Training Day

 

California Trains Slim Paley

 The early morning train pulling into the station in Santa Barbara, CA.

California Coast train  slimpaley

I‘m so enamoured with the very idea of train travel.  I watch old films in which high jinx inevitably ensues on a train and I’m filled with a hankering to pack vintage Vuitton trunks, don my best Sunday chapeau, kid gloves, possibly even seamed stockings, and hop a luxurious sleeper to Lake Louise or some other equally picturesque locale.  A girlfriend of mine recently took the train across Canada and other than being charged by an elk on the Jasper Park Lodge trail in Alberta, loved it.

Yes, charged by an elk. I’m quite sure cocktails were in order in the dining car that night.

Celia-Johnson-and-Trevor--006Brief Encounter

George Sanders

Earlier this year I took (for the first time) just a four hour journey on the train that runs along the coast of California.  Although, much to my dismay, there was neither a dapper George Sanders-type sitting across from me, nor a twinkly eyed octogenarian knitting as she shared the intricate details of a jewel heist she’d unwittingly become the foil for two carriages back, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself.

 

suspicion1Cary Grant

train travel, California slimpaley

Departing Santa Barbara very early on a weekend morning with nary another passenger in sight, I had the entire 2nd floor carriage to myself for much of the journey. The sun was just rising, casting a gentle, apricot-hued haze upon the scenery slipping by the large windows.

 

the train along the coast of California  slimpaley

I had a book, magazines, my Kindle, camera, laptop and hellooo-even wifi on the train.

I sat at a ’4 top’, slipped off my Uggs (the silk  stockings didn’t make the cut) and made myself at home.

The Jazz Age  slimpaley.com

I’d brought a thermos of Nespresso and snacks with me. Lots of snacks. Just in case Nazis pulled the train to a screeching halt in search of the priceless art hidden…let’s say right below my seat. Always be prepared is my motto. I wasn’t a girl guide for years to slink away with nothing but a smattering of badges glued instead of sewn on my wrinkled sash.

But I digress…

North-by-Northwest-005

Luckily, the trip was smooth, calm and virtually crime-free so I didn’t have to share my snacks with anyone.  (there was the cranky train warden that came up towards the end and made me move from the ’4 top’  because I was a ‘single’ even though the train was virtually empty) WhatEVER. Single person discrimination I say.

california coast by train slimpaley

I arrived at my destination well rested, well fed, and most importantly, without the battle fatigue of fighting traffic for four + hours. Genius.  Frankly, I can’t wait to do it again.

 

venice-simplon-train

Someday, somewhere, sometime I might even be lucky enough to experience a trip on the Orient Express.

Seamed stockings indeed.

Train Travel Slim Paley

Hermes

 

How about you? Do you have any  train film favourites or possibly great train journeys you would recommend? I’d love to hear.

This time last year; CIAO ORVILLE

~

 

86 Comments

  1. I travelled from D.C to the midwest with two small children years ago. The kids and I enjoyed every minute of it. I don’t know why we haven’t done it again. I would love to take the train from SB to the Northwest. I know it is beautiful. You are tempting me!!

  2. I was nursing a broken heart from a marriage suddenly gone very bad when my parents invited me to run away to Europe with them for a few weeks. Mom and I left for London ahead of Dad, an imported car dealer, who we would meet up with in Paris for the International Auto Show. After a few days of roaming the countryside with antique dealer friends, we boarded the Orient Express for the London to Paris leg of the London to Istanbul run. The train was glorious, a series of restored cars of polished luxury. The service was impeccable, the food divine. A pianist serenaded in the bar. We did have to disembark for the crossing to the continent, and as I recall we got into another train in France, equally lovely, for the ride to Paris. There were no scandals, or other mysterious goings on so far as I could tell, except the ones I was more than relieved to put behind me in the states. It was fantastic to experience the luxury and mystique of a bygone era.

    • I can’t think of a better way to ‘move on’ with your life than a beautiful new start such as that Gail. Good for you!

  3. Ha! I just watched The Grand Budapest Hotel which had the required trains, Nazis and priceless art…brilliant movie with all the greats; Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and a whole bunch more. Art house cinema at its finest. Great post, love that first shot.

  4. Don’t forget “Leave Her To Heaven” with Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde for a great pick-up train scene. Was there anyone more glamorous than G. T.?

    • omg-I only have 8 photos pinned to my “Film Favourites” board on Pinterest and “Leave Her to Heaven” is one of them! How stunning is G.T. in that movie??! And the colour! (and evil that lurks within…) in fact, thank you for just giving me my “Daily Paley” for today Bunny!

  5. Two Decembers ago the kids and I took the train from Grand Central Station in downtown Los Angeles to Seattle Washington. Sleeper car and all. The kids loved it! Would do that trip again no question.

  6. About 30 years ago, I took a train from Shanghai to Xian in a train compartment that must have dated from before the war (and I mean one, not two). It was all wood paneled and lace curtains with a steam engine. Nice porters brought us hot water for tea and we bought treats from the train window when we stopped at stations. When we went to the dining car, we passed through carriages where passenger with bundles and chickens in cages. It was a very long journey and we had so much fun imagining we were on the Orient Express and kept inventing mysterious background for our fellow passengers with the help a a couple of bottles of gin. We were very young and had a great time. I will have to take the train along the California coast, sounds like fun.

  7. Well, you have an opportunity of a lifetime with your forthcoming trip to South Africa. Check out “The Blue Train”,
    renowned as a world class luxury experience for 1000 miles of wondrous scenery from Capetown to Pretoria (or vice versa).
    About a day and a half – perhaps you can fit it into your travel schedule.

  8. An amazing experience was the Orient Express from Singapore to Bangkok.
    We crossed The Bridge over the River Kwai. The engineer even backed up so we could cross it again. Everyone was whistling the ever famous tune from that magnificent movie from 1957.
    Unforgettable.

  9. Yes, I love to take the train!! I was actually hoping that one of my kids would go to UCSB so I could take the train down from San Francisco to visit! I have taken the train to and from Portland, the last time I was by myself. It was a lot of fun, but we were delayed by, among other things, an unruly passenger who started a fight (someone was paying a little to much attention to his girlfriend) and had to be taken off the train in the middle of nowhere by the police!!

    I also enjoy taking the Acela express whenever I am on the East Coast and need to go between Boston, NY or Washington.

    Thank you for this lovely post!

  10. In 1997 I took the bullet train from Paris to London, and it was wonderful. Although there was obviously no scenery, it was a lovely experience; quiet, extremely comfortable, attentive staff, and (very) fast!

  11. The best ever was taking the Shanghai Express from Peking, China to Shanghai in Feb 1975 during the Cultural Revolution. I envisioned myself Marlene Dietrich in her film SHANGHAI EXPRESS but believe me I wasn’t that glamorous!! I did take Orient Express London-Pais-Venice. Very glamorous except I had to share bathroom in our car with Jean and Pat Kennedy and their daughters. Jean Kennedy and I spent a lot of time in aisle chatting waiting for her daughter and Pat Kennedy Lawford who took forever in there.
    But otherwise was very glamorous with marvelous food, starched damask napkins, great wines etc.
    I used to like the train between Paris and Brussels too. Same glamorous dining and great food. We’d usually sit at luncheon table for most of trip.

  12. Took the Orient Express train from Cuzco, Peru to Machu Picchu and it really is our fondest memory of our couples trips. There were more than several Japanese tourists on the train so even though we ‘dressed’ they were dressed dressed! We acclimated to the elevation at the not to be missed El Monasterio Hotel in Cuzco. Our stay included New Year’s Eve and the party they throw is a other South American marvel. All of this preceded Machu Picchu which downsizes any experience before or after the magnificent moment your first eyes rest on the wonder before you.

    • I added Machu Picchu to my wish list Nancy after a friend went last year and loved it! Taking the train sounds amazing.

  13. I love to travel on trains. It evokes all the romance you so ably describe,
    We’ve done lots of trains through France and Italy and the hotel train from Paris to Madrid. Last summer we got on the train in Santa Barbara and transferred in Los Angeles for an overnight train to El Paso. We had a sleeper and I loved the views as we traveled eastbound towards Texas. In El Paso we picked up a rental car and drove to Marfa. After a few nights there–amazing bright starry nights, we made our way towards the Rio Grande for a bit of rafting and then on to Big Bend National Park and eventually Austin where we flew home. I adored it.

  14. My first train trip was from Missouri to Texas. I was less than 6 weeks old. My mother and I traveled to Texas to try to see my father, stationed in Texas, before he shipped out to the south Pacific. My grandparents lived in Dallas. According to Mother we had quite the adventure during that trip. Missed seeing daddy by hours. We would not meet until I was 2 years old. The year of that train trip was 1943. There were many more, through my childhood. Always to Texas and my grandparents.
    A few years ago my daughters, granddaughters, and I traveled to Chicago. It was my Mother’s Day gift that year. Unforgettable and lovely. One daughter and granddaughter traveled with me by train from St Louis. My other two daughters and infant granddaughter decided to take the 45 minute flight from St Louis. We all arrived at the hotel at the same time. When all was said and done, the flying girls envied the train travelers when they heard our stories of that trip.

  15. LOOOOooove train travel, can never get enough of it. My husband loves to drive in Europe, so we don’t get to do that training stuff :(, the Orient Express is high on my list of desires as well. Lovely story.

  16. Took the Rovos Rail from Pretoria, South Africa, to Victoria Falls. The train was wonderful–large compartments with king-sized beds and full baths and wonderful dining and South African wines!
    Loved it!

  17. Just watched Random Harvest….not a lot of actual travel on the train but still time in the station…and love the movie! And watched a pbs thing where they train it to the arctic circle…my next trip, I wish. Only train trip for me was the Santa Claus train to Big Bear….hot chocolate with tons of marshmallows, candy canes and a visit with Santa in the snow in the mountains. Absolutely unforgettable, as you see. About 50 years ago. Must update my train travel, ya think?

  18. I love to take the train into Boston and do so quite often. I go to museums, shopping and haircuts without dealing with traffic and parking. It’s relaxing and adventurous at the same time.
    Thanks for another great post. Just adore all your movie references!

  19. My husband and I love trains. Europe, America, China and an unplanned train trip in Russia. November 1975 we were to fly from Moscow to New York. At the airport we were told planes were not flying as we could hear and see takeoffs and landings from the window. We left with our group from UNC by bus to the train station at night in a blizzard, We boarded and we were shown into a compartment with our good friends (couple) we were traveling with. So much snow on our clothes making the floors very wet. A Russian lady was in charge of our car so on hands and knees with rag and bucket she dried everything. We had vodka, some orange juice in a tin which she opened all the way around so it could slosh when walking with it. We slept in our coats as the sheets were damp from the snow . Train stopped and again the lady went out to a coal pile with big buckets that she filled and returned to stoke the furnace. Next morning, Leningrad. We arrived home to babysitters and children 4 days late and our cables to them had not been received. Fortunately UNC office knew our whereabouts so children didn’t think they were orphans.

  20. Took the Orient Express from Venice to Paris than after 3 amazing days in Paris. Back on the Orient Express from Paris to London. Loved it, would love to do it again.
    Some years ago, when I was living in LA. Every July, I used to fly to Montreal with my son Douglas then take the train to Campbellton New Brunswick to visit my family. Used to get on the train late at night, sleep on the train and in the morning while having breakfast going those little village was amazing and fun.

  21. Although my father was a carpenter on the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in Maryland, I had never been on a train by the time I was 12. My father decided to change that one Saturday when he put me on the passenger train in Brunswick, Maryland that was going to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. He quickly drove to Harpers Ferry and met me at the station. It was a very sweet experience; one that I still cherish after 55 years.

  22. Hello Slim,

    Could you please tell us the name of the movie you’ve included in this post, with Cary Grant and his blonde travel companion? That shot doesn’t look familiar and I’d love to watch the movie. Many thanks!

    • I believe that still is from the movie “Suspicion” … Alfred Hitchcock … starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine.

    • both right. The first pic of Cary is “Suspicion” and the second, with Eva Marie Saint is “North by Northwest” I found her character, especially in the train scenes, surprisingly saucy for the times.

  23. What a lovely post! So very charming and fun! The Orient Express is on my Bucket List. Your posts never disappoint Slim.

  24. Travelled across Canada on the CN and CP trains in the late 1970′s…and from Seattle to Indio en route to Rancho Mirage in the 1980′s and then Seattle to the station nearest SF (whose name escapes me right now) in the early 2000′s…time for another train trip.
    Your quiet ride sounds idyllic and The Orient Express would be the most exquisite train trip I can imagine…

  25. Ah, Slim…it was the awesomely beautiful and romantic American experience called the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco in 1985. My husband and I traveled through Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. Our rail compartment window was a most incredible view finder for looking at America. There were the corn fields and farms of Iowa and Nebraska and the canyons and rivers of the Rocky Mountains. Eastern Utah was unlike anything we had ever seen on earth, a lunar-like desert landscape framed by distant agate cliffs. No sooner had we left one state, then we were moving through another. Next the high desert of Nevada and the lights of Reno and then the beautiful, flowing Truckee River welcoming us home to the Golden State. Notably, we stopped in Glenwood Springs, Colorado where fresh trout from a nearby stream were passed to a dining car attendant for our dinner that night. At another stop, my husband and I stretched our legs and we met a cookie delivery truck driver who gave us armful loads of boxes of cookies for our journey ahead. As we approached the Utah state line, the conductor announced that we were entering Utah and to please set our watches back 50 years! And what a sight as we pulled into Salt Lake City at night and were nearly blinded by the LDS Temple flooded with light. I only wish all the nighttime miles were as lit up like downtown Salt Lake City so as not to miss a moment of any of it but my husband liked it just the way it was! Leaving Utah and northern Nevada behind, it was a wintry mix of weather when we passed by Donner Lake in the High Sierras. We moved through short, narrow tunnels winding through the snow covered mountains. My husband worked for a corporation that owned a railroad and he described how his company built structures for crews to live in who were responsible for keeping the track cleared of snow. They operated snow plow trains with large rotors that fanned the snow out to both sides of the track. I was most grateful for this bit of information because it was now really snowing hard and we had just passed Donner Lake…gulp! The train slowed as we got closer to the Sacramento Delta on our way to our final stop in the East Bay.

    In keeping with the ‘spirit of Slim’ pack Walt Whitman, A Pocket Guide and read his autobiographical account of life and travels across America in diary like entries called Specimen Days and when you rest your eyes, sit back and hum the sound tracks about America that will play in your mind and always, always be sipping something. The world can wait…

    Thanks for this walk down memory lane, Slim.

  26. I have taken the train from SB to Oakland to visit my daughter, I needed time alone so paid for a berth. I had a good book, and, like you, snacks. I went to the bar as soon as the train left and had a $5 bloody mary that was truly the best one I’ve ever had. No kidding. Go figure. I rested in my berth and watched the California one rarely sees go by, and never opened the book until it got too dark to see. I actually took a shower! and had my dinner delivered to my berth. The steward seemed caught up in the whole thing and acted like the ones in the movies when train travel was at its best~

  27. Although my experiences with train travel aren’t nearly as exciting as some as those mentioned here, I vividly remember traveling from northern Ontario (Sudbury, to be exact) to Toronto. The train would leave at 11:30 at night and arrive in Toronto at 6:30 in the morning. I’d reserve an upper berth. In the winter time especially, the train would arrive in a cloud of steam, and I’d climb aboard and claim my berth. I’d soon be rocked to sleep by the gentle swaying. Before I knew it, it was morning and the porter would be waking me to prepare me for my arrival in Toronto. I still remember those wonderful trips!

  28. Hi Slim, I so love train travel !! To get to the city from where I live ,you have to endure an hour long trip on a ghastly motorway. By train, forty minutes of uninterupted reading or listening to music , or, just gazing at the beautiful countryside. Train wins , hands down!
    Two memorable trips come to mind . Once , from Canberra to Sydney on a train right out of the 1940′s .Sepia coloured photos , brown holland blinds with fringe. This was in the late 80′s, so it really was like being in one of your black and white movies.
    The other was from Venice to Lake Como. The excitement was incredible as it was my first visit . Unfortunately George was nowhere to be seen !
    Love all train journeys ,and The Orient Express is on my must do list too.

  29. Took the Santa Fe across the country many times with my grandparents and stayed in a “roomette”. So much fun to sit at a table with a starched tablecloth and watch the world go by. Years ago I went with my husband on the royal Scotsman where we boarded at Paddington Station and traveled through Scotland looking at castles. At night it was formal and we had cocktails in the parlor car and listened to chamber music. Also took the grandchildren to Victoria BC on the train up the coast.

  30. I may be lynched here, but I have to confess that I’m nervous of trains. It’s only because I went to a girls’ school and had to rise at 6am to catch the 7am train from our home in the country to the city each day, and then catch the 5am train home again. The 3-hr round trip and long days used to wear me out so much I often fell asleep in Maths class!

    Now, I’ll walk / drive / take a donkey… anything to avoid trains!

    That said, I loved the film The Railway Man, with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, which is all about trains and railways. So very, very sad.

    Jx

  31. Oh the memories that are flooding back. A trip to Montreux Switzerland in 1994 with my late husband and taking the Orient Express up through the majestic mountains. The formal dining car, being treated like royalty, a dream indeed!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

  32. While living in Britain for a while, train travel throughout the country was a frequent pleasure. (I must be one of few Americans to have travelled from London to Liverpool 3 times! Tourquay, Bath, Aberdeen, Paris…) each lovely, charming and calm-compared to Grand Central NYC to New Jersey. :-)

    Thank you so much for this elegant post.

  33. I used to live in Italy in a small hilltown called Frascati, a 30 minute train ride outside of Rome. And what a train ride . . . as the train descends from the hill to the valley around Rome. You pass vineyards, go through short tunnels under rivers or roads, the race track at Ciampino, but most spectacular are the ancient Roman acqueducts. I took that train hundreds upon hundreds of times and I never failed to take the opportunity to study the grandness of those ancient structures.

  34. I’ve always been fascinated with trains. Our 6th grade class took a trip to Chicago on one. It was thrilling and never forgotten. Hubs is retiring soon and we’re planning two specific train excursions; one into the Twin Cities on the light rail, and another in the Fall up around the north shore and into Wisconsin. It’ll be a beautiful time of year for that.

    Oh, my movies . . . Strangers On A Train . . . and of course, The Orient Express :)

  35. Best: Leaving Durham University in the sleeper car of the Flying Scotsman heading to London to fly home for Christmas . When the porter came in to my private compartment to fold down the sleeping berth and asked if I preferred coffee or tea with my breakfast in the morning, I knew that I had accidentally stumbled upon the BEST way to get to London (and then Heathrow) after being away from home for seven months. Worst: four months earlier on the train from Brindisi to Naples after having been on the (sleepless) overnight ferry crossing from Patras, Greece. We hadn’t reserved seats and the train was full but they let us stand/sit in the aisles for five looooonnnnnng hours.

  36. Two Australian train experiences: 1) late nineteen-eighties taking the Indian-Pacific from Sydney to Perth (4 days) crossing through spectacular (non) scenery of the Nullarbor Desert. 2) Being forced to take an overnight train from Sydney to Melbourne because of a pilot’s strike. Almost froze; the slogan was “Travel by rail and arrive refreshed.” I thought it should have been, “Travel by rail and arrive refrigerated”!
    Quintessential train movie: “The Lady Vanishes”, original Hitchcock version

  37. The Cardinal has to be the most scenic train east of the Mississippi. Ohio River valley, New River Gorge, Shenandoah valley, and the Blue Ridge.

  38. When I was a kid I would travel on the train with my mom to upstate New York to visit my Grandma. I would have bags of candy in my little purse that I would not share with ANYONE and later I read Ramona books all of the time. Oddly, now that I am older, I share my candy but I read a lot less. I do not know what to make of that……….

  39. Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from.

    Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this site.

  40. When I was about five I was on a car trip to Texas with my Grandmother, Mother, Aunt, two cousins and my sister in a new 1936 Ford and we were in a bad accident. My Grandmother was killed and I was the only one with no injuries. We stayed in the hospital in Marfa, Texas for several days then went to an Uncles until everyone was well enough to travel. I remember sleeping in the bottom bert and when I saw my reflection in the berth above me I thought my sister was falling through. It was quite an experience for a little girl.

    When I was about nine years old my sister and I took the train from Alhambra, California to Francitis, Texas. We slept in out seats and when we arrived in Houston everyone got off and we were left onboard until someone finally came and found us. We then waited in the Houston station for our connection to Francitis.
    Just 10 days ago my husband and I took the Allegro fast train from St. Petersburg, Russia to Helsinki, Finland. We were in the Comfort Class car with only two other passengers. We were served lunch and coffee, tea and chocolates were available the whole trip which took about three and a half hours.

  41. Top level of service of any old soviet train, an experience one has to have once.

    Train out of Ulan Batar, Mongolia late at night out to a yurt style hotel/ranch where we stayed. Got of the train at midnight. Stars were out and night was still. Beautiful. Drove us out to the countryside.

    Train from Hanoi- Lao Cai and then onward via vehicle to Sapa.

    Train from New Delhi to Taj Mahal…..sight, smells and sounds…once in a lifetime experience.

    My children grew up overseas. About 5 years ago, I took them on a train trip from
    Santa Barbara, California to Dodge City. Delightful. Loved seeing all the the train stations along the way. In L. A. we had a layover, so we put our bags in a locker and headed of to Olvera street for a bite to eat. The train took us through New Mexico through mountains. Delightful. There were a couple of forest rangers on board giving guided tours as we passed through various areas.

    When I lived in L. A. years 30 years ago, the women in our office took a once a year trip. One year we took the train from L. A. to San Diego. Delightful memories.

    Train within Switzerland to take our kids skiing at a Kinderhotel.

    All good memories…thanks for bringing these back…..

  42. My daughter and I traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles by train just this summer. It was 46 hours of wonderful restful travel, except sadly, no WiFi. We even had a long stop in Albuquerque NM and got to spend time with another of my daughter’s. I would travel by train again in a heartbeat, only next time I am going to spring for the full bedroom. The roomette was a very tight squeeze especially at night when the beds were down.

  43. Well…that just takes the cake! We’re invited to my uncle and aunt’s 60th wedding anniversary in Yuba City in August and I just said, “let’s take the TRAIN….” I didn’t hear a “no-way…” I’ve only done Pgh to Omaha and the Acela from DC to NY…I’m phoning tomorrow!! Next..Orient Express…. :) franki

  44. Favourite movie of all time: Murder on the Orient Express – exquisite attention to detail in every shot. Lauren Bacall in one of her best roles. Albert Finney knocking it out of the park as usual. And that train…

  45. Wonderful post! I am glad to see the California train travel is still alive and enjoyable. I haven’t made the trip along the coast ever, but would love to. As a child, I traveled twice from San Francisco to Chicago on the California Zephyr to visit family with my mother. I still have fun memories of the people we met, the glass ceiling for viewing the Sierras and going through the 10,000 foot tunnel at Donner Pass.. Sadly we haven’t traveled in the states by train since then, but have gone all over the U.K., Belgium, Germany, Italy, France via train and it’s been memorable and fun. Crazy for the Locamotion!! You’re bringing back my childhood in the 70s!!

    • Have been pleasantly surprised by all the reply Slim Paley’s train post …you stated it well in your comment. I think we do wish for a kinder and gentler time. Just think there were no handheld devices so we looked out the window and watched the world go by. Nostalgia it is, I made a list of all the movies mentioned for winter watching.

  46. During World War II, my father was in the Army and stationed at Fort Hood, Texas for a period of time. He was eventually shipped overseas and served in several European locations including The Battle of the Bulge. I was two years old when my mother decided we would take a train from Connecticut to Texas to visit my father. I actually have a few faint memories of that trip. Sadly, I have only had short train trips in all the years since because driving or flying had become the norm. However, it pleases me very much that whenever the topic of trains comes up that I have a story to share. I have enjoyed reading about all the adventures posted here. Thank you.

  47. My parents would put me on the train in Seattle to visit relatives in Bellingham when I was 10 or 11. I would carry a tennis racket and pretend I was Kelly Robinson meeting up with Alexander Scott.

  48. I love travelling by train and have had a fair number of train rides.
    Between 1964 and 1973, I travelled across Canada by train six times, always between Montreal and Vancouver, B.C. and always on the Canadian National. I was hooked the first time, the summer I was 16: my lower berth seemed as wide as a double bed, and the entire outboard side of it was a window. Each night, I lay in my own little cocoon, watching the glorious Canadian countryside zip by in the moonlight. The route through the Canadian Rockies was spectacular, and the oatmeal at breakfast was outstanding. Even though my fare included a berth and meals, it was low enough that I could even afford it as a college student paying her own way. Once, I left the train in Viking, Alberta and visited my grandparents, who lived an hour or so away, for a few days before continuing across on the train. This trip was then the least expensive way to get from the west coast of the U.S. to Europe, and I loved every minute of each of those crossings.
    Other particularly memorable train trips were from winter trips from London to Stockholm (thick ice over the windows and standing room only) and from Helsinki to Leningrad (Soviet trains with shades of former glory; very imposing border crossing; stark differences between the Finland side and the U.S.S.R. side); one overnight trip from Mombasa to Kenya (Africa!!); 3 overnight and 1 daytime train trips between Moscow and Leningrad at the height of the Cold War (see above; many glimpses of old Russia that had somehow escaped Soviet-era modification, at least externally, during the day trip); and several months of Europass trips in Europe, most with overnights on the train in those inimitable 6-couchette compartments (I always ended up in the upper bunk); a February train trip from Zurich to the Italian-Swiss Alps and then back through the French-Swiss alps to Paris with my husband (unbelievable snow scenes in the Alps; no other travelers in the Dolomites); a train-and-ferry trip from Oslo to Copenhagen with our young children (exciting!); and, most recently, an Amtrak trip from Portland, Oregon to Glacier National Park (gorgeous countryside of many different types all the way).
    I look forward to many more train trips, particularly if I (ever) retire and particularly since showers are now available. Thank you for reminding me of how much I like to travel this way!

  49. You hit the jackpot on this post. I feel the same way about old fashioned ocean luxury liners (not cruise ships).
    I think the collective “we” is longing for a simpler and more soulful time.

  50. How I loved reading the comments here. Filled with wanderlust always, taking a train makes me dream. I have had some good experiences, some challenging ones too but that sound of the click clack is always reassuring, isn’t it?
    I am still in the midst of unpacking boxes after moving house and so am just discovering the unveiling of your new site now. Just gorgeous and worth all of the tinkering. A tip of the (feathered) hat to you, SP.

  51. Much prefer trains to planes. I love being rocked to sleep on an overnighter. One sleeps flat without spending 5 figures and wakes up feeling refreshed and arrive in the center of town and a rare immigration queue. And one sees the terrain without an effort – just perfect really.

  52. In the late 80′s I regularly took the Metroliner between Washington, DC and New York City. I had a few interesting conversations, but outside of myself, few people were dressed in 1940′s elegance.

    My favorite train movies are “From Russia With Love”, “Strangers on a Train”, and “Once Upon a Time in the West”.

  53. For your travel viewing pleasure: Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 Days.
    This is a BBC series done before current tech–so think landlines, morse code, etc.
    Palin’s itinerary was achieved without plane travel, at least for him and his Paspartou! This has become an endearing family favorite; we return to it again and again. Since then, he has produced other travel adventures, but this to me, is his best.

  54. Our son, Scott, died from a heart attack last September. Out of the many, many wonderful memories we have of him, the ones I cherish the most are from a European train trip he and I made a few years ago. He loved everything about traveling by train: The trains themselves, of course, the stations that reeked of expectancy and were conveniently located right in the middle of town, travelers saying goodbye, travelers saying hello, being able to look out the window at the gorgeous countryside, visiting with the relaxed and happy passengers, the Stoli, etc., etc. etc. He loved it all.

    Thank you for the great post!

    • I’m so sorry for your loss Judie.
      It’s so nice of you to share your wonderful memories of your train trip with Scott here with everyone.
      Thank you!

  55. Nice perspective.
    Rode the train Trans Canada in my late teens. Sadly, don’t remember much. It WAS after all, the sixties. Arrived safely in Vancouver for a summer of good times and love.
    More recently, my wife & I toured England, France and Czech Republic by rail and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. So civilized compared to air. And so much more time to savour the journey.
    Just returned from a 28 day tour of the American East coast where we used train from Boston to NYC and then on to Washington DC. Once again, the only way to travel. Rented a car for the rest of out travels which included Savannah, Ft. Lauderdale, Clearwater Beach, Montgomery AL, and Memphis & Nashville. Needed a little more flexibility for the last part of the trip, but the train was by far the most fun and relaxing way to travel.
    Thank you – dave

  56. Well. What a treat!
    I’m just loving reading all these wonderful comments and stories. Many thanks to all of you who are sharing here. It appears that train travel is akin to perfume-it leaves an everlasting and evocative trail of (mostly) delightful memories!
    I know I, for one, will MOST definitely be considering taking the train when I can from now on, and I’m going to be encouraging my sons to do the same.
    Stay tuned! xx SP

  57. Slim, What magic you portray in your focus and musings!
    I recommend a Fabulous trip my husband and I took from Denver to California. We left very
    early in the morning in late March. The train slowly snaked up the face of the Rockies right
    north of Denver, then picked up speed as we snaked thru the mountains, streams, decaying
    deer felled by a harsh winter…
    We started west out of Colorado into Nebraska where screen doors were banging on empty
    deserted houses…bleak but beautiful in the late afternoon. A small piece of Wyoming then
    Montana then into Utah at night! As someone else described, the brilliant lights on the Mormon
    Cathedral bleach out any other vision…startling!! but my favorite memory was a full moon
    against the extreme salt content on the landscape, it literally shimmered, glistened, Amazing!
    We had a private compartment, swivel chairs, our own bathroom, and pull down double bed…
    Very romantic moving on the sways and rhythms thru the night…I could hardly close my eyes
    so as not to miss Anything!!
    Nevada was mesa, stark, different kind of beauty….going by the Big Chicken Ranch, hilarious!
    Then climbing into the Sierra Nevada in and thru Donner Pass and remembering the tragedies
    that have occurred there, what rich history these trains hold and so much more intimate than
    30,000 feet above.
    An affordable trip in time and money for any couple or family…meeting passengers from all
    over the World in the observation car and or the dining car….still starched white tablecloths
    and napery!!! OVERALL FABULOUS!!

  58. Wow, a giant wave of nostalgia! Don’t forget the Rocky Mountaineer, a wonderful ride from Vancouver through British Columbia to the Rocky Mountains. It stops at night so you don’t have to miss any of the spectacular scenery. The views are breath taking, and you can actually enjoy them, as opposed to driving and trying to cling on to the mountain roads. Food and service is great too.

  59. Slim,
    Fabulous post as always!
    I have to add my little train trip back in the 1990s. We had watched the Michael Palin series “Greatest Railway Journeys” and so when in Scotland, we booked the train from
    Glasgow to Inverness. Amazing scenery of the rolling hills of Scotland. Ever the well prepared gourmand, I had stopped in a little store in Glasgow prior to the train journey and purchased local cheeses, loaf of bread, crackers, assorted beverages and packed them into my oversized carry on. About halfway through the trip we set up our picnic and were met with hungry and jealous eyes of our train companions. There was no food service on this trip and so people longingly glanced at our cheese and bread and cool refreshments. What a great ride to a remote treasure on the coast of Scotland. Forever etched in my memory.
    Thanks to all your lovely readers for sharing their adventures!

  60. My nostalgia for trains dates back to the 50′s when I worked on the 20th Century Limited, the luxury train departing Grand Central Terminal and arriving Chicago the following day. I met many interesting people and not a few movie stars since any contracts stipulated no travel by air. There has been nothing like it since!

  61. I’m late to the party, but wanted to join in too! I love train travel, as so many of your readers do, Slim. When in Europe, we travel by train a lot between cities and countries. One unforgettable memory of some years ago was traveling between Germany and Prague and having the misfortune of being in the restroom when we crossed the border. The German border patrol are a bit intense about their job. They knocked on the bathroom door, and even though I shouted I’d be right out they actually used their key to let themselves in (I wasn’t quite done!) and escorted me back to my sleep car, demanding to see my paperwork. Yes, wow. It still stings. But that experience aside, I do love travel by train!

  62. What a great little slice of life. Loved your train travel story and the memory flogging, movie classics train references. My Mom trains from San Luis Obispo down to us in San Diego when she visits. I’m going to share your story with her. Continued safe and memorable travels to you and yours!

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