Why trains instead of planes for long distance?

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

anumberone

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Aug 8, 2015
Messages
1,082
On the same note, a trip from DC to Indianapolis on the Cardinal, which arrives at O dark 30 created nightmares for my inlaws, believing they were in danger having to go to the Amtrack station at that time of night to pick us up. arriving at odd hours is an issue.
 

ehbowen

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2011
Messages
2,258
On the same note, a trip from DC to Indianapolis on the Cardinal, which arrives at O dark 30 created nightmares for my inlaws, believing they were in danger having to go to the Amtrack station at that time of night to pick us up. arriving at odd hours is an issue.
Agreed, but as noted above a second daily frequency on all LD routes would go a long, long way towards mitigating that concern.
 

IndyLions

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
219
On the same note, a trip from DC to Indianapolis on the Cardinal, which arrives at O dark 30 created nightmares for my inlaws, believing they were in danger having to go to the Amtrack station at that time of night to pick us up. arriving at odd hours is an issue.
For that reason, I use Crawfordsville IN instead of Indianapolis. 7am versus 5am westbound, 10pm vs midnight eastbound. And a small town station instead of the disgrace that they have allowed Indianapolis Union Station to become. But I’m a west sider, so it’s 30 minutes to IND or 30 minutes to CRF - no difference.
 
Joined
Aug 29, 2017
Messages
13
I travel by train for the same reason. It's a nice little capsule especially when you get a sleeper. I love to read entire books in one sitting, and catching up on movies and binge watching TV shows. However, your mention of traveling on the Silver Star to see the eclipse in 2017 brought back my memories of taking the Silver Star down from Boston on the same day to reach Columbia, SC for the eclipse. It was exciting walking from the station to visit Starbucks. I met Penny and learned about this forum! I never made a hotel reservation. The eclipse was awe inspiring and I even got free eclipse glasses from a retired NASA scientist who hung out on the University of SC campus. She had a stack of them, gave a talk, and handed out material. I left the same day on the 4:00 Greyhound to DC to connect to the Boston train because I didn't want to hang around just to get the Silver Star again or need a hotel. A terrible bus trip which will not be described here.
 

DonNewcomb

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
41
So what did you choose for your mode of transit?
Hopped in the car and drove I-10.

Apparently in your enthusiasm to respond you did not carefully read what I said. ;)....
I did. I just wanted to point out that a lot of podunk towns end up having the train pass through a really odd hours.

....., but why bother. It was a lovely star filled night and there were places to sit and wait.......
I think Virgil Tibbs said the exact same thing.
 

v v

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Dec 4, 2012
Messages
1,200
In answer to the OP's question.

Flew 4.5 hours London to Cairo, travel in budget as it allows us more travel for the cash we have available. 5 days later train from Cairo to Luxor, 11.5 hours along the Nile in 1st class for peanuts, but 2nd class on Egyptian 'express' trains isn't at all bad either looking at the seats and car layout.

Flight was ok, cramped seats, slightly uncomfortable seating not as good as Greyhound in any respect. Usual faff at both airports, retail always comes before passenger comfort and totally without any human contact. For me airports are a necessary evil that are designed for corporate benefit and not much else.

Railway stations on the other hand are magic places, whether small, lonely and basic or glamorous such as LA Union, Grand Central, St Pancras, Milano and Marseilles. Then there are the odd ones, they have a few in Moscow, Surf Beach, CA, Portland a throw-back to earlier times etc etc etc, to me railway stations connect with us humans in a way airports can never do.
Almost any of these plus many more put you in a good frame of mind to start your upcoming journey, or a good end point to the journey just travelled. Have never felt that about airports where individuals are far too insignificant.

Then there is the train. You are in a geographical and time capsule with real life and scenery passing by your window day and night, you live in 'train time'. Then there are always if you choose fellow passengers who you can interact with, it appears to me as though train passengers have a different social outlook to plane passengers. More open, more interested in what and who is around them, and of course more time.

There are occasions where time and sometimes cost constraints have the upper hand, then a flight it has to be, but Japan, China, and some of mainland Europe are now faster by train for some city centre to city centre journeys.

Our first of many to come Egyptian trains was no exception with people interacting, Egyptians with each other, with other Africans, and with us handful of Europeans (5) on a 15 car train that was always full. I thought it would be difficult to interact as I only have 2 words of Arabic, most Egyptians away from the heavily touristed areas do not speak or understand English, not even younger people.
But we found language wasn't a barrier, often it was replaced with big smiles and gestures, and un-asked for help, yet again the train came up to hoped for expectations.

I'm not denying that planes have their place in transport systems, we flew to Egypt, but when there is the opportunity to take a train a plane comes a long way second.

Of course, just a personal opinion.
 
Last edited:

basketmaker

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
87
1. NO TSA BULL****!
2. Comfort (And a bed if wanted or needed)
3. Food
4. Scenery is a fantastic bonus!

I grew up on the Miami International Airport from infancy and in planes (large and small). Dad was an air traffic controller supervisor for 30 years as well a private pilot and plane owner. Mom was a bartender in the terminal for 25 years. And I had a 40+ year career in aviation doing everything except pilot but including flight attendant. And now utterly despise commercial air travel! If I fly it will be on Amtrak.
 

DonNewcomb

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
41
1. NO TSA BULL****!
2. Comfort (And a bed if wanted or needed)
3. Food
4. Scenery is a fantastic bonus!
1. Yeah, TSA is a PITA
2. Relative. Less discomfort spread over a longer time.
3. Not what it used to be. I remember train travel as a child and some dining cars* were such gourmet experiences that there was nothing on the menu that appealed to a kid (e.g. hamburger, spaghetti). No, just yucky stuff like filet mignon, brussels sprouts, etc. The best Amtrak has managed is about like a business-class airline meal.
4. Some places the scenery is industrial or just a green tunnel through the forest.

*e.g. The old California Zephyr. (ca 1956-61)
 
Last edited:

basketmaker

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
87
1. Yeah, TSA is a PITA
2. Relative. Less discomfort spread over a longer time.
3. Not what it used to be. I remember train travel as a child and some dining cars* were such gourmet experiences that there was nothing on the menu that appealed to a kid (e.g. hamburger, spaghetti). No, just yucky stuff like filet mignon, brussels sprouts, etc. The best Amtrak has managed is about like a business-class airline meal.
4. Some places the scenery is industrial or just a green tunnel through the forest.

*e.g. The old California Zephyr. (ca 1956-61)
Agree with it being relative. Can't say the food is 5-star but I have never had a bad meal on Amtrak. Don't do brussel sprouts or any of the foofoo food. I'll inhale a filet any day/anytime. Since the CZ passes my window the scenery ain't bad at least westbound.
 

Qapla

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
757
Besides, while those in the cities often enjoy the countryside scenery .... those who live in the countryside can enjoy the "industrial" and urban sprawl we don't see on a regular basis

I know the first time I rode the train into the Northeast cities I was intrigued

Just because it is not all snow-capped mountains doesn't mean it doesn't have beauty to someone
 

DonNewcomb

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
41
Agree with it being relative. Can't say the food is 5-star but I have never had a bad meal on Amtrak. Don't do brussel sprouts or any of the foofoo food. I'll inhale a filet any day/anytime. Since the CZ passes my window the scenery ain't bad at least westbound.
I found some menus from the old CZ online and they did have hamburgers a lunch but since we traveled from Chicago to Omaha on the CZ, I just got dinner. That was a classier sort of meal. We'd sneak up to the dome car when the train crossed the Mississippi for the view but the rest of the way was coach. I do distinctly remember the radiotelephone in the observation car. I always wanted to call someone, anyone, on that phone. Never understood why Dad wouldn't pay for it. :)
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
18,950
I found some menus from the old CZ online and they did have hamburgers a lunch but since we traveled from Chicago to Omaha on the CZ, I just got dinner. That was a classier sort of meal. We'd sneak up to the dome car when the train crossed the Mississippi for the view but the rest of the way was coach. I do distinctly remember the radiotelephone in the observation car. I always wanted to call someone, anyone, on that phone. Never understood why Dad wouldn't pay for it. :)
I always wanted to send a Telegram when riding on the Famous Trains when I was a Boy, but didnt have the Dollar it cost!:D:(
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,549
:)o_Oo_Oo_Oo_Oo_Oo_ORad
I found some menus from the old CZ online and they did have hamburgers a lunch but since we traveled from Chicago to Omaha on the CZ, I just got dinner. That was a classier sort of meal. We'd sneak up to the dome car when the train crossed the Mississippi for the view but the rest of the way was coach. I do distinctly remember the radiotelephone in the observation car. I always wanted to call someone, anyone, on that phone. Never understood why Dad wouldn't pay for it. :)
Radiotelephone in the observation car?
I remember some trains having that (such as the Afternoon Congressional, and the seasonal Florida Special, but not the CZ...
o_O
Some trains had a land-line phone in their obs car plugged in at the terminal, until departure...
 

DonNewcomb

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 11, 2019
Messages
41
......Radiotelephone in the observation car?
I remember some trains having that (such as the Afternoon Congressional, and the seasonal Florida Special, but not the CZ...
o_O
Some trains had a land-line phone in their obs car plugged in at the terminal, until departure...
Give me some slack here; I was at most nine years old. :confused: I was told it was a radiotelephone. My Dad's objection to using it was the cost, not that it only worked when stopped in stations.
 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
11,150
Give me some slack here; I was at most nine years old.
Nine years old and already a slacker. ;)

I always wanted to send a Telegram when riding on the Famous Trains when I was a Boy, but didnt have the Dollar it cost!:D:(
If this is real then I think you win the battle Jim. The closest I ever came to this sort of thing were the $7 per minute "Airfones" on some aircraft. Supposedly there were some long range intercontinental aircraft equipped for sending and receiving facsimiles in flight, but I never had the chance to see any in use and when I asked how it worked nobody knew.
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
18,950
Nine years old and already a slacker. ;)


If this is real then I think you win the battle Jim. The closest I ever came to this sort of thing were the $7 per minute "Airfones" on some aircraft. Supposedly there were some long range intercontinental aircraft equipped for sending and receiving facsimiles in flight, but I never had the chance to see any in use and when I asked how it worked nobody knew.
Same for me when I started Flying regularly Chris.

My employer ( the Guvment) wouldn't pay for such fancy stuff, so most "Road Warriors " carried a Pager and upon artival @ Airports ran for the Payphones ( what's that Grandpa?)!
 

basketmaker

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
87
I found some menus from the old CZ online and they did have hamburgers a lunch but since we traveled from Chicago to Omaha on the CZ, I just got dinner. That was a classier sort of meal. We'd sneak up to the dome car when the train crossed the Mississippi for the view but the rest of the way was coach. I do distinctly remember the radiotelephone in the observation car. I always wanted to call someone, anyone, on that phone. Never understood why Dad wouldn't pay for it. :)
I made 2 calls from Amtrak when they had the phonebooths installed. I can't remember what train or where I was heading. A quick call home and to the office cost like $15.00. Did it for the novelty. I didn't bring my heavy big battery corded handset cellphone on the trip.
 

ehbowen

Conductor
Joined
Mar 22, 2011
Messages
2,258
I remember train travel as a child and some dining cars* were such gourmet experiences that there was nothing on the menu that appealed to a kid (e.g. hamburger, spaghetti). No, just yucky stuff like filet mignon, brussels sprouts, etc. The best Amtrak has managed is about like a business-class airline meal.

*e.g. The old California Zephyr. (ca 1956-61)
A Bit OT (although I had just taken her family on a Houston-LA-Houston Amtrak trip; so there :p), but when my niece turned thirteen I decided that for her birthday we'd dress up and I'd take her to a really nice restaurant. I remember her looking at the menu, then asking, "What is fill-it mig-nan?" The first thing which ran through my mind was, "You're not getting out of here for less than eighty bucks...."
 

jloewen

Train Attendant
Joined
Mar 10, 2009
Messages
51
I made 2 calls from Amtrak when they had the phonebooths installed. I can't remember what train or where I was heading. A quick call home and to the office cost like $15.00. Did it for the novelty. I didn't bring my heavy big battery corded handset cellphone on the trip.
The "Metroliners" had little pay phone booths in them, and definitely did not have to be in a station. That was a selling point. That and their "astounding" speed, which as I pointed out here http://hnn.us/blog/143567 was not as fast as the City of New Orleans and/or Magnolia Star on the Illinois Central pre-Amtrak.
 

basketmaker

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
87
The "Metroliners" had little pay phone booths in them, and definitely did not have to be in a station. That was a selling point. That and their "astounding" speed, which as I pointed out here http://hnn.us/blog/143567 was not as fast as the City of New Orleans and/or Magnolia Star on the Illinois Central pre-Amtrak.
I do remember it was a low-level car. And most likely in the NEC to/from BOS. But I don't remember riding a "Metroliner" but have done "Amfleet" on the LSL from CHI to BOS and once BOS-NYC to catch the LSL out of NYP back to CHI. Connecting there to the CONO to FTN. Glad I did since Boston (North Shore area) was slammed with a major blizzard about 2 hours after I left. Family couldn't get out of the house for four days.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
7,549
On the streamliner’s that did have, the radiotelephones required contacting the mobile operator to get connected, as well as assistance from the car attendant to use.

When the MU Metroliner’s came into service in 1969, their phones were pushbutton, coin operated, and completely automatic. They did have a color warning light that told when they reached a couple of stretches where there was no service available.

IIRC, some of the Amfleet club or cafe cars had a later version (“Railphone”?),
that accepted credit cards...
 

basketmaker

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 19, 2018
Messages
87
On the streamliner’s that did have, the radiotelephones required contacting the mobile operator to get connected, as well as assistance from the car attendant to use.

When the MU Metroliner’s came into service in 1969, their phones were pushbutton, coin operated, and completely automatic. They did have a color warning light that told when they reached a couple of stretches where there was no service available.

IIRC, some of the Amfleet club or cafe cars had a later version (“Railphone”?),
that accepted credit cards...
It must of been the Club or Cafe Amfleet version. It was a credit card version. Also, it was in the "cellular" era. I did use a radiotelephone (with rotary) in a co-workers van several year earlier. And look at us know!
 
2
Group Builder
Top