A college reunion took me back to Connecticut for a few steamy summer days recently. I hopped a train from New York’s Grand Central Station to meet a classmate, for a ride from Tarrytown. We were to stop at his family’s coastal cottage in Westbrook for a BBQ, before heading to the campus for three days of festivities.
Westbrook is a quaint shoreline community snug on the banks of Long Island Sound between New London and New Haven, right next door to the better-known Old Saybrook. I didn’t know the classmate too well and was thrust back into the college mode of ride-negotiating and flexible travel plans, as the friend I was traveling with was his old friend. Nonetheless, the plan was appealing, and a nice way to glide into the unknown of a big college reunion. Having lived in California for many years, I do often crave that New England spirit and style. Continue reading »
Images from Haiti are heartbreaking. Such disasters, with their mind-boggling destruction — earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wars — are difficult to witness, even on television. So much suffering from Mother Nature and the hand of man.
The day before the tragic earthquake in Haiti I was reading a heart warming story in The New York Times about another area of the world rising from the ashes. The Balkans, recovering from the unspeakable atrocities of the 1990s, had some good news to share. A train linking Sarajevo and Belgrade was now back on track after nearly 20 years.
The route, famous in the region, was once a literal link between Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims in this part of the world that was once known as Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had been famously knit together by Communism and Tito, but the cohesion couldn’t hold and the region exploded into war and chaos following Tito’s death and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The bridges were targeted in the bombings and were a major challenge to rebuild. Continue reading »
I was about three years old when I saw my first train depot. I remember staring in wonder at the vapor clouds spewing off those gigantic locomotives in the Minnesota winter while a couple, seemingly oblivious to the outside world and acutely aware that their parting may be for a long, long, time, hugged and kissed and hugged and kissed.
But for me the awe was for that giant shed of ironwork and glass, the silver rails, the growling iron beasts waiting for departure from the Milwaukee Road Depot on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis.
Looking back, I can see that the place was pretty mundane compared to the grand railway stations of the world. Even by American standards it wasn’t much, but I would only learn that later. At the time I thought traveling by train was the greatest adventure imaginable, and part of that wonder was due to the grand spaces where trains began and ended their journeys, where passengers boarded and disembarked. Continue reading »
Japanese Bullet Trains or Shinkansen are modern marvels: sleek, fast and on time. These trains are magnificent, and a testimony to Japan’s resurrection from the ashes of World War Two. The first-ever Bullet Train made its last run today, 44 years after its debut for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
The original model, the zero-kei (zero-series), was called the “dream superexpress.” The symbol of the nation’s recovery, the train attracted many fans and holds a special place in many Trainspotter’s hearts. The lighter and faster bullet trains today, carry millions of passengers and tourists around the island nation. The latest N700-series travels at nearly 200 MPH. There is a new line in the works; the maglev line will transport passengers from Tokyo to central Nagoya at more than 300 MPH! This train is expected to be in service by 2025.
As I sit here writing, my mind wanders to the U.S. election, and I wonder how it will turn out. It’s been a stressful few weeks and my stomach is in knots. What will be our itinerary for the next four to eight years?
When I think of all that has happened of late, there is very little that seems positive. Perhaps, though, there are a few things to cheer. High gas prices have made staycations popular and trips closer to home a necessity. Folks are driving less, car-pooling and looking with fresh eyes at Public Transportation, something we have sorely neglected in this country.
Train travel, a staple of my youth and commonplace in Europe and other parts of the world, is having a bit of a renaissance according to a recent New York Times article. Amtrak ridership is up 11% this year alone and the trend is increasing. Continue reading »
It had been a long time since I’d taken a train trip in the U.S. The last one I remember had to have been at least 25 years ago, from Seattle to Minneapolis. But these days Amtrak is getting a serious look as an option for travelers in withdrawal from sky-high airline ticket prices and the staggering cost of filling the gas tank. Then I read Catherine Watson’s story in the San Francisco Chronicle about riding Amtrak from Minnesota to New Mexico and I began to get the itch myself.
When I mentioned our annual summer visit to Grandma’s house in Minnesota at the dinner table, my 10-year-old daughter said she wanted to take the train. Huh? Was she channeling me? I love trains, but my two daughters’ experience with railways is in Europe, not the U.S., unless you count the Caltrain commuter train from San Francisco down the peninsula to San Jose. No, they wanted to sleep on the train, something we’d never done in France or Switzerland, and that dinner conversation was full of earnest requests. How could I say no? Continue reading »