San Francisco to New York by train.

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I decided to take the California Zephyr train to New York, it takes 4 days and 3 nights. I was in no hurry so thought it would be a nice way to travel. It also occurred to me that the landscapes I would be seeing are probably the only parts of this country that haven’t changed since mum lived here. I could very likely be gazing out at the same mountain, the same river she once did as a child. I imagine she did get the train in the 1950s, as it’s very unlikely they would have driven the 3000 miles or flown at that time. When they first moved to the US they travelled on the Queen Mary ship, taking a few weeks to get there, so I imagine they did get the train in New York from LA in 1959.

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The landscape changes so much out my cabin window, after the boring suburbs the train starts to cut across the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains and endless woodlands, which rather surprisingly how quickly turns into the deserted desert, where it looks like it hasn’t rained in decades. Then, after what seems like endless days travelling across the desert states of Nevada & Utah quickly breaks into a land with abundance of water; Colorado. It’s so foreign to the previous states it feels like a different country. After Denver another night approaches and the train picks up speed and spends the whole night powering through Nebraska, the one state I was really looking forward to seeing and it was dark the whole way! I awoke to breakfast through the corn fields of Iowa, fields as far as the eye can see in all directions, they went on for hundreds of miles. Throughout the whole trip everything out the window was so foreign, yet it was funnily familiar as it looked like so many different American film sets flashing past the window.

The train was fun, especially meal times. You were seated at communal tables and served a proper cooked meal three times a day. Each sitting you meet new people from all different backgrounds, travelling to different places and with different stories, that’s one photo project on its own. I had some very amusing conversations with a lady about why I hadn’t visited Disneyland whilst I was in LA, she really couldn’t understand my reasons, an interesting conversation with an American about socialism and how it’s ‘not that bad’, and what to do if a bear attacks; I’m still unclear as depending which type of bear is trying to attack you, you have to do completely opposite things. On my last meal I met a lovely woman who was on a bit of a journey, not just a train ride, she was getting over a divorce and trying to get back in to her professional singing career after her kids, she was lovely and we shared a long lunch chatting.

You see so much of America by this train, and I kind of understand more about the Americans who don’t leave their country, there is so much to see, and if you come from some tiny dusty village in the middle of the desert, then going to the Colorado River or Los Angeles beaches for vacation must feel like the most exotic place ever.

After a few hours off the train to look around Chicago, it’s back on for another night & whole day to New York City. As we approach the city it feels like I’m getting closed to mum, I feel much more of a connection here with her than I had in LA. She spoke so fondly of her time here, going to Dalton school, meeting her best friend Jane. I, again, am not exactly sure what exactly I’m I here to photograph, the feelings of being here I suppose, perhaps more words written than pictures taken this trip, but that’s ok.

These are some iPhone snaps of travelling through the states: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York…

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One thought on “San Francisco to New York by train.

  1. Trains are a great way to travel. I did a similar trip some years back but coast to coast via Greyhound. One particular memory was awake at night between Detroit & Boston. Out the window I saw what seemed like a veil of mist hanging in the sky that became more intense until I realised it was the aurora. During that trip I made up my mind to move to London & follow photography. Six months later I was here.
    Whatever your seeking I’m sure you’ll find it. And keep the words coming, they’re great.

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