Travel writers have come up with a list of their favorite train rides and it has set my mind to wandering. And daydreaming. About past and future trips. The only train ride they list that I've actually been on is the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad that chugs through Colorado's two-million-acre San Juan National Forest.
As the coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive climbed its way to Silverton, I got to know my compatriots on a week-long Backroads bike trip through the Colorado Rockies. The views out the windows were spectacular - forest, mountains and steep drops to a river below.
When we arrived in Silverton, described on its Web site as, "a gritty little mining town with Victorian pretensions," it had clouded up and I was freezing. A quick visit to a souvenir shop - and there are many, trust me - for a Silverton sweatshirt solved that problem. (I loved that sweatshirt but lost it on some other adventure...)
That was a great bike trip and the train ride, though I remember it going on a tad long, was part of the allure.
The only other two train rides I'm a little familiar with are the Rocky Mountaineer, because I wrote about it in September after interviewing a big fan of the train. And the Flam Railway in Norway. Sadly, I never made it to Flam when I was in Norway years ago. I was hitchhiking with a friend on that trip. Our five-week journey started in the Netherlands and continued on to Bodo, a town above the Arctic Circle.
For five weeks, we went where drivers took us. We didn't have much in the way of plans other than to see the Midnight Sun. Mission accomplished.
But we did get driven East to West (or was it West to East?) between Oslo and Bergen, a bit south of Flam. I can attest it is one of the more stunning regions on earth. So I'm sure a train ride into those snow-capped mountains with their many waterfalls is just as spectacular.
I'd really love to get back there and see! "Ja, vi elsker dette landet." (The national anthem of Norway. It just happened to be a clue in Sunday's NY Times crossword puzzle.)
As for "training" solo, I have often met and befriended people on long train trips. The most memorable was during a journey from Washington, D.C. to Montreal. I met an amateur hockey team! They were a wild bunch and having a good ole time and talking to everyone around.
I got to know a few of them and funny enough, was on the same train with them on the way back. So the trip back was like old home week. And I wrote here about the brother and sister from Chile who I met on a train in Spain. I think it's more typical than not to end up talking with people on trains in foreign countries.
As for the other train rides recommended by the travel writers - through Peru, Switzerland and Italy, Alaska and elsewhere - they sound amazing. Why is it that there's only so much vacation time in a year, and only so much money to go around?
Photo: Train from Durango care of the railroad Web site
Photo: View of Flam by Oyvind Roti