National Train today

Our country’s future prosperity depends on its having an efficient and well-maintained rail system.”
– Warren Buffett.

“Gautrain” super-express 12-minute train from Johannesburg International airport to downtown Sandton.

Today is the fourth annual National Train day in honor of

  • the Transcontinental Railroad, which in May 1839, connected the East and West coasts of the United States.
  • the 40th birthday of Amtrak (which serves about 28.7 million passengers a year)
  • and to highlight the environmental benefits of rail transportation.

Amtrak has sponsored events in Washington D.C, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

Rail museums and civic groups will host events in other cities.

*

Traveling by train uses less fuel per rider than auto travel. Check ✔
AAA quoted a study by  Oak Ridge National Labs that says passenger rail travel uses an average of 26% less fuel per rider than car travel.

Trains are more fuel efficient. Check.✔
The Association of American Railroads claims long-haul freight trains are four more times more energy efficient than long-haul trucks,.

Trains are a stress free way to travel. Check.✔

As train stations are closer to downtown we don’t need to arrive two hours ahead of time to have our luggage searched, so the trip by train can end up being shorter than flying. Check.✔

*

A few train trips I’ve taken:

  • from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Calgary, Alberta through the Rocky Mountains.
  •  from Toronto to Montreal.
  • from Los Angeles to San Diego, the train goes right along the coast.
  • around Cape Town

looking through the train window in Cape Town

Photos of Cape Town train trips:

When we went to Robben Island we took the train from the suburb where we were staying to Cape Town’s main downtown station, and were able to walk the short distance to catch the ferry at the V and A docks.

We also took the train from Cape Town south to Simonstown (near Cape Point). The train tracks hug the coast, so at times it felt almost as if we were on a boat.

the view from the train going south toward Cape Point

Besides being a great way to sit back back and enjoy the scenery,  the train was one of the best places for experiencing the multi-cultural country. If we were driving in a car we would have missed so many wonderful experiences, for example the way blind people are allowed to beg on the trains.

leading the blind man through the train

While the blind man – on the right – is being led through the compartment by a young sighted assistant holding the begging cup, the blind man sings.

I had to ask someone to translate for me and the song was something like,   “I’m blind. I cannot see the beautiful day. Please help me. Please give me money. God bless you….”

As you can see no one seemed to pay much attention to them.

She sat opposite us on the train

We sat opposite this friendly woman on our way back from downtown Cape Town. Once we introduced ourselves she put her book down, pointed out the sights, chatted about life in the new South Africa, and told us when we were approaching our station,  or we would’ve missed it.

*

If we  know that traveling by rail is better for the environment, and I’ve heard a lot of talk about the United States becoming less dependent on oil, why is the rest of the world way ahead of us with their high-speed trains?

Why doesn’t the subway in L.A. go west of Universal City? Why is there still no subway to Santa Monica, or the airport?

If a city like Johannesburg has a high speed train from the airport, what are we waiting for?

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About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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8 Responses to National Train today

  1. Barbara Rodgers says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m in favor of more trains and fewer cars and those horrible tractor-trailer trucks! I agree with all you say and would only add one quirky benefit I found on my recent train trip from Connecticut to Washington D.C. Quirky because I’m one of those people that has a very hard time traveling light and will pack our car to the gills on a trip of any length. Traveling by train encourages travelers to be more efficient packers! If you can only bring what you carry onto the train you discover what is truly essential to bring along.

    Your rail trip in South Africa sounds amazing! What a beautiful country!

    • dearrosie says:

      I know what you mean, if you go by car you don’t have to think should I take a raincoat and – or an umbrella? You just put them in the car!
      Flying by train is easier than by plane because your luggage isn’t weighed and you are not being charged extra for checking a bag. I think airlines are all charging at least $25 above the price of the plane ticket if you check your bag!
      Did you have a hard time getting that big book back home?

      I’m glad to know you read to the end and saw the photos from South Africa. It is a beautiful country.

  2. Reuben says:

    Lovely memories of rail trips past! I traveled on that Cape coast line from back and forth to Muizenberg as a kid in my summer holidays, a guitar on my back and ready to play for anyone who asked me! I was never offered money but I did make friends. Jostling with several strangers in a moving box with delightful scenery changing around you was like being the audience of a show of sorts, everyone with a destination and time on their hands, and some ready to chat or comment or just point out your stop. Except for the scenery, urban trains are still pretty much like that.

    • dearrosie says:

      Beautiful memory! That’s exactly what I was trying to describe Reuben. Sitting in our own cars, stuck in traffic jams, we would never meet, so would miss out on the great experience of being entertained by a teenager with a guitar on his back ready to play any song for free.

  3. Priya says:

    They say in India that if you wish to see the real India, you must travel in the trains. It’s an adventure in itself, but not for the faint-hearted!

    The pictures you’ve posted here give an idea of how good an experience it must have been. I love the graffiti on the train carriage and blue-blue seas visible from the window. Thank you for taking me to South Africa.

    And for agreeing the trains can solve a lot of urban problems, if only people listened to this solution!

    • dearrosie says:

      Priya I can imagine that the real India awaits those who travel by train. I hope to one day take a train ride in your country with you :-)

      Well now I’m glad I didn’t sit down but stood at the window with my camera so you could enjoy the train trip with me Priya. As you noticed it’s a country of contrasts – train graffiti and blue-blue oceans.

      Hello, is anyone listening that we the people want a subway in L.A?

  4. souldipper says:

    Train travel has given me exchanges with people I would never have met or had time to get to know. I’ve traveled across Canada by train and traveled between Alberta and BC twice by train. What a great way to see my country and greet the flavour of my nation.

    Having visited Cape Town (flying in and out of J’berg) I appreciate your photos and stories. I traveled to Simonstown by bus – full of tourists – so it was good to escape and be amongst the people – such as I could.

    • dearrosie says:

      Don’t you think that train travel helps slow one down? The train can’t go any faster than it’s going so you may as well just sit back and relax, and too I also appreciate being able to see the countryside out the window.

      Glad to know you appreciate my S. African photos and stories.

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