For the best in traveling, she’ll take the train |

For the best in traveling, she’ll take the train

Back in the Dark Ages when I was a child, my father took the family on a winter excursion to the Laurentian Mountains northwest of Montreal. It was to be the ultimate Christmas vacation in which the Daniels children would learn to ski, as well as enjoy the mountains, the snow and the ambiance of the Alpine Inn, an old-fashioned Canadian lodge.

We went by train from New York, a trip that took two days. It was exceptional.

I haven’t been in a sleeping car since then, but at that time the accommodations were cozy but comfortable. My Dad and I shared a compartment that had two berths, one on top of the other. The top berth folded up into the wall and the bottom one became a seat during the day.

Just before bedtime the porter came in and made up the beds and laid out towels.

The room also had a tiny bathroom where my father laid out his shaving kit and I my toothbrush.

I slept in the top bunk and remember watching the lights go by outside the window and the clackety-clackety sound of the train’s wheels on the rails.

More than the skiing, the sharp cold days and the warm Alpine Inn, what sticks in my mind over all those years was the train ride. To me, as an 8- or 9-year-old, it was the ultimate adventure, speeding through the night to the sound of the rails and the boom and fade of crossing signals.

I missed a trip I would dearly loved to have taken when my parents rode the old Super Chief train from New York to Santa Fe. For them it was the ultimate in exotic travel, albeit in the lap of luxury. The Super Chief at that time was a deluxe train equipped with lavish staterooms and gourmet meals.

I remember my mother telling me about stopping at Taos Pueblo and seeing the “poor Indians” living in poverty. Years later I visited the Pueblo, one of the oldest continuously occupied villages in North America, second only to the Hopi mesas. Rather than seeing poverty, I saw what I had read about in school, a village rich in tradition, a village of people who lived with one foot in the modern world and one in the old.

Train adventure seems to be in my blood. Years later, as an adult, I took a few notable train trips in Asia. During a brief stay in Burma I rode a World War II vintage British coal-stoking train down the length of the country and saw the most exotic sights from the window of our coach: a women in a woven straw hat standing knee-deep in a rice paddy smoking an enormous cigar, and on the platform of one station a Burmese man of military bearing sporting knife-pleated khaki shorts and a handlebar mustache.

They passed by the window of the coach like lantern slides.

I once rode through Taroko Gorge in Taiwan, a place that must have been the inspiration for classic Chinese paintings of precipitous canyons veiled in mist with lacquered pagodas clinging precariously to their walls.

One of my favorite writers, Paul Theroux, has ridden trains all over the world and written about his adventures. His takes on local peoples and customs are often scathingly funny, at the locals’ expense.

It was with some dismay I read last week that Amtrak is in danger of going broke, and even more ominous, it is considering dropping its service from Chicago to the West Coast, which would mean an end to the Glenwood Springs train.

I would hate to see that happen. With all the fallout after the Sept. 11 attacks, and people’s reluctance to fly, it seems logical that the government would put some money into its rail system and encourage people to take the train.

Although I’ve never ridden the train either into or out of Glenwood Springs, it comforts me to know that anytime the urge comes over me I can buy a ticket and hop a train for points east or west and see some of the greatest scenery in the country, if not the world, just out our back door.

Donna Daniels is a Post Independent staff writer. Her column runs on Mondays.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User