This past Summer I left the country for the first time and spent 10 days in Germany. The whole trip was spectacular and one I will never forget, but one major highlight was the train travel. The German rail system was amazing, on time, comfortable, and clean. It was such a fun way to see the country, especially when the train you're on travels along the Rhine River, beautiful scenery sprinkled with castles. It was easy to fall in love with the ease and access of traveling around by train. The most enjoyable thing about the train was not having to drive and not having one person in the group driving the whole time either. Everyone got to relax and enjoy some leisure time as we made our way around a foreign country. Speak Now was the soundtrack for the train travel and I played some Animal Crossing, which is delightful on a train in case you were wondering.
While America has passenger trains, they are not nearly as abundant as the ones in Germany. Amtrak does a nice job of connecting people to large cities but they only get you so far. For example, the train that stops here in Lawrence rolls through town twice a day, with one heading towards Chicago and one heading towards LA, and of course they aren’t at convenient times of the day. But what they lack in convenient times, they sure do make up for in stress free travel, especially to Chicago.
After all of the train travel in Germany, my family and I decided to take a trip up to Chicago on the train. While not the same as the German rail, Amtrak was nice and cozy and did the job. The leg room, the comfort of the seats, the ability to walk around the train and actually end up somewhere other than your seat or the bathroom (the observation car, the cafe, the dining car, etc.). I much prefer the railway station to the airport. If I could travel by train always, I would. I’d ditch my car in a heartbeat for a good subway, and I’d never rent a car or set foot on an airplane for cross country travel again. Unfortunately, we do not have trains that will allow that here in the states and it's a shame because we’re really missing out on a fun and relaxing way to travel.
I highly recommend traveling by train at least once in your life, maybe more if you enjoy it if it works for your trip logistically. Trains used to be the main mode of transportation around the US and that is sadly now a bygone era. It’s upsetting to think about how little train travel we actually have here now. It becomes even sadder when you’ve left the country and seen how nice other places have it when it comes to passenger trains.
I’ve spoken to my experience traveling by train, but don’t just take my word for it. Here are some book selections to guide you if you are thinking about train travel or just want to know the history of the railroad.
The Fred Harvey company owned and operated a number of restaurants at railroad stations. Fun fact: one of the first of these restaurants was actually in Lawrence. This cookbook has bits of history about the Harvey Houses and recipes used at them.
Going to Europe soon? The best way to travel around is by the train. I only traveled German rail but I’ve heard nothing but good things about European trains in general. It is overwhelming the first time you board but once you get the hang of it it's no sweat, but best not to go in without an idea of what you’re getting into
America has a long history with the Railroad, this book showcases just that. And touches on why we should embrace trains again.
Take a look at a variety of trains and their routes. I would argue traveling by train is as much about the journey as it is about the destination and this book highlights just that.
There are so many reasons to embrace train travel, but don’t take my word for it. Beppe Severgnini takes you on a journey through his own travels on trains and argues why they are some of the best ways to travel.
-Mary Leibold is a Cataloging Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.