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 USA by train. I had very low expectations at the time, mainly because social media had brainwashed me into believing that Amtrak was no longer any good and that American citizens were too busy with political infighting and building walls to welcome visitors. I’m glad I went, as I discovered this was totally false. I loved travelling with Amtrak, and everyone I met along the way was so positive, interesting and friendly. In just a couple of weeks, I was a changed person. I found myself discussing literature over lunch with deep thinking Amish people, ‘high-fiving’ conductors and talking about NFL score predictions to total strangers over amazing craft beer. So I vowed back then to come back and spend more time discovering more of what makes America tick, on and off the rails. As Ringo Starr once said, ‘America: It’s like Britain, only with buttons’. So true.
I think there is a book in this, so I’m planning several trips so that I can travel on as many of the iconic routes as possible. My second of these is almost a coast to coast and back to the first coast again, a long loop from NYC and Chicago down south and then west before returning to Chicago. I have set up a USA Southern Loop page in the ‘adventures’ section of my website, which contains a route map and the trains I am planning to take. Looking at the distance, it’s a lot further than my first coast to coast trip, which was around 3400 miles. This one is 6347 miles on the rails. Nearly all my journeys are on sleepers, both east and west of the Mississippi, so I will experience viewliners, superliners, full community restaurant eating and also the new stripped-back catering style. My thanks to John Blower at Trailfinders, for his assistance with the rail and ground arrangements. He has made my travel plans so easy that I have been able to work on researching the history of the American railroad and making contacts in some of the places I plan to visit.
If you have read any of my books you will appreciate that some of the fun stuff stays out of the blog, so it’s more fresh and fun when I can reveal the full story. So I plan to blog as I travel with the nuts and bolts of the journey, but save the ‘experiences’ that I have planned along the way for the book. I have a working title for it in my mind, but I’m not revealing it just yet. So what goes on tour will stay on tour until the book gets published! I have a particular interest in linking local culture – books, films, food and music – to the trains. Looking at my route do you have any suggestions for things that are a ‘must-see’?