Train vs. Plane: No Contest

posted in: Travel | 5

Lynne and I are on the way to Montreal for a long weekend. We are traveling on Amtrak’s Adirondack train. (No, the couple in the picture isn’t us.)Bald Eagle

A ten-minute Uber ride got us and our bags from home to Penn Station about 20 minutes ahead of the train’s departure time, and the train left on schedule. I stowed our luggage in a floor-level rack at the end of our coach, with no need to heft the bags overhead (not easy for someone whose head is only five feet above the floor). We scored a pair of seats with a wide window. The seats are comfortable, and they recline enough to allow for comfy sleep. They have foot rests, ample leg room, overhead lights and fans, and electrical outlets.  The train has free wi-fi that’s been running almost continuously. We can walk freely from car to car.

For the first couple of hours, we looked out on the surprisingly blue Hudson River, which this train route hugs all the way to Albany. We admired the Palisades and passed several lighthouses that I did not know existed, saw a bald eagle, passed West Point and Sing Sing, and noted the increasing density of the broken sheets of ice on the river as we travel northward. Since Albany, we’ve been rolling through woods, fields, and downscale villages – not as picturesque, perhaps, but nonetheless interesting – and we’re now skirting the southwestern shore of Lake Champlain.

Dining cars with waiter service have vanished from all but the longest Amtrak routes, but the fare in the café cars that have replaced them is better than anything I’ve been served in coach class on any airline. (I did find a dining car on the train I took for a 24-hour ride to Florida last year, and the simple meals it served were very good and not outrageously expensive.)

If the train stays on schedule, we’ll arrive in Montreal in just under 11 hours after leaving New York, and our hotel is a short taxi ride from the train station. If we’d opted to fly, we’d have spent less time in the air than on the train, but the fare would have been hundreds of dollars more, and the ride to and from the airports in both cities would have added a couple of hours to the travel time and two hundred dollars or more to the cost. Add to the equation the need to arrive at the airport long before any international flight, the purgatory that airport security has become, the environmental footprint, and the physical discomfort of nearly all coach-class airplane seats, and the choice for me is clear.

5 Responses

  1. Tacie Vergara
    | Reply

    I am sold on traveling by train, for all the reasons you noted, and I love reading your posts.

    I hope you have a wonderful trip.

  2. Barbara L
    | Reply

    Right on! Smart girls.

  3. Margaret Jackson
    | Reply

    A worthy experience. In the ’30’s we went by train to the grandparents in Indiana just about every summer. And in ’72 I took the Canadian Pacific from Montreal to Vancouver with a roomette. Love it. I love Montreal too.

  4. Chiemi
    | Reply

    Love this, how romantic!!! Keep blogging…

  5. Confidence Stimpson
    | Reply

    What a lovely trip! Years ago when I used to go to Boston and Philadelphia and Washington on business, I always preferred first class on Amtrak to the shuttle. First class on Amtrak was about the same price. There was one generous-sized swivel seat per window, with a fold-down table in between so you could face whomever you were traveling with and play cards or whatever, and the food was excellent. Also, when I first moved to California, I took the train partly because it was cheaper and partly because I wanted to see the country. Thirty six hours, but there was an observation car with big windows and also a dining car. I loved it. And I am a person who loves to fly–logged 20 hours solo in a Piper Colt.

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