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Senior Correspondent

I have always had a fascination with trains. I am not sure why, but as a young child, we rode from town to town to visit family. When the trains stopped passenger service, the buses took over, and it just wasn’t the same. Sadly, train service has not been revived in many parts of the country, but I keep hoping that will change. It is such a great way to travel. 

Whenever I get the chance, I will take a train, but that is not easy living in a small town at the top of Virginia, where there is no passenger service. It takes at least one to two hours to get to a station to catch an Amtrak train, but I don’t let that stop me. When my children were youngsters, I took them to visit family, catching a train in Fredericksburg or Alexandria, both almost two hours away.

Vivid memories of my first experiences as an adult train rider when I was in college are still with me. As a student in the late 1960s, I took the train to visit my older sister who moved to North Carolina when she got married. The images of the rather dated rail cars with well-worn seats are permanently etched in my memory, as well as the porter, who would come through the car, serving coffee in the morning. 

After a few hours of travel, the train stopped near Richmond, Va. and porters turned all the seats around to face the other way to head south. It reminded me of the old western movies and the type of trains attacked by men on horseback who jumped on the cars to take over and rob the passengers. Obviously, this did not happen, and I was certainly glad those days were over.

Also, cotton fields really caught my attention since there weren’t many fields of any type in the deep Appalachian Mountains of my home place. It looked like such backbreaking work as pickers labored to gather the small white patches, resembling fluffy cotton balls. That image is etched in my memory permanently, reminding me of many changes in our country’s farming history.

On another trip, my freshman college roommate, and I decided to hit the rails heading to her house during a break from classes. It took about an hour by car, but we thought the train would be an adventure — it definitely was. I won’t go into details, but I don’t advise leaving late in the evening after a night of college escapades. 

In addition, the trips with my children were very memorable as they reacted to the new mode of transportation for them. Figuring out how to sleep in the seats, traveling from car to car, and visiting the dining care and restrooms were always highlights of the trip. And then it was very special at the end of the journey when we were greeted by family members — who are no longer with us — who picked us up at the station.

In the last few years, I have made several trips with friends to visit certain areas or by myself to see family. It always makes me realize how relaxing a train ride is with no worries about traffic and crowding on interstate highways. I just don’t understand why we don’t have more trains instead of so much vehicle traffic and congestion. 

Since I retired last summer, I now have the luxury of taking my time when traveling. My latest trip was when I took two of my grandchildren on a train to visit family in North Carolina. We drove to Fredericksburg to catch the train as I had done many years before with their mother and uncle. I wasn’t sure what they would think, but one said she liked it better than an airplane ride. 

They definitely thought it was great as they sat back and took advantage of the free Wifi service and plug-ins for electronic devices. They also enjoyed the trek to the dining car to sample the enticing menu. One even said this was the way she wanted to travel from now on.

Staff was very friendly and helpful, and all questions were welcome with assistance readily given. They know how to deal with children and were very attentive to them. Plus there is no cost for luggage. Just haul it on board with you and put it in the upper rack. 

Hopefully, my grandkids will like it enough to support the trains in this country that have struggled to stay alive. It would be so nice to get some big rigs and cars off the highways and on trains. Pollution, crowded roads, and safety problems could be eased by more train traffic.

If you live in a city where the train is readily available, give it a try. If not convenient, go to the closest station and make the effort to ride the rails. There are special prices at certain times and especially for children. I don’t think you will be disappointed, and it will help the environment. 

Plus it will remind you of a time gone by as well as what the future could hold as Amtrak is working to improve the routes and service. So hop aboard and ride the rails to new destinations and adventures.

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