Edinburgh, SCT – Long Preston, ENG//20January17[CrossCountry+Northern]

When you start approaching my age, your holiday plans become a little less adventurous.

As a younger man, I would think nothing of taking a week’s holiday off and improvising my way around continental Europe.

It might have been a little trickier to navigate your way around the continent at that point; back in the 80s less Europeans spoke English and there was no mobile telecommunications, but that was part of the thrill of travelling. I’ve talked to my grandchildren about this and they were, quite frankly, shocked. Then again, it takes little to shock young people from this day and age.

They were worried when I told them that I’d be taking the train down to Long Preston, from my home in Edinburgh, to meet them at Bowland Fell Park for a long weekend. They really had no need to be.

I sold my car, a lovely little MG Roadster, a couple of years back. I adored that car, but it was always more of a hobby than anything else. I loved tinkering with it in the garage and meddling with the engine more than actually driving it. Although my aforementioned children and grandchildren saw this as my final retreat into old age (and senility), it was more akin to the beginning of a renewed phase of travelling throughout Britain.

Our train system gets a great deal of criticism.

OK – it’s expensive, often runs off schedule and the staff vary greatly in their helpfulness. But, those focussing on these negatives are missing out on what makes train travel so enjoyable in our country. Our railway system allows us to travel in relative comfort to over 2,500 different locations throughout the country.

For old folks like me (anyone over the age of 60), we can use a Senior Citizen Railcard to get a 1/3 off any of our train tickets, hugely reducing the overall cost of any journey. If you’re aged between 18-24 then you can get a similar discount. This means that a great swathe of young and old people can make their way safely around the country, at little expense to themselves.

By searching online (yes, us old folks know how to do that too!) I found tickets that cost me around £60, a steal considering the distance. All that was left for me to do was pack my bags, get to the station on time and watch the world go by.

Many of my train journeys have begun at Edinburgh Waverley Station. Its a station with half-buried in the past, almost as old as our railway station, with parts of the grand building date back to 1847. Having lived in Edinburgh for the past 30 years, each time I embark or arrive here my mind drifts back to one of those times. If nostalgia is my greatest weakness as an old man, then train journeys are the catalyst for those moments.

Although I fall asleep as soon as the train leaves the station (a napping addiction is perhaps by second greatest weakness), when I wake up, the train is lazily drifting down the Eastern Coast of the UK and I’m treated to a view of England’s stunning coast line. By the time I arrive at Long Preston, my family are waiting to pick me up.

They ask me if I’m OK, I wipe the mist from my eyes and tell them I’ve never been better.

Boston, MA – New York, NY//28December16[Amtrak]

A cold misty morning ride turns into a blue-sky stunner of a journey.

There’s a crowd of slightly confused looking tourists collecting at Boston Back Bay Station

It’s an odd sort of place, a mixture of brutal concrete architecture and cheery fast food outlets. Less than cheery, are the ticket sellers of the regional train lines who are clearly a little fed up of being asked about Amtrak’s National Service on a daily basis. When I enquire about platform details, I am quickly rebuffed with short thrift. It’s the first less than satisfactory encounter I’ve had with a Bostonian and I try not to hold it against him. Its 7:14 am and I feel like he’s probably been here all night.

Details of each National Amtrak departure is drip fed on to the tiny split-flap display. Each departure announcement leads to an excitable group of tourists collecting their bags, children and older folks (in that order) and hurriedly running down the escalators to the awaiting trains. The largest group remains for the train terminating at New York’s Penn Station, including myself and a travelling companion, attempting to stuff as many cigarettes into his mouth before our train departs.

After a few brief moments of confusion, we get to grips with where and when we should go. With some time to kill, we hit up a Dunkin’ Donuts. Its the only food outlet on this side of the station and is getting inundated with orders from hungry travellers. However, the workers all have grins on their face as their supervisor calls out orders and wishes people a good day. The Ham & Cheese Croissant is greasy and surprisingly chewy, the glazed doughnut is much better.

When our train number is finally called, we hurry down to the platform, along with about 40 other people. The Amtrak P42DC seems out of place sitting next to the grimy platform edge. 12 carriages long, its a shining silver behemoth, with smart horizontal ribs reminding of a tin of Baked Beans with its wrapping torn off. It occurs to my travelling partner and I that we have no seat reservations – in fact no one does.

We’re fortunate enough to get on the train ahead of the masses, with their sizeable carry-on cases and large groups. We sneak our way into a couple of seats in the centre of the carriage and settle in for a journey that should take us just over 3 hours.

Its fortunate that we’ve packed some food with us, because the options in the dining cart are pricey. As we crack open huge packets of crisps and admire massive apples (do they sell normal sized food in America?!) Boston is quickly whizzing away from us. Looking out our window to the South we watch the suburbs disappear, giving way to rural Massachusetts and then Providence. Soon we’ve joined the coast and the North Atlantic is breaking against the grey-green shoreline of of New London, New Haven, Stamford. Its not long until the towering structures of Manhattan present themselves to us.

An all too brief journey is over in a flash, stepping onto the platform of Penn Station, we’re suddenly struck by the sheer volume of noise and people.

We’re not in Boston any more.