As I kid I was interested in trains, trolleys too. Anything that had a track. Who wasn’t all about "Thomas & Friends"? I would religiously watch the show, was familiar with all of the characters and even had my own toy car from the show (which is still lodged in a radiator at my childhood home). When I watched Mr. Rodgers I always wondered where the trolley actually went. I’d be extra hype whenever I noticed it had somehow gotten onto a new route. Yeah, so trains, trolleys, light rail; these modes of transport are imbedded in my childhood and constitute part of my fondness for travel.
As I’ve stated before, some of my earliest travel expeditions came courtesy of Philadelphia’s public transportation system. Aside from trains, I’ve always had a tendency to study maps. Whenever I’d look at the stops for the El train in Philly, I’d be curious about the foreign depots on the other side of town: Tioga, Church, Margaret-Orthodox. Once, I forwent a movie ticket for a chance to ride the El to the other side of town. At that point in time, I’d never been to those hinterlands of Philadelphia and I saw an opportunity to satiate some of my curiosity.
In addition to convenience, such transportation can make for entertaining scenarios, as well as perplexing. Over my train experiences I’ve been offered a variety of products: M&Ms, DVDs, Size 10.5 hiking boots. Recently in Seoul I found myself on a subway car equipped with vending machines, phone charging stations, and employed with medical professionals who offered to check riders' blood pressure.
Train rides can be rich in experiences. While in Gabon, I was accosted repeatedly to aide other passengers, who couldn’t read, in finding their seats. I was a tad surprised, but happy that I could be help those who needed it. On another occasion on Korea’s high speed rail, an older woman gave me and another passenger each a sandwich. I ate it mainly because the other girl ate her’s. I felt obliged. The sandwich was edible, not tasty, though I did appreciate the gesture. Being on a train where people are literally hanging out the doors (Mumbai, India) was adrenaline inducing, but not something I want to repeat soon. First class can be a cushy experience. When I was taking the TransGabon back to Libreville from from the country's near impenetrable jungle laded interior I opted for a first class ticket. I was very impressed by the quality of the car after it arrived 2.5 hours after the time on my ticket. Hey, at least is showed. Interestingly enough, the train would go one to be delayed another 4 hours due to a derailment of a service car. Once a southbound train arrived on the other side of the derailment all of the passengers on each train disembarked and switched trains. I was tired, hungry and cranky. I walked through about all the cars and realized the people who were now on our old train had gotten the better deal. I was a little befuddled due to the quality of our new train and I asked one of the porters where first class was. He smirked, before another passenger answered for him: sit down. I understood the implication. 20 hours later we arrived back in the capital. Only a dozen hours or so off schedule.
Since a large part of travel is being in transit, it’s to one’s benefit to be able to enjoy the various modes of transit. Planes are faster, but just don’t have the same charm as a train. However, I did opt for one on a cross state trip in lieu of the train-- I was trying to catch the kickoff for a football game. Prioritize.