Cover reveal: Silver Streak

After what feels like an eternity of writing whilst living in lockdown here at the Engine Shed, things are starting to get really busy. Now that the book is with the publishing team, it’s great to have time to be able to update you on what’s coming. The book is called ‘Silver Streak: An adventure where the railroad and Hollywood collide’. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share just a few details about it today, marking the official reveal of the cover. The cover has has been designed by Jake Colling. It’s a deliberately simpler look than some of […]

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The Southwest Chief from LA to Chicago

LA Union Station has a relaxed feel in the late afternoon, sunshine beams through the high windows and passengers seem in no particular hurry here. Check-in for the Southwest Chief, or ‘The Chief’, is simple but made slightly harder by an Amtrak employee who isn’t very happy about life today. We get there in the end, but I’m pleased I spotted she had mistagged my bag. I always do a physical check, and today it paid off. With this done I headed upstairs to the lounge, which was small but still just had enough seats. The manager told me I […]

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The New Mexico Rail Runner

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


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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