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Rail Transportation: One Vote for Taking the Train

Updated on December 13, 2019
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU 1963. Worked in NYC in public relations 2 years then as reporter/news editor 32 years at The Hour newspapers. Retired in 2000.

SoNo Switch Tower Museum

SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut
SoNo Switch Tower Museum in South Norwalk, Connecticut

Amtrak Passing Through Norwalk

Several members of my family moved to sunny Florida more than two decades ago. Since then I've been making the trip to Fort Lauderdale and environs virtually every year. Naturally, I flew (with the help of an airplane, thanks!)

Nobody goes to Florida in the summer, so, naturally, I usually made the trip in January or February. I've been uncannily lucky, missing some of the Norwalk area's worst snowstorms.

Lots of people love to travel, but I've found flying to Florida to be more an ordeal than fun -- not to mention the expense. Planes are safe; that's not the issue.

Anyone who has ever taken a plane anywhere, and nowadays that probably means nearly everyone, knows what it's like.

Getting Ready for Flight

You nervously keep a watchful eye on radio, newspaper and television weather reports in the hope you won't have any delays or, heaven forbid, have your flight canceled. You pack your bags the night before your scheduled departure, setting the alarm so you awaken several hours before flight time.

If you're going alone, possibly because your wife objects to spending the whole trip playing golf on those sandy and watery Florida golf courses, your sympathetic spouse awakens early to drive you to the limousine.

Then, if all goes well, you arrive at the airport in plenty of time to make sure the airline knows you plan to be a passenger on their plane. You check your bags, and your ticket, and wait for the gate to open.

Wait, and Wait Some More

When, eventually, the gate opens, you check your ticket again -- this time obtaining a seat assignment, unless your travel agent had been thoughtful enough to take care of that for you. Then you wait some more until, finally, it's boarding time.

I've done all this many times. But it hasn't always gone so well.

Once a traffic jam forced me to do an O.J. Simpson imitation, running full steam through the airport and finally slipping through the door to the plane in the nick of time. Another time I had to wait many hours while another plane was sent to the Midwest to obtain a part so that a leaking hydraulic system could be repaired.

The Last Straw

And the straw that broke the camel's back occurred some years ago when Eastern Airlines pretended they didn't know about the ticket I'd been holding for weeks and refused to allow me to board their plane for a trip from Florida to New York.

I don't suffer through all that anymore!

It may be far from perfect, and it's not necessarily cheaper, especially if you take a sleeper as I do, but for the past several years I've been taking Amtrak -- and I love it!

A Restful Trip Via Amtrak

Contrary to what people think, it doesn't really take a lot more time. The 24-hour trip seems long at first glance until you realize most of it is overnight (if you time it right.) Plus the trip is restful and enjoyable, provided you're not a Type A personality and can't get where you're going fast enough.

Believe it or not, the food on the train is pretty darn good, and you have time to read, listen to pleasant tapes, and often meet interesting people.

It's only an illusion that flying means you get there and back in no time. The truth is, it takes hours on either side of the flight -- that is if it's on time, and, indeed, if it takes off at all on the day you're scheduled to depart!

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Jan. 14, 1997.

Should passenger rail service in America be a higher priority?

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Amtrak 'Empire Builder' Sleeper Bedroom

Southbound Amtrak Acela Express, Branford Connecticut


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