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Even-numbered trains travel north and east. Odd-numbered trains travel south and west. Among the exceptions are Amtrak's Pacific Surfliners, which use the opposite numbering system inherited from the Santa Fe Railway, and some Empire Service trains.

Amtrak-owned equipment includes Amfleet, Superliner, Viewliner and other railroad passenger cars totaling 1,519, plus 469 locomotives, 80 Auto Train vehicle carriers and 101 baggage cars.

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Traveltracks: My 30-Day Cross-Country USA Rail Pass Adventure

Episode 1 - About the Trip

Sean Lynch

Sean is a 23-year-old Bostonian who loves to travel, read and write.

Beginning in Boston, and stopping in 12 cities along the way, I will be using an Amtrak USA Rail Pass to complete a loop of the country. I'll be staying with anyone who will have me during my expedition and will be chronicling my experiences. I'll be documenting my Amtrak rail trip across the United States here on Whistle Stop with periodic updates from my time onboard, so check back in with me here to see what I'm up to.

This trip has been in the back of my mind for a while, but it wasn't until recently that I seriously considered doing it. After eight months as a social worker in Boston I've decided that right now social work and an office atmosphere are not for me. Instead of frantically posting my resume and highlighting the skills that all graduates with a liberal arts degree somehow possess (culturally aware, critical thinker, 'people person'), I decided to take some time to travel a little unconventionally.

Traveling by train across America is a great way to break up my routine and get to know an enormous country that I really haven't seen much of. I'm ready for the discomfort of it, both physically and mentally, but I'm also excited to meet different people, stay in cities I've never been to, and find the way out of my element. This trip is meant to be less existential slog than a way to get some irregularity in my life. And travel is irregularity in every way. Things go wrong; things go perfectly smoothly; homesickness occurs; discovery takes hold; in the end it provides a uniqueness that can't be imitated. I've been fortunate to visit a lot of foreign countries but realize I don't know my own very well. Since prices are rising, funding is being cut, lines are long, and traffic is frustrating, I figure seeing America by rail is the best way to satisfy wanderlust.

Train travel has an aspect of historical novelty that air travel does not. The rush and intensity of airports make traveling a process and not an experience. The railroad gives that experience back to its traveler. From the seamless check in, to the urgent ticking of the arrival board, train travel rushes the senses. It is a way to see America on a grand scale.

Dedicated to connecting our country by rail, Amtrak makes it possible for me to see such an expansive landscape. I can see the country whooshing by in front of my face and crawling by in the distance. It makes for an easy way to get there without feeling left out of the journey. A train can be a place to relax with your thoughts, look out the window, and wonder about your last stop, as time, and the tracks go clicking by.

Continue Sean's adventure in Episode 2: Boston to New Orleans by Way of Washington, DC