America’s railroads helped to transform a disparate set of developing rural communities into the unified and industrious nation we know today. It wasn’t until the arrival of the internet, over 150 years later, that another single invention would revolutionise and connect society on such a massive scale.
This expansive network of timber and steel covers over 260,000 miles. If you were to combine and relay the US and Canada’s train tracks in a straight line, you could travel around the world over ten times, or if you’re an extremely ambitious engineer – you have enough track to reach the moon. Surprisingly, even with all that track, trains play a much smaller role in American working life than they do elsewhere. Instead, they’re used, more often than not, in a recreational capacity. US citizens don’t share our commuting culture of crammed carriages. They don’t know the joys of feeling the gentle breeze of a stranger’s breath on the back of their necks or a nose full of armpit on the tube. In America, train travel is more synonymous with fun and adventure and, once you’ve crossed the pond and boarded one of their luxury locomotives, it won’t be long before you adopt this positive perspective too.
While the world patiently waits for a transatlantic train track to link the old world with the new, the only methods of reaching the land of opportunity are either floating or flying. With the latter option, one airline soars head and shoulders above the rest – British Airways. Their Boeing 787-9 aircraft, which has been selected to fly passengers between London and San José as of May 2016, has larger windows for a better view and when the sunlight is too bright, you can adjust the brightness at the touch of a button. Their World Traveller Plus service offers wider seats with a greater recline and extra leg room, so you can kick back, stretch and relax your way across the ocean. BA’s World Traveller Plus customers also benefit from a larger free baggage allowance along with touchscreen operated screens providing a range of multimedia options to keep you entertained throughout your flight. In British Airways you’ll find the perfect partner to start your epic American rail journey in style.
California Zephyr – San Francisco to Chicago
BA’s new direct London to San José flight is the ideal accompaniment to the first of our featured railway journeys – the California Zephyr. Starting in San Francisco, just over an hour’s drive from San José, this daily service travels east through seven states via the snow-capped Sierra Nevadas, before climbing through Colorado’s iconic Rockies, with stops at Reno, Salt Lake City, Glenwood Springs, Denver and Princeton along the way before finally reaching the windy city of Chicago. Totalling 51 hours in duration, we’d recommend booking at least the Superliner Roomette accommodation level, however there are seven service options to choose from. Amtrak’s multi-city and multi-ride tickets mean that you’re free to get off the train and explore any of the towns along the route if you’d like to take in more than just the scenery between these two famous cities.
Acela Express – Boston to Washington via New York
The Acela Express is a much briefer trip, at just seven hours in length. This service runs during the busy morning and afternoon rush hours, presenting a perfect opportunity for people, who love not only scenery but people watching too, to gain an insight into American working life. Starting in Boston the Acela calls at New Haven, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and, finally, Washington DC. You have two service options to choose from – business class and first class – and again the multi-city/multi-ride option is a great deal to take advantage of and see five of the eastern seaboard’s biggest and most historical cities. The attractions of New York and Washington are as obvious as they are numerous, but in Baltimore, fans of the hit TV series ‘The Wire’ have the perfect opportunity to explore all of the show’s iconic locations. As far as hotel suggestions go on this route, a stay in one of New York’s most exclusive landmark hotels, Langham Place Fifth Avenue, never fails to impress, and The Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston also comes highly recommended.
The Canadian – Toronto to Vancouver
This epic three and a half day adventure begins in Toronto, the city commonly mistaken for being Canada’s capital due to its popularity. Situated just two blocks away from its famous CN Tower, the Ritz-Carlton Toronto is our suggestion for an unfailingly fantastic taste of Canada’s city of dreams. Once aboard The Canadian’s carriages, we recommend that you experience this transcontinental train tour via the comfort of a Prestige Class cabin, which enables you to witness one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes pass by your window from the comfort of your own plush Egyptian-cotton-lined double bed and corner couch, with gourmet meals included along the way. Riding in supreme locomotive luxury, you’ll venture east, calling at Sudbury Junction Sioux Lookout, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper, Kamloops and eventually Vancouver – home to one of the most diverse French speaking cities in the country.
Much like the USA and Canada themselves, the number of interesting routes to take and locations to explore is seemingly endless. We’ve barely scratched the surface, when it comes to all the perks, places and possibilities that come with a great American train journey. If you’d like more inspiration, our passionate travel experts are at hand to take you exactly where you’d like to go.