There’s an undeniable romance to riding the rails. Those who choose the train are seduced by the more intimate pace of crossing through – rather than flying over – a landscape.
Other features of train travel? Interact with other passengers, seeing the geography change in front of you and accessing more out-of-the-way destinations. Whether on a cross-country route (look for details at www.amtrak.com) or a local excursion, travellers of all ages love the train.
Maine offers a full menu of train travel – from a family-friendly daytrip to a romantic weekend away:
• Downeaster Travel Packages are complete car-free travel packages from any Amtrak Downeaster train station to/from Portland, Maine to board the brand new Nova Star cruise ferry service between Portland, Maine and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. www.amtrakdowneaster.com
• The Maine Eastern Railroad is made up of art deco vintage railcars that offer a spectacular journey between Brunswick and Rockland. Passengers from Portland, Boston and other southern New England points can reach Brunswick via Amtrak’s Downeaster. The excursion service begins on July 4 and runs through the fall foliage season. It’s a trip through seaside villages, past windjammers and lobster boats, tidewater wildlife and some of New England’s most magnificent foliage. www.maineeasternrailroad.com/schedule
• The season for the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad runs from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Trains depart from the City Point Central Railroad Museum in Belfast twice daily for the hour-long trip through the scenic woods, streams and fields of Waldo County. There are also special Pizza Trains where pizza is served on board and the Chocolate Express with delicious homemade, hand-dipped chocolates and fudge from Maynard’s Chocolates. www.belfastandmooseheadlakerail.org
Take a step back in time as you step on board vintage passenger cars on the Austin & Texas Central Railroad (www.austinsteamtrain.org) for a relaxing journey to the past:
• Enjoy a 105-kilometre round trip on the popular Hill Country Flyer, with a long and indulgent layover in Burnet for lunch and the ever-entertaining Burnet Gunfighters Association Wild West shootout.
• Hop on board the Bertram Flyer or the new Capital City Express for the shorter three-hour adventure over trestle bridges, stopping at historic early-20th-century depots.
The Texas State Railroad, established in 1881, is truly a “Texas Treasure!” The relaxing train ride passes through the piney woods and hardwood creek bottoms of East Texas amid a backdrop of rolling hills, nature and wildlife. Passengers board excursion trains at the beautiful Victorian-style depots in Palestine and Rusk, where southern hospitality is still the norm. www.texasstaterr.com
Oregon’s spectacular scenery is on display along the Eagle Cap Excursion Train through the northeast part of the state. The publicly owned 1950s-vintage diesel train operates beneath the peaks of the Wallowa and Blue Mountain ranges, following the shores of the Grande Ronde and Wild & Scenic Wallowa rivers, both known for steelhead fishing and rafting. The route passed througn an almost entirely roadless area, offering views of a landscape that can’t be seen from an automobile. Highlights include the Rondowa Bridge, where the two rivers converge and continue their journey to join the Snake, then Columbia rivers. Train rides vary from two to four hours, with some including a meal and entertainment. The distance covered ranges from 30 to 70 kilometres, with round-trip or one-way options. Upon proof of Canadian residency, Canadians can save 10 per cent off their ticket price when completing their reservation by June 30 for a scheduled 2014 train ride (contingent upon seat availability; no other discounts apply). Ticket order must be paid with a single transaction for multiple passengers. www.eaglecaptrainrides.com
Riding the Grand Canyon Railway is a step back in history along a route that connects the Western town of Williams, Arizona (a quaint stop along the legendary Route 66 highway) to the majestic Grand Canyon. Visitors can enjoy a car-free two-hour ride to Grand Canyon, leaving Williams in the morning and returning from Grand Canyon National Park in the late afternoon. Vintage diesel engines pull restored, historic Pullman and Budd cars. New for 2014: vintage steam locomotives pull the train on select days with refitted engines fuelled by waste vegetable oil! Multi-day packages can be customized to include lodging inside Grand Canyon National Park and in Williams, as well as breakfasts, dinners and guided tours. www.thetrain.com