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Walking the Downeaster Whistle Stops

How I Get to Combine My Love of Train Travel and Walking

by Marilyn Russell

Portland, Maine

When I get to combine what I love to do, I am doubly thrilled. On Wednesday, April 1st, I combined my love of train travel and walking by taking the Downeaster to Durham, New Hampshire, to complete a 10k walk through the University of New Hampshire campus and surrounding parts of town.

The Downeaster departs from Portland to Boston five times a day every day Monday through Sunday. I choose the third train, which leaves Portland at 12:50 pm and arrives in Durham before 2 pm, because it has a longer layover in Boston, making sure that I have plenty of time to complete the walk before catching the same train at 6:20 pm on its return trip.

During the hour-long ride, I sat in the Café Car, enjoying a cup of coffee with the Conductor and Assistant Conductor who knew a lot about Durham and gave me some great tips on what to see while there. When we arrived in Durham, the Conductor let me off the train with a cheerful wave and good luck and set me in the right direction down Main Street.

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From the station, I walked a short half-mile to the Durham Marketplace. When I entered the marketplace, I was transported back in time to London, England, where I lived for a couple years, and reminded of the small, charming, local grocery stores where my husband and I shopped. I immediately wanted to shop, to sample the large variety of cheeses, olive oils and other foods from around the world, including some of my favorite cookies from England. But, I remembered why I was in Durham and so continued my walk.

Photo: Mike Duprey

I completed the walk in plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely walk back to the station. When the train arrived, the Conductor greeted me with a big smile and questions about how my walk went. I was hungry and thirsty, so more than ready to wine and dine in the Café Car. What a pleasure to relax and not have to face a long, tired drive back to Portland by car. The Café Car on the Downeaster serves a fabulous variety of food and beverages, so I didn't need to search around town for a place to eat. 

After this walk in Durham, I am also sold on the benefits of walking the Downeaster route. As an advocate of public transportation, I welcome opportunities to travel "green" when I can. I learned on Amtrak.com that I use a fraction of fuel on the train as compared to driving to Durham by car.

I had so much fun on the Downeaster for the Durham walk, I plan to complete all the other walks where the train stops in Portland, Saco, Wells (to connect with the walk in Kennebunk), Exeter, Haverhill and Boston.

All aboard the Downeaster for Boston.