Amtrak carried more than 31.2 million passengers so far this year marking the highest annual ridership total since “America’s Railroad” started operations in 1971. Amtrak has accomplished this feat nine times out of the last ten years.
31.3 million and ONE, and that would be me.
When I recently traveled Raleigh to Charlotte on the Carolinian and back, and told people about my trip, it amazed me how many people said, “You took the train???”
Yeah. And it was great from start to finish.
First, I pulled into the station here in Raleigh and parked my car right next to the building. Overnight parking was free. Once inside, it was only a few steps to the platform where I would wait only a few minutes before my train pulled into the station. I rolled my bag over to the door and was greeted my this friendly old guy in uniform who lifted my bag up and out of my hands and carried it up the stairs for me. Are you kidding me? This reminded me of all those train departure scenes in old movie classics back when the ladies were cared for in such a manner. (Equality is great but we women certainly gave up some simple pleasures like this somewhere along the way. But that’s another story.)
That bag fit easily right over my seat. The aisle was wide and no one needed to elbow their way by me while I was getting myself situated. The seats were so wide and the legroom so ample that I even took a photo and posted it on Facebook. The train was already moving. No one told me to turn my phone off. I sat down, opened my laptop, and went online. Free Wi-Fi. Sweet!
I could go on about all the benefits of taking trains rather than planes and automobiles. I even wrote a book about all that. Many of my characters in Fast Trains are people in other countries. And those characters have it even better because they are traveling at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour on high speed trains in England, France, Spain, China and Japan, and so many other countries not mentioned in the book. So the next time I am asked, “You took the train???” I promise not to reply, “Read the book!” Instead I will join my fellow train riders here and all around the world and reply, “Heck yeah, I did, it was great, jolly good, magnifique, and estupendo, not to mention 宏大 and すばらしい!”