Efficient: Books That Explain Train Travel In North America

Train travel is one of the most efficient forms of transportation. However, in North America, traveling by rail is not particularly systematic or comprehensive. It’s difficult to get an overview of what’s available. Thankfully, there are several good books on North American train travel, which I read recently. Here’s a brief review:

USA By Rail gives a great guidebook to the U.S rail system. This book is full of information on almost all the rail lines in the US, but you won’t find any photographs or maps in this book — just the facts. The 7th edition of this book is coming out later this month.

The book Great American Rail Journeys was a companion to a series on PBS. It highlights some of the best rail journeys on this continent with numerous photos and maps. It’s a coffee table book, so if you want to get a sense of rail travel at its best, this is a good introduction.

A companion to Great American Rail Journeys is the book Eight Great American Rail Journeys: A Travel Guide. This pocket-sized book fills in all the practical travel information about the rail routes covered in Great American Rail Journeys.

The Trans-Canada Rail Guide is a very comprehensive guide to rail travel in Canada. It’s full of detailed information on trail routes and destinations, and it has nice color photographs of routes. It’s obvious that the author has first-hand knowledge of the routes and destinations she covers.

11 thoughts on “Efficient: Books That Explain Train Travel In North America”

  1. In germany its almost the same. Travveling by train is very expensive and in most of the cases a real adventure, because of delays, of trains which are broken etc. I love to go by train because you can sit and watch, read, talk to friends, however it should be cheaper and more user friendly

  2. The killing off off the rail network was surely one of the stupidist happenings of Western civilisation, and came about by the arrival of the Big Auto industry, which even in its infancy, displayed the same bullying tendencies we experienced during the 1990’s when it killed off the electric car. (You can read more about what happened in this short history of electric cars here.) However, electric rail transport will make a comeback in the future as oil stocks run out and those abandoned lines are restored, or rebuilt, and the romance of rail travel will live on to be enjoyed by many once more!

  3. The beauty of train travel is that it allows you to see the landscape from the comfort of your seat. When you travel on the bus, you’re still on the highway and the quality of the landscapes – are fine – are not quite as grand.

    When you’re on the train, it feels as if the motorized world is far, far away!

  4. The problem I find with rail travel is how expensive it is. I mean, a trip from Montreal to Toronto is between $160 and $180 It costs less to rent a car and pay for gas, around $130. A Bus for the same route is $63. The only major difference is the train gets there 2 hours early. This might be worth it depending on what your doing, but it never is for me.

  5. What is so complicated about rail travel in the North America as to require a book? Amtrak’s website has a complete list of its rail routes, and VIA Rail has a similarly complete list for Canada.

  6. I do the train thing from Los Angeles to San Diego (Pacific Surfliner). It’s 30 bucks one way, but it’s a pleasant cruise along the coast.

    I just find this type of transportation to be sooo much more enjoyable than driving. I might pick up one of these books and take a trip cross country.

  7. Right now bus travel is a much better choice. I booked 5 trips this summer from memphis to chicago on Megabus 2 of the trips I was able to get the $1 seats by booking in advance. When we got off in Chicago we used the mass transet system to get around it was very fast ,efficient, and affordable. We even took the metra train to weikagin and cought the 565 bus to six flags! On another trip we spent the night in the Field Museum my son loved it! The only time I have taken amtrak was in 1991 it was 4 hours late to the station and took 14 hours to get to chicago. AT least the Megabus was on time about 9.5 hours and drops you off at union station same as Amtrak I think.

  8. Beautiful trips available by rail if you can afford it. This has become very expensive. Mass transit has fallen apart in America. It needs to be a way to our green future.

  9. I recently took the train from Cleveland to Chicago. Amtrak doesn’t stop in Akron any more, alas. The train was four hours late getting into Chicago. I missed the first half of the conference I was attending that day. The train was late to begin with and then kept stopping for long stretches of time, up to 45 minutes per stop. We were waiting for rail access — waiting for freight trains to go through ahead of us. Talk about a diminished system. It’s very sad, as train travel is a very pleasant way to travel when the trains run on time.

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