Ridin' the rails
By Melissa DeMoss
I have been a fan of trains ever since I was six and
traveled on one from Kansas to Ohio. During my college years it was a
convenient way to travel between Ohio and West Virginia. I would get off at
Fostoria, or Willard, depending on which train I took out of Cumberland,
Maryland. I have to admit though, traveling by train is not for those in a
hurry. Hands down a plane is much faster. It’s also not for those on a tight
schedule because trains are notorious for being late. If you are anti social or have a low tolerance for your
fellow travelers, I suggest you stick to the anonymity of a plane. Going by
train is a more relaxed mode of transportation that gives you time to rest,
enjoy the scenery, and visit with the
The company that provides train service to Ohio is Amtrak.
The nearest boarding station to Carey is in Toledo. Most passengers travel reserved coach on short trips and
it’s very economical especially over a long haul. You can travel from Toledo to
Los Angeles one-way for as little as $242.00. Unless traveling with a companion, you will be seated at
random with a stranger. You may want to consider booking a room, if the thought
of waking up in the middle of the night with someone you do not know snoring
your shoulder bothers you. The observation car is also available if you need
a time out from your seatmate.
When traveling on the train overnight, Coach is not the
most comfortable way to go. Reserving a sleeping room is highly recommended.
The price of the ticket and room are separate but the room also includes all
meals for the duration of the trip and it is considered traveling first class.
Before ruling out a room on the train, add up the cost of gas, hotels, meals,
snacks, and wear and tear on your car and nerves. You might be surprised to
find it’s almost the same or cheaper.
On the first leg of our trip we took the Capitol Limited
into Chicago’s Union Station Coach. From Chicago to Tucson we booked a
Roomette. First class passengers have a special lounge to wait between trains
Inside the lounge there are a couple of computers and wifi for use,
complimentary beverages, occasionally some small snacks like muffins,
comfortable chairs and a TV or two to watch. Unfortunately the day we departed
the computers and wifi were down, the TV was fuzzy, but there was plenty of
beverages and room to wait. Within the lounge you can check your luggage,
and to go sightseeing or just
check out Union Station. It is especially interesting to sit and watch the
commuters running for the Metra between 4-6 every afternoon.
time to depart the conductor comes to the lounge, checks your tickets, and
passengers are boarded separately from those traveling coach. Red Caps and
transportation are available for those who need assistance.
boarded our roomette had two facing seats with a drop down table in between. A
small closet was available for clothes and smaller overnight cases, and
contained towels and wash clothes for our use. Luggage could be stored on racks
located at the entrance of the car or kept within your room. The seats pulled
out to form one bed and the top bunk dropped down. A car attendant will prepare
your room when you are ready. Blankets, pillows, and linens are also provided.
On each coach car there are complimentary beverages such as coffee and juice, a
morning paper, and toilets and showers for your use.
On the way to Tucson in my attempt to climb down from the
top bunk, my foot slipped and I scraped my ribs as I slid off. They were
painful for about three weeks. If you too cannot climb there is an alternative.
The larger sleeping rooms feature a longer seat which when pulled out
comfortably sleeps two; it also has a bunk that drops down from the top for a
third person or two small children. These rooms have their own vanity with a
sink, shower and toilet within your car. There are doors in between some of the
larger rooms that enable them to be joined together to form a suite if
traveling with friends.
One of the biggest difference between trains and planes is
that you are allowed to take more items onto the train. Passengers bring food,
beverages, laptops, DVD players, cards, board games, musical instruments, craft
projects,etc. Just remember to bring headphones. There is no Internet aboard
the train or wifi unless you bring your own hot spot, but still there are
certain areas of the country where no signal is available. Most cell phones
however functioned fine.
If you do choose to eat aboard the train, the dining car
attendant will seat you at random with other passengers. This can result in
meeting some very interesting people. I have been fortunate to share
lunch/dinner with an Associate Producer of the Final Four, a published author,
and a young man from Carnegie, Pennsylvania, who frequented my Aunt Molly’s
Diary Queen as a young boy. This trip we had lunch with former LA Dodger, third
baseman, Dick Gray and his wife. On April 18, 1958, while playing their first home game
in Los Angeles against the Giants, he became the first Dodger player to hit a
home run in Los Angeles, putting his team
ahead 6-3. His home run helped the Dodgers win their first game in Los
Angeles. If you prefer to eat in your room, or
navigating the train is too challenging the car attendant will fetch your food
The downside of train travel is you never know when you
might encounter a delay. Freight trains have the track priority. Often a
passenger train will sit on a sidetrack waiting for the freighter to pass.
Trains are subject to weather delays such as too much snow, water flooding the
tracks, accidents, and hazardous spills. We were supposed to leave Tucson,
Arizona, at 1:00 am and the train was three hours late leaving Los Angeles due
to an electrical problem on one of the cars. On that same trip, we were bussed
from Chicago to Toledo because a derailment in Indiana had left hazardous waste
on the tracks and the cleanup was still in progress.
For those of you who are still planning your summer
outings, you might try a small trip into Chicago. You can do a one-day tip
leaving Toledo at 6:16 am arriving in Chicago with plenty of shopping time to
spare, and return at 9:15 p.m The
price ranges from $58.00 to $74.00 roundtrip. The early and later the departure
the cheaper the fares will be. Reservations can be made online or by calling Amtrak
or logging onto http://www.amtrak.com