Last Train Ride

My Office in Germany

I’m writing this from the ICE 640 from Magdeburg to Hannover, Germany. Unfortunately, due to my upcoming work schedule, it may be a long time before I get back to Germany to ride DB trains again. Hopefully, this January I’ll be riding some trains around Ireland, but I have no idea the next time I’ll be in Germany.

As I watch the rolling hills of former East Germany roll by, I’m a bit saddened. Most Americans don’t generally use trains within the US for travel. There are actually a few places, like in the North East and along the East Coast, where passenger trains are more common. But even then, few of the routes offer true high-speed trains, but instead trundle along barely faster than the trains one might have ridden in the Wild West 150 years ago. To be sure, we have an EXTENSIVE railway network in the US, but it’s mainly used for freight, not people, and the wobbly bumpy tracks are not suitable for speeds much faster than automobile highways.

IMG 4115SBB Train From Zurich

In the office last week, just for kicks, we looked up a train route across Texas. There is in fact a single Amtrak train each day, which crosses from Houston to El Paso in about 21 hours. The cheapest ticket was $99, but since it leaves at 7pm and arrives the next afternoon, you would likely need to spend several hundred dollars more for a sleeping cabin…and since it’s a night train, you wouldn’t see much scenery. It is thus difficult to justify a train, when the equivalent airplane takes about 1.5 hours to cross the same distance. Even with the overhead of US airports and security, it’s still about 18 hours faster.

Then again, if you compare it to night trains in Europe, which also travel relatively slower (sometimes even stopping for a while during the night), and take into account a hotel room for the equivalent night, maybe it is not so bad. Heck, bring along the family and make it an adventure! OK, so I’m starting to come around… :)

IMG 4195DB InterCity Train in Hannover

Ah well, I get to fly some airplanes later today, and on Wednesday I get to drive the Autobahn to Frankfurt for the first time, so that should be interesting…

Ever driven on a speed-limit-less highway?

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