Maps are still technologically relevant. They are the reference for almost all forms of technology that use locational or directional data. Programmers and developers have upgraded their usefulness and transformed them into various digital or software types. When once we had to hold a map with two hands, now we can wield and navigate through one within a single palm.
Somehow, the same attention did not seem to happen to, say, a North American railroad map. We have map apps to help us find the quickest or traffic-free route when we are in our cars, whether in Manhattan or San Francisco. But the same idea is not necessary for a train that must follow whatever track it is on.
So, when looking at the bigger picture, it would seem that all the other means of travel have gone through major technological leaps and bounds. For trains, their best version would be the bullet trains and Maglevs. However, they have been more or less the same for at least several years now.
That is why a traveler with a true-blue printed North American railroad map is almost non-existent. The idea could be possible with freight train professionals and a handful of “railfans.” Does that mean traveling by train is not as rewarding as other modes of transportation?
It’s generally cheaper.
If you’re going from Boston to Washington, a commercial flight is cheaper and faster. The same is true if you travel from New York to Toronto, or generally any trip that is 300 miles long or more. Other than those options, traveling by train is cheaper when you factor in ticket costs and transit times.
Ever wondered why Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor is the busiest? Taking a train from Boston to New York could get you round-trip savings of up to $55 through the Northeast Regional. If you go business or first-class in Amtrak’s flagship Acela Express, you get $50 savings. That is against the total transit times and flight round-trip fares from Boston’s Logan to New York’s La Guardia.
Measuring costs against overall transit times, taking the train is likewise cheaper for trips from New York to Washington, Seattle to Vancouver, Los Angeles to San Diego, and Tampa to Fort Lauderdale.
One can almost hear voices rising here and saying that flying commercial is the safest mode of travel. Statistics give a mind-boggling illustration to the fact by saying that you must fly commercial all across North America every day for 19,000 years before you die in a plane crash.
Well, that is true, if one considers per-distance or per-billion of miles. Since aircraft travel the farthest, commercial flights from major airlines win the claim hands down.
However, if we factor in the basis of per-journey, train travel comes out six times safer than the best commercial airliner.
How many times have you stayed longer in Newark Liberty or Chicago O’Hare because your flight gets delayed by, say, bad weather?
Frequent fliers know very well the eventuality of such a scenario and have pretty much grown a numb familiarity with it. But that situation is quite far in between for a train.
Whether it’s rainy, foggy, or too much snow today, it would take a massive dose of bad weather before all trains grind to a halt. That is how dependable train travel is, especially if you must not miss your wedding or the family Thanksgiving dinner.
It gives plenty of chances for sightseeing.
You might be the type that hardly would care about the view outside. Even if you were, you would not help but get caught up several times by the splash of scenery that follows a long train ride.
The fact is North America’s more than 3,000-mile journey coast to coast, from New York to San Francisco, is one of the most breathtaking travel experiences in the world. In approximately 48 hours, you get fantastic vistas of farmlands in Nebraska, the Rockies of Denver, the Colorado canyons, and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Those few lines of words do not give justice to what is in store when you take the California Zephyr line. Moreover, you get to enjoy all that with easier access to first-class amenities, which is goldlike if you attempted to have it on a commercial flight.
If you want a long road trip without you behind the wheel, a train ride is an ultimate journey. You could make it even more meaningful by having handy a North American railroad map.
You could easily find out where you are at any given time, and you can mark the most notable spots on your map. It could even make it as a sort of scrapbook to contain your notes and photographs documenting your best train ride ever.