going by train

I don’t remember the first time I took the train or even when that was. I remember my family taking the train to the airport when I was in 4th grade and we were going on a cruise. Being on a train was never a foreign concept to me, it’s part of my life growing up and continues to do so. Not that I take the train to work or use it daily like some people do but I’ve also traveled via train in a couple of countries so far which is why it’s so baffling for me to hear people (mostly Americans) say they never went anywhere via train.

How is that even possible?

While studying, my university came up with this great plan to let us buy these fancy tickets where we could use public transpiration as well as regional trains in all of our federal state for a fixed price per term. I took the train many times to visit bestfriendboy in Cologne or just go there for shopping.

For a long time I would say I hated going anywhere by train because they were unreliable, expensive and never on time despite the slogan of the Deutsche Bahn. I really started to appreciate the availability of trains while living in Sweden though. Not having my car there, my friends and I had to take the train to visit other cities and it was a comfortable and rather cheap way to travel.

You can either get a great deal or pay too much for Swedish trains but if your taking a Sista minuten (last minute) ticket with SJ it’s usually a good deal. But you can also get screwed over in the way that you won’t get a ticket because they are sold out. Or any tickets for the train as I believe Swedish trains are not meant to be overstuffed with people like German trains can be.

I have actually no idea how expensive our train tickets were in Canada but it again, was the right mode of transportation for us. Though going by train on the North American continent seemed different than what we were used to from home and our European travels. One assembles upstairs in the very nice station hall and at some point get called to board the train for which one has to go downstairs where the tracks are. You don’t even have to take care of your big luggage when you’re going with via Rail because they handle it for you. I’m still amazed by this because from the couple of trips my family has tried taking flight luggage on any kind of German train has been a disaster. They were too big, available spaces were too scarce or too small. This though was really comfortable. And you got complementary wifi on the train which is very important for an internet addict like myself.

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As regulars to this blog you know I went to Paris a couple of weeks ago, adding another country and another train experience to my list. I went there with Thalys which, for me, was the easiest choice and it actually wasn’t too expensive either considering I went through 3 countries and the train was really comfortable. Only the wifi wasn’t working on my way back which sucked since it was included in my home bound journey ticket.

Lest not forget I also went to London this year where I took a regional train to go visit my friend from university. The London train experience was very similar to what you’re used to as a European. My favourite train service is still the Swedish one. The trains we were on usually had a decent number of power outlets to charge you devices and there was a good amount of space you were allowed to take up.

Why am I telling you all of this? To be honest, I am not completely sure but I wanted to document my experience with the various trains in the different countries I went to, for a while now. It’s funny how my perception of this mode of transportation changed with the years as I got older. Especially in other countries, I consider it a great alternative to rental cars because you don’t have to worry about directions or parking space, especially in big cities. Right now, I would love to get as many different countries and train services under my belt as possible.

I think though, one of my favourite things about taking the train is you get to see a lot of the country you’re in just by driving through it. Yes, you get this by car as well but there is always someone who has to drive and pay attention, someone who is tired after a long day of driving whereas you can even sleep on the train if you want to.

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  • Tim

    Is it weird that I’ve never been on a train that’s moving? I’ve been on non-moving train cars that have been converted into museums, but never a moving train.

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      To me, it does feel weird because trains are an everpresent means of transportation to me. With gas being as cheap in the US though (and I’m actually not completely sure how well your train network is developed) I want to say I get it but I also don’t really. This doesn’t a lot sense make.

      • Tim

        The train network in the US is below average at best. Amtrak is the only train company I can think of in Ohio, however I never lived closer than a two hour drive from the nearest station until recently. The governor of Ohio actually threw out a bill that would have created a statewide rail system in Ohio because he said “since we all already have cars, a rail system would be a waste of the taxpayers’ time and money”. Nevermind the fact that our road system is poorly maintained and overcrowded (particularly where I live).

        • Wilhelmina Upton

          Oh right, who needs public tranpostation when we can all get cars?! In this 120,000 people city we have at least 5 train stations. Some are small but that’s enough. We probably have even more than that.

          • Tim

            It’s not to say we don’t have public transportation. The metro area I live in is 800,000 people or so (with the main city being about 500,000 of that), and we do have a bus system that many people use. The bus system is amazing and effective if you live in the city proper. However, if you live or work in suburbs (as I do), the bus system is not effective.

            For example, my morning commute is a 35-40 minute drive due to traffic. Without traffic, this trip would be 25-30 minutes. If I were to take busses to get to work, my shortest commute possible would be 2.5 hours.

          • Wilhelmina Upton

            Trains are good for all sorts of transportation not just locally. I don’t use them much and they can be a pain in the ass just as every other public trasnportation means. Not that I use it regularly just when I have to because from where I live, it takes forever to get to the next fast train access point. We only have the regional ones whicih of course are important but also rather slow. My father used to tell me as a kid that Santa came with the high speed trains which is why I wouldn’t get any presents since those trains didn’t stop here.

  • Vanessa

    I’ve never actually been on a train ride, and I’ve never really considered why that is before. Now you’ve got me wondering why that’s the case. But I’d love to take a trip around the Rocky Mountains in one at some point.

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      Oh, a trip around the Rockies sounds awesome. Most definitely and probably worth it. My next goal is to do a train tour through the Scottish Highlands. Talked to a friend yesterday and she has done a part of it and was awesome so yeah, that’s definitely going ti happen in the next year or so.