By Roz Hamlett, Portfolio Editor
As any traveler can attest, for some people the process of getting from one place to another is a royal pain, a necessary chore, an emotionally-charged mix of anxiety, fear and impatience. Whether you’re flying or just riding by car, the experience is in many instances unambiguous – you either love it or hate it.
Traveling by train is often a different story. Be it a freight train or Amtrak’s Miami-bound Palmetto or a modern high-speed train in Europe, or for some of us, a PATH train pulling into the station – whether on time or running behind — in a larger sense, the lore and history of trains has captivated the imagination of people all over the world.
Here are five of our top reasons for loving trains:
- They evoke pleasant memories: Perhaps one reason people love trains is that on a subconscious level, they tug at the heartstrings of our youth, bringing us back to a time and place when Lionel model trains smelling of smoke oil emerged from mountains and rounded the bend beneath the Christmas trees of our childhood.
- You can lose all track of time: Ever met a fully grown model railroader who spends countless hours obsessively designing quaint villages, layout tours, wiring track feeders or adding period details to a car? Need I say more?
- Minimal effort, maximum enjoyment: For some, trains give the feeling of leaving for a new world: the rush, speed, intensity, metal-clanging awesomeness flying outside the window as we happily gaze at the sky, fields and occasional piles of cow dung dotting the countryside.
- Food taste better aboard a train: Travel writer Beverly Nichols once described his sumptuous lunch aboard the Orient Express as consisting of “crisp rolls and potato mayonnaise, veal and petit pois and slabs of fromage du pays, washed down by white wine drunk from a tumbler.” He concludes there is something seriously wrong with the man who does not enjoy lunch on a train.
- Trains can be a great commute: Though PATH has a strict no eating/no drinking policy, and drinking white wine is most definitely unlawful behavior, the experience of riding the PATH in particular, while not perfect, can be a much-needed interlude between work and home and back to work. The dark tunnels beneath the Hudson and the bright screens of Smart phones lull riders into a semi-hypnotic state making them somewhat oblivious to the outside world. What’s more, PATH trains are cleaner than most mass transit, safe and dependable, and feature silent television screens broadcasting celebrity news and entertainment, including the daily horoscope and Word Scramble, though I don’t know personally anyone clever enough to unscramble any of the words in the brief time allotted.