Always on the cutting edge of everything, the Land of the Rising Sun is now spearheading the train of the future. A modern spin on old-school travel, the JR East Cruise Train is set to launch in 2017, and, as can only be expected of the work from a designer who dreamt up Ferraris, Porsches and Maseratis, the train is decadent, exclusive, and expensive.
Amtrak's notoriously slow on-board internet connection will get an upgrade, the company announced last week. In a test sometime this winter, Amtrak is hoping to double the WiFi capacity for the busy Northeast Corridor Line, which runs from Baltimore through Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and into Maine.
This follows a recent pattern of faster service announcements for travelers: British Airways also made news this month for its consideration of 4G WiFi with Inmarsat (currently, the airline doesn't offer in-flight internet service).
A new set of murals are making a colorfusl splash along a stretch of Amtrak lines in Philadelphia.
As part of the city's Mural Arts Program, German artist Katharina Grosse painted warehouses and abandoned lots visible from the tracks. Around 34,000 rail passengers will see the project every day from their seats on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor route between Philadelphia and New York, as well as from several local commuter lines.
Sleek regional trains ordered by the French government are not quite sleek enough: 1,300 train platforms will have to be slimmed down to allow the wider trains. (The Gare d'Orsay, now the Musée d’Orsay, closed in 1939 when its short platforms didn’t match the length of the newer electric trains.)
I’ve long loved Rome 2 Rio as a transportation guide: it tells you every possible way to get from Point A to Point B, and offers in-line prices and itineraries. Since I started using it, I’ve realized just how efficient train travel can be—factor in security lines and early airport arrivals, and the train can take less time than flying, depending on where you’re going. For the first time, an OTA is in agreement, as CheapAir has announced today that it will be integrating Amtrakrailway reservations into its flight search system. Now, when you search for routes connecting, say, New York and Boston, you’ll see airfares interspersed with train routes, so you can compare prices and schedules. Better yet, you can mix and match airfares and train reservations, so that you can capitalize on a discounted international flight that leaves from a city a few hours away.
This week, Amtrak began selecting applicants for its newly launched Writers Residency. The national rail service will grant as many as 24 lucky writers with a passion for writing on trains a round-trip, long-distance journey.
High-speed rail may be the wave of the future, but romantics seduced by the old-school glamour of train travel have new options, too. In Ecuador, Tren Crucero(pictured) deploys a restored 1900’s steam locomotive along a route from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean, with stretches past the 19,347-foot Cotopaxi Volcano and the Devil’s Nose, a daunting series of switchbacks. The 158-year-old Panama Canal Railway Company—created to haul cargo across the isthmus in pre-canal days—ferries passengers in vintage coaches from the capital to Colón, gateway to the Caribbean coast.
In the Balkans, you can ride between Serbia and Montenegro on the Blue Train, the luxury carriage in which former Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito once entertained Queen Elizabeth and other heads of state. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has launched its first Scandinavian itineraries; the Art Deco–era icon travels between Venice, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, with guests staying in classic hotels.
Farecompare founder Rick Seaney has great advice for people traveling in a group (including families): save money by searching for airfare one person at a time. We’d explain here, but best to just go straight to his brilliant USA Today column. (AF)
Oh, the people you'll meet. Novelist Nathaniel Rich finds himself sharing intimacies, aspirations, and a little bit of heartbreak with his fellow passengers on a two-day journey from New Orleans to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited train in this weekend's New York Times Magazine. (AF)
What's more lonely than being in a strange hotel in a strange city all by yourself? Being without your beloved $8 M&Ms. In an essay in The Atlantic, journalist David Samuels laments the demise of the hotel mini bar. (AF)