mary-head-shotA fascinating part of train travel is the people you meet and the many places, events and activities you can reach with little effort. A lot has been written about passenger trains or travel destinations but I combine the two to show how you can travel by train to some of the best experiences located close to train stations.

I usually travel solo in coach and leave it up to fate on who my seatmate will be. Trains connect. The certainty of a route’s beginning and end gives strangers a slice of time to embrace the experience or not. A train trip doesn’t need to stop at the station. Who’s Taking the Train? is for people who want a sustainable travel option and great places to go once they arrive. You can enjoy your trip without airport lines or road maps.

My train thread

IMG_6865Before going to sleep in an old house two blocks from the Illinois Central Railroad tracks, I could hear the trains’ night moves – brakes clanking, cars bumping, wheels rolling like distant thunder. It was my lullaby. My grandmother arrived for visits via the Amtrak train from her home in St. Louis to ours in suburban Chicago. My first kiss as a teenager was inside a warm, lit rail station on a freezing cold January evening. The City of New Orleans train was my primary mode of transportation to and from the university I attended.

I worked in the rail industry for a number of years. Starting out as a grade crossing design technician, I became editor of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad magazine and managed media relations for the Class 1 railroad. I explored many facets of railroading – from tracks, signals and bridges to the people who run railroads – from brakemen to boardroom executives. I worked for a manufacturer of electronic fare collections systems for the transit industry. Chicago commuter trains carried me back and forth from jobs and IMG_6864events across the city. My mother’s apartment had a window that overlooked Chicago’s Union Pacific Metra line. We would watch the trains and imagine where everyone was going.

Moving forward

After my marriage of many years ended, I felt drawn again to trains. I packed my laptop to journey on what I consider a privileged path. Trains travel terrains unreachable by car and neglected by planes. My degree in journalism and experience in business communications allows me to make my living as a writer. I can work from almost anywhere. Psychologists say that transitions make us more malleable. Maybe. After failing at what others wanted them to be John J. Audubon and Henry David Thoreau walked into the woods. I got on a train.