It’s fair to say I enjoy trains. All trains. The vehicles, and the experience. I have probably travelled on more rail in the last decade then most will do in their entire lives. Trains have taken me through 50% of the northern hemisphere and 20% of the southern.
I know a thing or three about train rides. From futuristic speed monsters, hedonistic luxury, prehistoric deathtraps and beyond. From short trips, to 98 hour epic voyages, the journeys that make your legs wobbly and your head spin, and the sensation of still being on the train when you lay down for the night at your destination.
The luxury trips, tend to be full of brattish self important grown ups who are upset when their newspaper arrives with a crease in the wrong place. Their lives are probably mundane outside of the importance that the luxuriousness of the transport, affords them at that minute.
Trains that belt through complicated scenes which become pastoral landscapes at 300kph, on air lubricated free axis magnetic levitation plates, and pressure sealed cabins. And everyone gets an electronically controlled seat, power point and elegant lamp.
Ive watched families sit together around tables, pray, eat, play cards, entertain children and sleep, then wake up the next morning and repeat, all while traversing geographies, grand epoques, meta histories and flicker lives.
I’ve been on third class economy trips in India many, many times, those vessels, where 400 people cram to a carriage designed for a fraction of that, ~in 52 degree centigrade outside temperatures. The toilet is a hole in the floor the size of a man opening directly onto the fast moving sleepers below. Try to imagine it. Its intense.
However, it is also powerful and amazing. I remember those trips because of the people I met and the galvanizing situation intensifies the already warm connections.
I have friends from 12 years ago, who I met on trains while traveling around the United States, people that I spoke with for mere minutes to a few hours. Retirees, veterans, salesmen, prostitutes, mothers, fathers, loafers, escapists, criminals, dancers, musicians, storytellers, plumbers, lovers travelling to see lovers, sometimes to meet them for the first time. Hopes, dreams, contemplations, emmigrations -the train gives you time to think, and time to talk, if you want to.
If you can’t stand the white noise in your own head then there are airplanes for your traveling needs instead.
Unfortunately, most of the welded rail track in the continental United States has succumbed to commercial pressures. And subsequently national assets have been relegated to commercial operators who place more emphasis on freight than people.
Cutbacks and bad oversight have hurt Amtrak’s fight against air travel and the cheapness of long haul buses, and so Amtrak is late. It’s a saddening blight on an otherwise magical, metaphorical, projection through time and space, with other humans.
It seems to me that your complaint is more with humanity than with Amtrak. Expectation has robbed you of reality. Your article is more of a statement of how you stand apart from the “disgusting creatures”, and all this because you wanted a shower and a different smell in your nostrils.
My favorite quote for travellers, from Paul;
“..luxury is the enemy of observation, a costly indulgence that induces such a good feeling that you notice nothing. Luxury spoils and infantilizes you and prevents you from knowing the world. That is its purpose, the reason why luxury cruises and great hotels are full of fatheads who, when they express an opinion, seem as though they are from another planet. It was also my experience that one of the worst aspects of travelling with wealthy people, apart from the fact that the rich never listen, is that they constantly groused about the high cost of living — indeed, the rich usually complained of being poor.”