Train Writer


An underrated pleasure of travel in the US is train travel. Sure the rails are old and bumpy making my pen sway across the page in an inelegant scrawl, but I have legroom, a view and no traffic jams. Good coffee and a decent sandwich can be had on board as well.

I don’t have to do any driving and the wait at the station before boarding isn’t nearly as long or onerous as at the airport ... and I get to keep my shoes on before boarding!

There are no distraught children because there are no air pressure changes that hurt their ears.

In short, nothing to distract me from making up stories about my fellow passengers and the things I see rushing by outside the window to the soothing clickity-clack of the rails with the occasional clanging of crossing guard bells.

We rush past farm houses and fields of corn and potatoes. There’s a crumbling jetty, once we start hugging the inland coast line, with an old towel and no-trespass sign that’s bound to have stories to tell.


Then there’s the grandmother with her 2-inch hot pink nails, rhinestone bedecked white denim clothes and small grey braids wound around her head, playing bingo on her big purple cellphone. A very cheerful woman with a ready smile off to see her grandchildren. Life has given her permission to be eccentric.

There are the young students headed to Canada for some late summer adventure, their faces flushed with excitement, smiling, no, grinning happily. It must be some adventure! My imagination runs wild.

And what of the family of four from somewhere in the former East Block? I can’t manage to place their language, but I’m sure it will come to me before the end of the trip. Only one of them speaks English, and I wonder if she’s perhaps a university exchange student traveling with visiting relatives.

Theirs is certainly once conversation I won’t be eavesdropping on.

Not that I make it a habit to listen in on the conversations of others, but snatches caught on the air of a train can make for good story material. If only to get a sense of the colloquial speech patterns of various generations on that train, which might come in useful in some future book.

I can see why Alfred Hitchcock placed so many of his movies on trains, they offer no end of possibilities.

I’d also like to use this opportunity to give a big shout-out to the very cheerful staff on the Amtrak Cascades train who made the trip even more pleasant.
Amtrak Cascades logo