Friday, December 28, 2007

Train Trip


A couple weeks ago we had a delivery to make to Seattle on a Monday. We decided to go ahead over there on Saturday and make a weekend of it. Since we had plenty of time my husband thought it would be fun to ride the Amtrak train from there to Portland on Saturday, spend the night at a hotel near the train station in Portland, and then ride the train back to Seattle on Sunday. I thought it was a brilliant idea!(We could have ridden the train from here to Seattle, but since we had 7 heavy boxes to deliver we decided that probably wouldn't work very well.)

None of us had ever ridden a "real" train before, that we could remember, so this was a real adventure. We arrived in Seattle about an hour and a half before our train was scheduled to leave. We had deliberately left early to allow for extra time to park the truck and find the depot and get our boarding passes and whatnot. We had no trouble with any of that, so we had a little extra time to look around the train station. I was enchanted! The building was over 100 years old. It had been remodeled in the 1950s or '60s and was definitely showing its age again. I was glad to see that they (whoever "they" might be) were in the process of restoring the building. It had been very lovely at one time, so it will be neat to see it restored.

The process of boarding the train was very similar to boarding an airplane, only much more relaxed... no security to go through, and while they said for us to have our ID ready no one ever asked to see it. The coolest part was when they called for boarding, the guy said, "Last boarding call for Train 513 to Portland. All aboard!" I had wondered if they actually still said, "All aboard!"

We had asked for four seats together on the train, and when we boarded we discovered our seats faced each other. That was neat. The interior of the train was very nice and up-to-date. (After the aging depot, I wasn't sure what to expect.) It was nicer than an airplane. Comfortable seats, more elbow room, more head room, more foot room. There were curtains on the windows, personal reading lights, and headphone jacks on the arm rest for watching the movie they showed on overhead monitors.

It was interesting to see the passing scenery from a different perspective. My husband had got new GPS for an early Christmas present and he had it along. He held it up to the window and was able to get a signal. He was curious to see how fast we were going (70-80 mph at times). We thought it was funny that the GPS was confused that we "seemed" to be on the railroad tracks. It makes automatic adjustments for accuracy errors so it will move your route to the nearest road if the reading is off a little. Every time the train ran parallel to a highway the GPS popped our route off the railroad track and over onto the highway. It was just sure we couldn't possibly be driving down the train tracks!

It was about lunchtime so I "hiked" down to the bistro car to get some hot dogs to eat in our seats. It wasn't what I think of as an old-fashioned dining car, but more like a concession stand with 2 or 3 tables in one car. It was between cars 2 and 3. Our seats were in car 8, so it was quite a little walk through car after car.

Soon after we finished eating they started a movie. Fortunately, it was a kids' movie, so the girls were happy to plug in their headphones to watch it. It was a 4-hour trip, so that kept them occupied for a good portion of it.

The Portland train station was about the same age as the Seattle one, but it had been remodeled more recently, so it was a little nicer. We didn't linger long, though, as it was several blocks to our hotel, and as it gets dark very early this time of year we wanted to go ahead and get checked in.

We called my mother from our hotel to tell her about our trip. She asked if I remembered riding on the train before. I didn't. She got to figuring, and it turns out that my last train trip had been almost exactly 40 years ago... Christmas 1967. I was barely 2.

We had a relaxing evening in Portland and an uneventful (but fun!) ride back to Seattle the next day. I forgot my camera, so I took pictures with my cell phone. They aren't the greatest, but definitely better than nothing. I also found some pictures of the two train stations online.

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