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The average Amtrak long-distance train passenger traveled 684 miles in 2004.

Long-distance trains travel as far as 2,800 miles and pass through as many as 12 states.

An Amtrak long-distance train typically consists of sleeper cars, coach cars, a diner car and/or a lounge car.

From West to East on Amtrak

A Wonderful Experience on My First Long-Distance Train

by Edmond Lee

El Cerrito, California

I had always dreamed of traveling on a long-distance train when I was a little kid, but my family didn't have chance to do it, so I decided to do it myself when I grew up and made some money. So on December 27, 2008, I had finally made my dream to come true the day I boarded the California Zephyr from Emeryville, California and began my journey all the way to New York City. The Zephyr took me two-thirds of the way there, then I transferred in Chicago and took the Lake Shore Limited to finish the final third of the journey.

While onboard the California Zephyr, the Lounge Car was the most exciting part of the entire train ride. I enjoyed the view of mother nature very much and made some new friends there. It was absolutely comfortable and unique sitting in the Lounge Car enjoying the view through the big windows. The Lounge Car attendant was very nice that I even had a few words with him.

The Dining Car was also a wonderful place to be on the train. It seemed like as if I was dining in a five-star restaurant. The crews in the Dining Car were a pleasure and the food was excellent. I also had a chance to get to know more fellow passengers here as well while dining because all the tables must be fully filled.

Even without a bedroom, sleeping in the Coach Car was still comfortable enough, thanks to the wide ample legroom between the seats. It was very quiet in the Coach Car at night, since almost everyone was asleep. Even though the train was in motion, you could still barely hear the noise outside the train, unless someone opened the door between the cars. This would only last for seconds since the doors closed automatically.

Since the traveling distance for the California Zephyr was quite long, all the passengers have a chance to get out of the train for a few minutes to stretch their bodies or have a smoke. I remembered that the temperature of a few stops, especially those in Nevada, was below freezing, and it was totally two different worlds between the inside and outside of the train. I couldn't imagine what would happen if you missed the train and got left behind.

Although riding the Lake Shore Limited was not as much fun as the Zephyr since it lacked a double-decker Sightseer Lounge Car, it was still a pleasure to be on this train. Like the Zephyr, it still had a Café/Lounge Car. The only difference was that it was only a single deck Lounge Car and I had to walk up six cars in order to reach it. Nevertheless, it was still comfortable enough to eat and have a drink with some new friends I made there.

Early the next morning, when the train was at one of the stations in Ohio, a customs officer woke me up from my dream. He asked me where I came from and asked to look at my ID, so I gave it to him. At that time, it felt really weird and awkward to have a customs officer come onboard and check on people like that because we were not crossing any country border. After taking a look at my ID, the officer left me alone and everything was fine. However, the officer kicked a couple off the train because he couldn't find their renewed visas on the record, so I felt sorry for them.

The entire journey took me four days and I had a wonderful experience as a first time long-distance train passenger. I am very much looking forward to do this again since I am a train lover.