All aboard, Amtrak
One of my favorite ways to travel is Amtrak. It is a pleasant and more sustainable way to travel long distances. Also, traveling by train cuts carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by half compared to the plane. The train gives you the feel of the long wandering car ride Hunter S. Thompson discussed in his writings, but you can drink, well you can drink legally.
The train makes the journey part of the destination. I no longer am excited about getting to an airport two to three hours early, fighting traffic, running through the airport, hoping I brought the proper ID, being searched, and then hustling, struggling to find a ride out of the airport. That is no longer fun to me.
Airports are often on the outskirts of towns. Trains are always in a city’s center and are mostly accessible by decent to good public transportation. I have often casually had dinner with friends and popped on a train. There will be nothing casual involved or popping of anything when taking an airplane.
When I take the train, I like booking a sleeper, which is like a private suite, but if that option isn’t available, it’s still a great way to travel. From the observation car, you literally get to see how the colonized West was blasted into existence. You also get snapshots of railroad history as each railroad station has a story. When I take the train from New York to Wisconsin, I marvel at the causeway of the Sandusky Bay, which is enjoyable because you have water on both sides of the track for almost three miles. Isn’t engineering grand? Remnants of the ice age are clearly visible as you go West. Then there are the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, which are huge rivers that cut their way through Adirondack Mountain Range. New York State’s Adirondack Mountains was the home of abolitionist John Brown, and he is buried there.
Then there is the history of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) founded in 1925 by A. Philip Randolph. The leaders of the BSCP—included A. Philip Randolph (based in New York), who was also its first president, C. L. Dellums (based in California), vice president, and second president, and Milton Webster (based in Chicago), vice president and lead negotiator. All became significant leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
In the 1920s Randolph founded the socialist magazine “The Messenger.” In the 1960s, he was head of the “March on Washington.” All three men were instrumental in creating the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC) started in 1941 to implement Executive Order 8802, which “banned discriminatory employment practices by Federal agencies and all unions and companies engaged in war-related work.”
The FEPC ended in 1946 owing to filibustering by Neo-confederate Southern Senators.
The sleeper car porters were called Pullman Porters after the company that made the train cars. At its peak, the Pullman Company was the largest single employer of Black men in the United States, employing 20,000.
The train workforce is still a racially diverse workforce. The Black part of the diversity is often used as a dog whistle by white supremacists to cut service and to disparage it, but no one who takes the train is going to view it as anything, but a delightful experience.
One of my favorite train lounges is the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago’s Union Station that you get to wait at when you’re taking the Lakeshore Limited. This lounge is so comfortable it almost makes snowstorms a welcome treat, especially if you’re on the way home. I am also pretty excited to make my way to the New York’s Metropolitan Lounge at the Moynihan Train Hall, which was just remodeled in 2021.
The train now has the glamour of the airplane in the 1980s. The plane is no longer a luxurious way to travel.
Occasionally the train has been delayed, but being delayed on a plane or bus, is a much more unpleasant experience.
The train is slower, but this is not the 1950s. Most meetings can be had virtually, and most trains have sufficient Internet service, unlike the plane, which has limited Internet and where virtual video meetings are absolutely out of the question. The only electronic entertainment you get on the plane is a limited choice of movies and listening to your seatmate breathe, which in COVID is not a fun time.
I have regularly had meetings on the Lake Shore Limited, the Acela, and the Cascades. Zoom works, your phone works, and your social media works on the train. On the train, porters also help you with your bags. You can eat at a table with windows sadly, they cut the dining service during the Trump era, but I heard owing to Biden, it has returned.
(Now, if he’d only cancel those student loans...)
The train is the most sustainable and safest way to travel long and medium distances.
Book a trip today!
This is not a paid ad for Amtrak. I just like the train and think it should be used more widely.