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Travel by rail: The past lives on

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Dark skies. It looked like night when I woke up. Nothing too unusual for someone who lives in Seattle. 

It had been a while since I woke up so early and excited. Yes, it is possible to wake up before 7 a.m. and be happy, especially if you are taking your first train ride.

This can be very significant for someone who grew up in a country where train travel is not common. Not all countries in the world have a rail infrastructure that connects regions so well. If you want to take a short trip on a budget ($36 roundtrip), taking the train to Portland, Oregon may be an option. 

That’s exactly what I did. 

A backpack and a small suitcase accompanied me which was enough for three days of travel. The Amtrak train departs from downtown Seattle. I arrived at King Street Station, located on Jackson Street between 3rd and 4th Ave. S., and I was delighted. White walls with high ceilings and ancient architecture surrounded me while splendid chandeliers and large wooden benches filled my eyes.

The King Street Station was inaugurated in 1906. This explains my feeling of having “traveled back in time” before the trip even began. The architectural firm that designed the station was Reed and Stem

It was also responsible for the historic Grand Central Terminal in New York City. In 2008, King Street Station carried out a $50 million renovation to restore the building’s historic character and grandeur.

Tássia Almeida | The Seattle Collegian Interior area of ​​King Street Station – Seattle

My train was set to leave at 7:22 a.m. On the way to my car, walking in a corridor between the tracks, the scenery reminded me of the Harry Potter movies. In a world where more than 100,000 commercial flights take off every day and the metaverse is becoming reality, taking a train to another state made me feel like I was living in a historic time. I was very excited. 

The train I took was a little old. I sat downstairs and the chair was comfortable. Everything looked clean, including the bathroom and the cafeteria that sold some beverages and snacks.

The train took 3 hours and 25 minutes to Portland with a few stops in between. In that time, I ate some cookies, watched my English class (some trains offer free Wi-Fi), and enjoyed the landscape on the other side of the window. The trip was pretty smooth, and I felt like time passed quickly, or maybe I got so distracted with everything I was experiencing that I didn’t even feel the hours go by. 

For a few seconds, a woman sitting behind me spoke loudly into the phone but was soon called out by an employee, and silence returned. 

During the train route, I was thinking about the lives of the people in that car. Why were they traveling? Who were they going to meet? How many times a year did they take that route? 

It’s the same feeling I get when I buy a thrift store outfit and I keep trying to guess all the stories that piece lived through before that moment. What came before and what will come after that train ride for all those who were there in silence on this journey with me?

The universe of trains is recurrent in films. Who hasn’t seen an action and adventure scene with a wagon as a backdrop and high speed on rails? I also highlight songs that to me are a great match for a train ride, like “Train Kept A-Rollin” by Aerosmith and “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. On Spotify, you can even download a special playlist to listen to on a train ride. 

I was tempted to listen to some of these tunes, but in the end, I preferred the silence and the train’s horn. It was funny, every time it echoed, I felt like I was in the 19th century. If you plan to have a class or meeting while traveling, know that that noise can become bothersome after a while.

Tássia Almeida The landscape on the other side of the window.

I chose to get off at Union Station in downtown Portland where you can pay a visit to the Portland Art Museum — Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism are featured until June 5 in the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection — and Voodoo Doughnut — famous for sweetening the city’s downtown since 2003. 

You also need to know about Powell’s Books, the world’s largest new and used bookstore founded in 1971. Food trucks and open markets are also some of the treats that cozy and inviting Portland offers to its visitors.

The return trip presented me with a beautiful view of the setting sun and the mountains. 

If you want to visit another exciting place not too distant from Seattle, you could venture on the beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia route as well. If you have the time to spend on longer trips, you could choose Los Angeles or Chicago for a change. 

The return journey to Seattle was full of fatigue without the excitement and enthusiasm of the trip, but I’m already looking forward to my next train ride.

Staff Writer at Seattle Central College

Tássia is a Brazilian journalist who is learning and discovering English. She believes in the power of the mind and destiny. Sweets are her biggest addiction. Tássia is passionate about food, travel and writing about feelings and thoughts. Seniors have a big space in her heart and that's why she volunteers on a project focused on them. She loves changes and challenges, and that is what keeps her going.

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