Travel by Rail

Recently I took a trip by train to visit family. A long train trip. Several of my friends thought it sounded romantic, exciting, and fun. It wasn’t.

Thanks mostly to movies, train travel has been glorified beyond the reality of the experience. Perhaps a slightly more realistic image comes to mind when I recall the Sex and the City episode in which Carrie and Samantha take a cross country trip by train. The “deluxe sleeper car” turns out to be, well, less luxurious than expected.

One of my favorite written descriptions of train travel can be found in Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island, in which he details his travels around Britain, often by rail. Of course, European trains and American trains are not at all alike, but perhaps people everywhere are the same.

Bryson, much to his chagrin, discovers that he is sitting behind “Cellphone Man.” I’m here to report that Cellphone Man is still alive and well. And multiplying. Bryson’s book was first published in 1995, but a surprising number of people still seem to feel the need to call all manner of friends, relatives, and work associates to report – “I’m on the train.” I’m pretty sure this is why text messaging was invented.

For a quirky movie about three brothers’ train shenanigans, check out The Darjeeling Limited, in which three brothers travel by train across India.

If you’re planning a trip, remember that real life isn’t quite like the movies. You may wish to consider another mode of transport.

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