride.

A Short American Train Journey-alaska-18.jpg
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Old 18th May 2020, 12:32   #6
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

Great short journey log! I loved it. Also, please do try the Acela express between New York and Washington DC. In 2011 I spent a good $$ just for the ride and it never disappointed. I took an early morning Acela from NY to DC , spent a day doing the usual touristy things and came back same night in another Acela. Will always remember the journey. Trains in America are not at all upto the European standards, also are never the first preferred mode of transport. Amtrak itself is fighting for survival and there are numerous instances wherein the freights are given preference over passenger services as freights please the bean counters.
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Old 18th May 2020, 13:05   #7
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

Nice Travelogue. Remembered an NY- Washington DC - trip I had done several years back. Took the train just for the experience as I too love trains. Pretty enjoyable. Although because it was a high traffic belt with a lot of stops, was not a high speed run.
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Old 18th May 2020, 13:25   #8
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

Amazing log buddy. Thanks for introducing this to us. I for one, wouldn't have ever known how trains looked like or functioned in the States, but for this introduction. Now I know why Sheldon Cooper keeps on rambling about trains
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Old 18th May 2020, 13:54   #9
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

Quote:
Originally Posted by turbo View Post
Asking because USA has a reputation for slow trains, and fast highways.
+1

Also another reason - Amtrak is given the least importance vis-a-vis the goods trains as a lot of the tracks are privatized by several organizations who use it for goods transport.

Long distance (across states) trains are known for being unreliable; I once had to pick-up my dad on a train from NY to NC; and not only the train was late by a few hours; but there wasn't 100% surety on when the train was arriving with a +/- one-hour variance every time I'd check.


Quote:
Originally Posted by balenoed_ View Post
If you really want to see America, I believe this is the way to do it.
Depends on amount of effort one wants to put. IMO if you really want to see the real America, take a (or a few) months off, ignore the freeways as much as you can and go around across the national and state highways!

Apart from that, a beautiful travelogue buddy. Do the West-East coast trains if you have time and money to spare! It was on my wishlist, although never got around doing it!
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Old 18th May 2020, 15:40   #10
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

I guess the experience of trains in India is not comparable to any other country, and certainly not Amtrak. Amtrak doesn't run hundreds of trains on a route with minute-to-minute punctuality tracking. It has long since been relegated by the airline industry to being an old-world charm leisure travel option.
PS: I remembered my train journeys in Germany (DB and FlixTrain) last year. Ranged from great to downright pathetic.
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Old 18th May 2020, 15:44   #11
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Great story, thanks for sharing. It is one of the few things in all my years of travel and living in the USA I have never done; ride the AmTrak!

I have been on a few local lines in California.

Living in Kansas City, MO, trains were a very familiar view of course. To date Kansas City is still much the centre where a lot of tracks come together. A lot of the trails going west, started in Kansas City and so did the railway tracks. These days, almost all freight trains and no wagon trains of course.

We always loved to hear the faraway sound of the trains blowing their horns.

Some of these Union Station are fantastic historic buildings. Very “period” of course. The one in Kansas City was well over a hundred years old. To date it still plays an important role in the City Centre. Although more from a cultural role than transportation. It also has an excellent restaurant and a really nice railway musueum

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Old 18th May 2020, 16:12   #12
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To date Kansas City is still much the centre where a lot of tracks come together.
Really? I thought (/ was told) Chicago had that honor. Or maybe they were talking about from a passenger travel routes/trains perspective and not tracks in general.
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Old 18th May 2020, 16:24   #13
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Thanks for sharing, it reminded me of my only Amtrak Journey from Stamford to NewJersey. I especially liked the concept of Quiet cars. I was lucky to see Acela Express going through its paces.

It was quite an expensive ride at 70$, i later realized i could cover the same route by switching trains in New York in merely 20$.

Travelled quite a bit from Stamford to NYK and back in their shuttle trains.They were really bright, fast and pretty cheap for such a long ride.
The best moment was experiencing Rush hour at Grand Central.

But the best ride was in NJTransit double decker trains, which i rode from New jersey ( Metropark ) to Hamilton and back.

Last edited by silverado : 18th May 2020 at 16:33.
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Old 18th May 2020, 16:30   #14
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

I am not hijacking the thread but adding a few Pics from my side. Talking of Union Stations, here is the one at Chicago.




A Short American Train Journey-01.jpg





Scenic location (building at right)

A Short American Train Journey-02.jpg




Signage on Street

A Short American Train Journey-03.jpg




Interior of Station

A Short American Train Journey-04.jpg



A Short American Train Journey-05.jpg



A Short American Train Journey-06.jpg




Famous Horse Shoe Curve on route to Pennsylvania

A Short American Train Journey-07.jpg




Aerial view (from Wiki)

A Short American Train Journey-08.jpg




Park and Museum

A Short American Train Journey-09.jpg


A Short American Train Journey-10.jpg
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Old 18th May 2020, 16:53   #15
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Default Re: A Short American Train Journey

Thank you for the interesting travelogue.

A very interesting train design which could have worked wonders in India. As you can see, there is no platform, so to say. The train sits low, and the doors seem to have stairs the way buses have? In comparison, our platforms are so high!!
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