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The Best Rail Journeys In The USA

by Holiday Yellowpages
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Do they even have trains in America? I have to be honest that when I try to conjure images of travelling by rail my mind tends to wander towards Europe; whether misty images of Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard’s brief encounter on a smoky platform or an Agatha Christie mystery on board the Orient Express.

Well it turns out that America does have trains, and for those who enjoy the unique pleasures that only rail travel can offer, the country has routes every bit as spectacular as anywhere else in the world. So instead of taking that internal flight or a Greyhound bus, why not consider one of these during your next trip;

The California Zephyr

Photo Credit: Loco Steve

Widely considered to be the most outstanding route in the United States, the Zephyr travels a total of 2,438 miles taking in seven states. Departing from Chicago, the initial trundle through the city’s industrial suburbs offers no indication of the breathtaking vistas to follow. At Denver the train begins its climb into the mighty Rocky Mountains, before following the winding course of the Colorado River to the arid deserts of Utah and Nevada. The following day is dominated by the grand peaks of the Sierra Nevada, before the Donner Pass drops you down into the California Central Valley and onto journey’s end at Emeryville and San Francisco just across the bay.

The Coast Starlight

California On the Coast Starlight – Photo Credit: Jake Miille

Connecting Los Angeles with Seattle this route initially hugs the Southern California coast, at times whisking passengers so close to the lapping shore you may need to resist the temptation to dip your toes in from the window! Continuing northwards the journey veers inland and, offering beautiful glimpse of majestic Mount Shasta, follows the Cascade Range up through Oregon and into the Pacific North West.

The Grand Canyon Railway

Photo Credit: jimkleeman

There are so many ways to see the Grand Canyon but few as exciting as by rail. A daily service from Williams, Arizona winds its way past the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks and through the Coconino Canyon before arriving at the South Rim of the canyon in just over 2 hours. Ideal for families, the journey is replete with old time musicians and the return train even includes a mock ‘hold-up’ by the Cataract Creek Gang with the on-board sheriff saving the day. Although no longer operating a regular steam service for environmental reasons, one-off steam trains still run on selected dates. During the month of December the railroad transforms itself into the Polar Express.

Ethan Allen Express

Photo Credit: Brandon Kaback

The next time you’re in New York City why not jump on this Amtrak service from the city’s Penn Station and leave the hustle and bustle behind for a few hours. Initially following the Hudson River, the five and a half hour route weaves a path through the Catskills in upstate New York, and the Green Mountains in Vermont, before coming to rest in Rutland. For a shorter excursion though, jump off at Saratoga Springs and visit the mineral springs, or perhaps head off for a flutter at the country’s oldest racetrack.

The Sierra Railroad

Photo Credit: Mike Danneman

The best holidays to the USAare never complete without a visit to a famous film location and for those looking for something a bit different the Sierra Railroad offers a delightful twist on this. A short distance from San Francisco, the line’s recognisable locomotives and rich history have been utilised in blockbuster movies from High Noon to Back to the Future III. Running between the California towns of Oakdale and Tuolumne City, the line now operates a selection of themed dinner services including Murder Mystery and Wild West evenings.

Rob is a rail road fan and can’t wait to be heading over to the USA again just so he can ride down the east coast from Boston to Virginia.

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