Trains, Planes and Automobiles...Why I choose Trains!
A Commentary by Carl Morrison, Carl@TrainWeb.com, July 3, 2003
Carl on a train, somewhere in Colorado.
Poster in Grand Junction, Colorado, Station, June, 2003
(Click the poster above for a double-sized image,
click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)
As I sit for three hours, seven miles above Mother Earth, three feet away
from a window 10 by 18 inches over a wing, I wonder why I fly. An
hour ago I was x-rayed, probed, and questioned about my luggage including
being practically strip searched because my shoes were not "airport friendly,"
my belt buckle was too big, my watch was made of metal and my AA batteries
'looked like a knife' to the x-ray technician!
Unlike a train where there is no requirement to be at a depot any set amount
of time before the train arrives, no security check for 'depot friendly
shoes,' jewelry, clothing, nor batteries. Heck, you can even carry
a pocket knife, nail file, and scissors on a train since there is no way
you can use them on the engineer since you can't even get to the engineer
during the trip, even with a gun and a crowbar! There are no train
seat belts, no small windows, no small seats, nor wings to permanently block
Prior to that, I dutifully arrived at the airport over a hour before my
flight and nearly missed my 6:30 a.m. flight because all boarding passes and
baggage claim checks had to be hand written, because "all computers
Unlike a train.
My first of two flights today had 29 passengers and over 55 empty seats
making me wonder how the gate crew would have ever gotten all 80 of us processed
had the flight been full!
Unlike a train where you have your ticket weeks ahead of departure
and there is no such thing as a "boarding pass."
That first flight got me to the connecting airport two hours prior to my
connecting flight. There was another earlier flight still staging
at this gate, so no seats were available in their waiting area.
Unlike a train.
This gave me time to attend to rest room duties, since I could not get
out of my seat on the earlier flight.
Unlike a train.
I found a fast food restaurant (which is the ultimate oxymoron) and had
a brown bag breakfast while balancing coffee and carryon luggage.
Unlike a train where one is seated, during the trip, with 3
other pleasant passengers, at a table with a table cloth and fresh flowers
and waited on by a waiter or waitress. Meals are prepared by an onboard
chef, and you may enjoy your meal and conversation for as long as you like
while using the 3 by 4 foot picture window at your elbow to watch
the scenery pass by, and you can actually see the human beings who
inhabit this rotating sphere.
Since I had my laptop with me, I chose to do some web page composition
and photo editing while using a headset to listen to some tunes on my computer
(to block out the noise of thousands of people worriedly rushing to their
next gate and the noise of some commentators arguing on a waiting area TV).
The computer's battery didn't last until the flight, but there was not a
electrical outlet in sight, so I closed the only pleasant part of the layover.
I could not recharge and continue to work on my computer once I was on the
plane, again no electrical outlets.
Unlike a train where there are ample electrical outlets in
the lounge cars, private rooms in sleeper cars, and First Class waiting rooms
at large stations..
At exactly noon, I had "lunch" of five pretzels and a can of cola, all
balanced on my 10 by 18 inch (I see a trend here) tray table, with my seat
belt dutifully cinched around me.
Unlike a train.
I headed for the bathroom queue and found a couple who were standing there
"just to get a chance to stretch" so the lavatory was vacant.
Unlike a train where you can walk to your heart's content any
time you please. You can 'walk the train' inside during travel, or
'walk the platform' when the train stops for crew changes at large stations
along the way.
The plane lavatory's size, I swear, is no larger than my private
bathroom on a train and, on a plane, there are no showers nor changing
rooms anywhere to be found! I did notice that the fixtures and even
the sound of the commode flushing is the same as on a train, so you do not
have to stress about leaving that sound behind when you move to train travel
for your next journey.
If you really don't want your own private room with bath on the train,
you can go coach, but you will have to pay less than on a
plane, have more leg room and body room, no seat belt, and both a
cafe car and diner to choose from for your meals. If you have your
own compartment, your meals are included in the price of the accommodations.
Oh yes, about my two heavy suitcases. On this trip there was a nice
entrepreneur at the departing airport who would watch my bags, for a tip,
while I returned the rental car. You see, it is unlawful to drop off
the bags before I returned the rental car since bags should not be left
"Unattended" for any length of time at an airport.
Unlike a train where the bags can be left anywhere you like,
including being checked (where you can actually watch them until they are
on the train if you like, not dropped into some crevice out of your sight
for the duration of the trip like at the airport.), or given to a Red Cap
who will then hand them to your car attendant, who will put them in the
baggage area of the same car on which you have a room--always "attended"
as if anyone on a train cares.
Well, the pilot just announced that if we want to "take a stretch break
before we buckle up for landing" we could do so. I guess all I'll have
to do now is keep my "seat belt securely fastened" until we come to a "full
and complete stop," yank my computer from the "overhead bin," replace
my "tray table to an upright and locked position," wriggle my backpack from
under the seat in front of me, do the "airplane aisle shuffle" to
the "jet bridge," and walk nearly a mile to wait for my two bags (hopefully)
to arrive on the stainless steel lazy Susan. Then lug them through
the terminal to my fully inspected pick up person's vehicle.
Unlike a train where I would have seen and waved to my pick
up person as we arrived at the depot, where the car attendant would have
helped me down the steps to the platform and then set my two heavy bags on
the Red Cap's cart for me. Then, he would have hauled me, if I wished,
and my bags to my pick up person's car in the pick up area where you can
leave your car unattended without being towed or ticketed if you like.
And they ask me why I prefer train travel to plane travel!
As Amtrak used to say, "There's something about a train that's magic."
And as an airlines ad (of all people) recently said, "You're free to move
about the country."
Carl is a Freelance Travel Writer whose words and pictures can be found
To book a train journey, or just to check on prices, go to: Amtrak.com,
or call 1-800-USA-RAIL.