I’m writing this column just past Amsterdam, enjoying a cloudy day on a southbound train. I’m on my way to the annual League of Historic American Theatres conference.
Maybe it’s the idea that I’m attending my favorite conference of the year, traveling on my favorite mode of transportation, or maybe it’s the idea that for the first time in several years I don’t have the added stress of being a presenter at the conference, but I feel absolutely content. This year’s conference is in New York City, and while I’m there I get to meet with donors and colleagues of the Capitol, which is always fun and worthwhile. I’m also taking in some exhibits and riding horseback through Central Park before I come home. It’s going to be a great trip.
There are faces to New York that can only be seen by train. Oftentimes the tracks are so near a river that it can be surmised that more animals than humans have ventured onto the space between. There are old factory buildings, built during a time when function and beauty could happily coexist, and these sturdy buildings still stand, sometimes empty, sometimes repurposed by those who couldn’t stand to see them laid to waste. I always sit on the river side when I can, and the view is always different, while staying comfortably the same. I listen to music and solve logic puzzles (my very favorite kind since I discovered them as a child). I like to go early, as the towns are waking up, and watch them come to life as the train goes along.
I people watch and sometimes I work, but it always feels very relaxed on the Empire Service, a train that is rarely overcrowded as it comes through Rome and a line (like many that Amtrak offers) who staff are refreshingly friendly. Though I am more apt to keep to myself than chat, when I do choose to socialize, train people are my favorite. They are folks who made a conscious choice not to take the fastest route, nor the cheapest, but the most pleasant! And they often have a personality to match. It starts at the Rome station, chatting with familiar faces and neighbors I’ve just met, and extends to complete strangers riding the rails from around the country.
I certainly hope that the rail improvements that Amtrak is rooting for come through. I can think of few better investments than rail service, and
I hope it’s popularity will only increase as time goes on.