I first took an Amtrak train in 2001 after a connecting flight from New York to Boston was cancelled due to crazy weather. I immediately fell for the aesthetic of the silver carriages, and the chance to romanticize and pretend you were in any time period you wanted as the train slowly crawled across America.
Other than a few connections between big cities on the east coast, the train network in the US is mostly made up of old diesel trains that chug along old tracks, through back country, to nonsensical hubs in order to get to your destination. It takes a long time, but that is its charm, as you get to actually see what is out the window.
I go to Woodward in central Pennsylvania most summers, but it was only a few years ago that I realized you could get the train to nearby Lewistown. Securing a lift from Lewistown to Woodward was always a bit of hassle. So, the summer before last, as the train was pulling into the station I looked at my watch (3PM), I looked at an old map I have of the area, and decided that I should be able to skateboard the 30 miles from the train station to Woodward. I grabbed a few bottles of water from the dining car and set off to try and beat the sun to my destination.
I snapped a few shots of a train-parts graveyard, but after that I was pushing so much I forgot to get the camera back out. I made it to about 4 miles from my destination and ran into a problem I had forgotten about — Penns View — a massive lookout point with gravel and dirt roads all the way up and down. Central PA is full of awesome and trusting people, so within minutes of finding this problem I was in the back of a local’s pick up truck heading up to the top of the hill. I started to make my way down, full of confidence that I would make it to camp before the sun went down.
This confidence inconveniently took me down the wrong trail, heading in a 90 degree angle from where I wanted to go. A park ranger drove by and wandered what the hell a guy with a skateboard and a wheelie suitcase was doing walking down the gravel road, and gave me a lift out to the road I was actually looking for! I finally made it to camp, a little later than planned, but I look forward to going for another long train journey, and another long push on my skateboard soon.
London to Brighton, who’s with me?
Words & Photos by Thom Callan