Diary: Riding the Southwest Chief

Tomorrow, December 19 at approximately 3 PM, the Southwest Chief – one of the last great rail lines in the United States – will blast its deafening horn and slowly puff away from Chicago’s Union Station. This time, though, with one crucial difference: I’ll be on it.

It’s going to be either one of the worst experiences ever (2 nights and 3 days in a coach seat) or one of the most unique, one-of-a-kind, sentimental and romantic (read: bump into cute girl in dining car, read a book together in the lounge, fall in love and run away into the southwest sunset). Either way, it’s definitely going to be much different from my usual routine of sitting in a pressurized tubular canister for five hours at 15,000 feet.


It’ll be fun! (I sincerely believe this.) I’m sure that I’ll run into people I never would’ve met, see landscapes I never would’ve seen, and simply relax, sit back, and enjoy the nostalgic, outdated, yet beautiful clickety-clack of steel wheels on wooden rails.

My journey starts in Chicago, in the vast halls of its grand Union Station, before continuing out into the majestic vistas of the American Southwest (yes, I’ve been reading guidebooks). And as I imagine myself reclining in my coach seat, daydreaming and watching the foliage flicker by, I’d like to take this moment to suggest that everyone should, at least once, make a long-distance voyage via train. There’s just an ethos, a kind of classical charm to riding the rails – a feeling you don’t get in the spartan, steel waiting rooms of the halls of flight.

Where is my iron chariot that will bear me West? (I’ve been watching fantasy films, too.)

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