I love taking the train, to work or for leisure, whether its short hops on a streetcar or slightly longer trips. Though I still have never taken long-distance train trips on Amtrak or VIA Rail Canada, it is an aspiration of mine when time permits. Shorter trips are preferred primarily due to time constraints. Neverless, here are a few favorite train rides out of many, for different reasons, with varying rail vehicle types:
1. Amtrak Cascades: Two separate rides on two separate types of trains but with the same stellar views of the Pacific Northwest and the Puget Sound. From Vancouver to Seattle, I rode your standard-issue bilevel Amtrak “Superliner” trains, due to the regular trains being out of service for inspection (back in 2007), and the views combined with the typical cloudy sunset in this region were amazing. From Portland to Seattle (back in 2012), I rode a Talgo-built tilting train, the standard Cascades train, with Business Class accommodations. Even though it was getting dark earlier outside, the train itself was enough to pique my interest, with typical European business-class styling and a super quiet cabin. One-way tickets, Business Class or Coach Class, usually do not exceed $50.
2. Metro-North Railroad Hudson Line: If you love views of the Hudson River Valley right along the riverfront, with rolling hills, palisades, and numerous types of trees on either side of the Hudson, then a ride on the Hudson Line is a must. You can take in all that the Lower Hudson has to offer, starting with the right-hand curve upon leaving the Spuyten Duyvil Station in the northbound direction. From Riverdale and Wave Hill to the revitalized Yonkers Waterfront to Croton-on-Hudson, all the way to Garrison, Beacon, and Poughkeepsie, with views of all three lower Hudson bridges…the most famous of them all being the Tappan Zee bridge, due for replacement within the next 5 years or so. The other two bridges, the Bear Mountain Bridge and the Mid-Hudson Bridge, are further up the line from the Tappan Zee. You also pass through Peekskill, which is close enough to the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant in Buchanan as anyone would want to be…yet, the views are spectacular as the train snakes around the lake and then sweeps down deeper up the valley to Garrison. The best time of year to ride the Hudson Line is during the fall, October being the absolute best time as the leaves change color and they peak around late October to early November. Fares on the Hudson Line range from about $5 to about $13, depending on distance from Grand Central Terminal.
3. MTA New York City Transit’s #7 subway line: The Flushing Line. The 7 train. The International Express. Any of those names would smell as sweet. The #7 line is one of the premier subway lines in New York to ride, commute, and to people-watch while the line snakes through more ethnic communities than you can count on both hands. You can literally get on the #7 train at Queensboro Plaza and ride one stop to 33rd or two stops to 40th and experience some great Turkish food. Another two to three stops will take you into Woodside, mainly Irish and German ancestry. Take the train a few more stops and you wind up in Jackson Heights, where there are Mexican, Peruvian, and Indian businesses that line Roosevelt Avenue. One stop more to 82nd Street and you have Ecuadorians and Argentinians. Two more stops to Junction Blvd and you will find Colombians and Hondurans. Take it all the way to the last stop, Main Street, and you will find one of the largest Chinese (and a good number of Korean) communities outside of Manhattan’s Chinatown. If ethnic exposure is not your thing, you can take the 7 train to baseball at CitiField, tennis at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, outings in the Hamptons via the Long Island Rail Road, getaways in Westchester via Metro-North, or the glitz and glamour of the Crossroads of the World. You can even get off at any of the Queens Blvd Stations (33rd, 40th, or 46th) and a few Roosevelt Avenue Stations (74th, 82nd, and Junction are my favorites) for some of the best views of the city from an elevated subway line. All for just $2.50. All with a Metrocard.
4. Skytrain Millennium Line: Vancouver’s Translink system operates the Expo and Millennium Lines through Vancouver and Burnaby and the Canada Line through Vancouver and Richmond. The Millennium Line by far is the most interesting line of the three mainly due to its twisting and winding nature. It starts downtown by the Waterfront, burrows underneath the Granville Street Mall, passes by Pacific Central Station, and meanders through the hilly Vancouver and Burnaby neighborhoods before making its way into New Westminster. The line passes several colleges, shopping malls, town centers, and office parks along a combination of short tunnel, long hills, cliffhanging gantry, and swooping elevated rights-of-way. All of this occurs along a line that loops around Burbany and is completely automated, computer-controlled trains with no platform guards (as seen at JFK Airport’s Airtrain or London Underground’s Jubilee Line). The section of the line between VCC-Clark Station and Sapperton Station is a winding right-of-way as you go from one station to the next almost indecisively from one side of the road to the other or from above a major road to between industrial complexes to small valleys in eastern Vancouver. Even with the roller-coaster-like routing, some of the best views of North Vancouver (and nearby mountains across the Burrard Inlet), Surrey (right across the Fraser River), and downtown Vancouver can be afforded, with no need for a rental car or a sightseeing tour bus ride. Fares are zone-based, but are usually around $2-3.
5. Docklands Light Railway: The entire Docklands light rail, a fully-automated light rapid transit system much like Skytrain, has something for everyone. Whether it’s for the best views of a part of East London that has been upcoming since the 1980s when the old London Docks were dismantled and redeveloped into a thriving community, or for the intricate system map with several service patterns (I remember counting about 7 or 8 services, including the very popular Bank to Lewisham and Stratford to Beckton services), the Docklands Light Railway (DLR so I don’t have to type the whole thing out) is a system by itself, almost like an extended arm of the London Underground “tube” system, a staple of transit-oriented development almost three decades in the making. DLR connects Bank Station (a major part of central London’s business district) and Canary Wharf (much like New York’s Wall Street) with Greater London communities like Greenwich, Westferry, Beckton, Canning Town, Stratford, and Lewisham. For travel beyond Greater London, DLR connects to several National Rail (British Rail) services, and to London City Airport.
More to come…