I Hear the Train a’Coming

If you’ve traveled by plane lately, you know that airport security is tighter than a pair of Spanx.
The airport people want you to take off your shoes, coat, belt and watch. What’s next? Probably shirts, pants, funny nose glasses and toupees.
Then you’re scanned—and sometimes felt down (or up depending on your preference).
And then if you ever do get on the plane, you’re admonished to sit down, click on your seatbelt, turn off your cell phone—and have “a wonderful flight.”

So I offer now for your consideration—and lessened aggravation: traveling by train.
First of all, the Seattle King Street Station is conveniently located right alongside some tracks. It’s where the trains that annoy Mariner’s play-by-play announcers arrive and depart.

At the train station you buy your ticket, you go board. Sometimes you go through an X-ray machine, but it’s usually a breeze—unless you’re dressed in a suit of armor. Then you merely explain you’re traveling to a Renaissance fair, and they wave you on.

On the minus side, the train station offers few of the amenities of the Sea-Tac airport. For example at the airport, after you are forced to surrender your bottle of water at the security gate—you can then walk to a souvenir stand or bookstore—and buy the same bottle of water you had to give up earlier, but at 18 times the price. You don’t get that same convenience at the train station.

Once on board the train, there is no attendant standing at the front of the aisle going over safety procedures. Instead, a voice comes over the speaker system telling you to read the safety brochure for yourself. No oxygen masks should be expected to drop down—and there is no mention of what to do in the case of a water landing. However the brochure does mention that if the train should tip over, you should get out on the side that is not facing the ground. Great advice.

There is also an announcement asking all passengers not to remove their shoes while on board. I’m not sure if the request is for safety reasons—or air quality.

The last time I took the train to Portland, we departed almost 20 minutes later than scheduled. But the conductor came through assuring everyone that we would still arrive in Portland on time. I guessed that maybe the engineer knew a shortcut. Or maybe he was going to take advantage of a strong tailwind. But, sure enough, we arrived right on schedule.

When you travel by plane or freeway, you miss so many of the real scenic wonders of our Northwest landscape. But by train you can clearly see back yards—with old cars on blocks, discarded couches, rusty chest freezers and hot tubs that have become planters.
You also have the chance to admire the works of some of our nation’s finest artists—particularly those who work in the field of graffiti.

Plus, when you travel by rail, you get to see cows—lots and lots of cows. And occasionally a cow with graffiti on it.

On a train, you don’t have to wear a seat belt—you’re actually encouraged to get up and walk around. It’s not expected that the train will hit an air pocket and suddenly drop a thousand feet.

There was even a featured movie on my trip. Granted, it was not a particularly current film as you might see on a plane flight—but still, it was a movie. By the way, did you know that Laurel was the skinny guy and Hardy was the larger man?

So if you’re a bit nervous or annoyed with air travel these days, try going by rail. It’s tough getting to Europe by train, but worth a try.
And despite what you may see in the movies, there are rarely people running around having fistfights on the roof of a moving train.

That sort of thing only happens on buses.