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The New Mexico Rail Runner

Matthew Woodward Rail Adventurer Author

I’m on the rails in the US today, but not with Amtrak, as I’m on the New Mexico Rail Runner which is run independently by Rio Metro. Several times each day their trains connect Albuquerque with Santa Fe and all stops in between. It’s a 60-mile ride that takes less than 2 hours. Waiting for the 09.35 train, passengers mill about in the pre-sunshine cold of the desert morning until the doors of the duplex carriages open 20 minutes before our departure. They are talkative, friendly and really interesting. Onboard the train is clean and comfortable, laid out over two decks […]

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The Sunset Limited from Houston to Los Angeles

Amtrak

Back on the rails this evening. The first challenge is finding the Amtrak station in Houston. Lots of local residents don’t even know that Houston actually has an Amtrak station, or that its possible to reach LA or New Orleans from here by rail. For a wealthy city, the station is tiny. Fortunately, my cab driver has sat-nav. When I tell him its 37 hours to LA, he looks at me like I’m a mad man. I’ve got used to watching ‘Wheel of Fortune’ on the television in the Amtrak lounge before catching trains at this time of the day. […]

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The Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Houston

Matthew Woodward on the rails

It was a bit of a drag getting out of bed at a business-like time to get to the station for the 9.00 am departure of the Sunset Limited with a New Orleans Hurricane based hangover. You need to be there an hour before to check-in baggage, and I don’t like chancing it. As it happened everything went very smoothly, and a really nice chap sorted it all out in a couple of minutes. Better still there was a small lounge, and the usual drill was in play, someone comes to get you and take you to the train. I […]

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The Lakeshore Limited from NYC to Chicago

Penn Station isn’t the nicest place on earth, but it didn’t take long to find the baggage drop off and the haven of the nearby Club Acela Lounge, which is open to sleeper passengers. The staff here seemed friendly but stretched. One really nice touch here is that an Amtrak agent escorts you from the lounge down to the right track ahead of it being announced in the station, so that you are first on the train and avoid the stampede of coach passengers. The Lakeshore has to navigate through some old tunnels under the Hudson River, and for this […]

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Amtrak Adventures

I’m catching up here in ‘The Engine Shed’, my office and writing room at my HQ, located in a quiet corner of West Sussex. It’s been a busy 2019. Not busy with travel, but busy with attempting to reorganise my life, move homes, rebuild my new home and finish writing a book – all at the same time. Fortunately, chaos has finally been overcome, and ‘The Railway to Heaven’ has been published. Deep breath – and relax. So now I can turn my attention to organising some new adventures on the rails. In 2017 I took a trip across the […]

November 12, 2019 USA

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Learn to speak Amtrak

Travelling across the U.S. by train recently has revealed a brand new language to me; I have discovered the dialect of the American railway. I now speak fluent “Amtrak”, and you can too. The train language of the rest of the world has had limited chance to interbreed with the U.S, leaving America with a unique set of rail words. Most make some sense to English speakers, but a variety of carriage (sorry, car) types and multiple names for the same thing can at times become confusing. In addition, the first time traveller may be surprised by the way the […]

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The ‘Coast Starlight’ from L.A. to San Francisco

After a rather weird stay on board the Queen Mary, I’m back on the rails today. I never thought I would take to life in L.A, but I was pleasantly surprised by Long Beach nightlife. The Queen Mary is such an iconic ship, but now as a business it is primarily a glorified theme park and the values of Cunard are long gone. I’m with some other British rail travellers and amazingly one of them was actually a passenger on the Queen Mary. The ship didn’t even offer him a complimentary drink to welcome him back. I find that rather […]

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‘The Southwest Chief’ from Flagstaff to Los Angeles

There is much speculation about how late the train will be into Flagstaff this evening. Dan, the Brakeman on my earlier Grand Canyon train, has advised me to buy a bottle of wine and decant it into a water bottle so I can have a drink on the station platform. Four hours delay is quite normal on this service. Amtrak don’t own the track, so freight takes priority. “The Chief” is coming from Chicago, so it will have had plenty of opportunity to pick up a big delay. I return to the station after a quick dinner to discover that […]

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The Grand Canyon Railway

The day didn’t start too well. My bus driver actually got lost trying to find Williams Depot, the home of the Grand Canyon Railway. Mild panic began to creep into my thoughts, but with just ten minutes to spare we arrived at the station and I boarded carriage “E” on the 09.30 train, bound for the south rim of the Grand Canyon. On some days they run a steam train, but today we are hauled by a nicely restored class EMD F40 locomotive with matching silver vintage carriages. My seat is comfy enough in a slightly too tightly packed coach […]

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The Durango & Silverton Railway

I’m slightly “off piste” in a railway sense. To reach Silverton I have had to leave the train at Denver (the train to Grand Junction was cancelled owing to work on the line) and take a bus to Silverton. It would have been too easy to push on west towards the coast, but this part of my journey needs further exploration – I’m seriously enjoying being in Colorado. My journey today is a totally a tourist one, but in the past it was a vital part of the incredible story of the gold and silver rushes. The Durango & Silverton […]

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