Is Train Travel History?

By Matthew Bamberg / Oct 2, 2007


LA’s Union Station is located within walking distance of downtown.


LA’s Union Station is the meeting point of many Southern California trains.

The train station offers some of the most colorful stories of life in the moment. From Harry Potter waiting for a fantasy train on the way to new experiences in the Hogworts School to mom and kids going to grandma’s house, the train brings tales of people meeting and greeting under a canopy of sights and sounds that air or automobile travel can’t match.

The sounds, sights and atmosphere of a train and inter-city stations offer travelers a unique experience, that far exceeds the seedy reputation that bus travel has. Even though the diesel inter-city Amtrak trains that exist in the United States aren’t all that energy efficient, they are a bit more comfortable, scenic, and memorable. There’s nothing like gazing out a picture window to see parts of the country where few have been and where roads are absent.

Amtrak should have connected most cities in the United States decades ago with modern stations and on-time trains. But it hasn’t. Neither have the high-speed electric inter-city trains that are common in Europe and Japan caught on in the U.S. This is due not only to the oil companies’ manipulation of the American transportation system, but also to the regional political quagmires that have prevented capital from reaching those lowly rail stations in cities and towns all across America. Most are desolate places, lonely stops surrounded by scenic vistas and battered by the elements.

One exception to this is Union Station in L.A., a busy place where many of the rail lines of Southern California end up.

–From my article, “Is Train Travel History” at Utne.com

About the author

Matthew Bamberg

Matthew Bamberg has provided photographs and written articles for various Southern California newspapers and magazines, including The Desert Sun and The Press-Enterprise. More recently, Matt has been teaching at UC Riverside while also authoring several books like the Quick and Easy Secrets book series (Cengage), Killer Photos with Your iPhone (with Kris Krug and Greg Ketchum, Cengage), the 50 Greatest Photo Opportunities in San Francisco (Cengage) and Digital Art Photography For Dummies (Wiley).