February 24, 2014

The Romance of Trains

by Kiersten Hallie Krum


A woman in period dress stands on a train platform. Smoke wreathes around her as the wheezing locomotive pulls into the station. The woman breathes a sigh of relief. This is how she’ll escape. This is the train that will give her freedom. This is the train that will take her on an adventure. This is the train that returns her beloved.

There is deep romance to be found in trains. Trains take you where cars fear to tread, high up into the mountains or winding around rivers and gorges or out into what wilderness can still be found in this world. Trains allow you to explore those last bits of wild majesty.

no roads

A train is a powerful beast of transport. Not the baffling physics of air travel (how does a thing that big get that high in the air?) or the aggravations of cars (why do people insist on going under the speed limit in the left-hand lane?!) or the dodgy environs of a lumbering bus (please don’t sit next to me), but the wheeze and clang of a force with which to be reckoned. 

Travel today has long since lost the romance of the journey. It’s become too difficult to navigate. These days, we tend to focus on getting to our destination in the fastest and cheapest manner possible. We’ve lost the ability to enjoy the journey itself.

kissing on train

But there’s a romantic rhythm to the swing and swirl of a train carriage as though you’re constantly in a dance to find your balance. Trains are infused with thrills and passion. Murder. Mayhem. Romance. Trains have hosted them all in novels and TV shows and movies. They carry the mystery of the unknown, the idea that anything can happen on the long push to a destination. Trains give you the luxury of not having to think about the particulars of travel so your mind can wander and dream. Rest.


What better place to write than on a train? Cut off from the rest of the world, lost amongst the netherland beyond civilization, in a world of one’s own, it’s the perfect environment in which any writer is sure to flourish.

Amtrak agrees.

Last week, news broke of a pilot program quietly tested by Amtrak that offered free “writer’s residencies” — long, round-trip journeys during which writers…write.  Amtrak has since confirmed its plans to make the program official and long-term by offering writers trips on its network routes for the sole purpose of writing (suspect the “free” part will likely change, however.)



What is writing but a long journey into the unknown? Pairing that metaphorical trip with an actual journey seems the kind of no-brainer genius waiting to happen along the lines of shellacking peanut butter and jelly on two slices of bread and slapping them together. Or Nutella.

How did this all come about? Twitter. Yes, my social media baby has done it again, connecting the right people at the right time to create something fabulous. Author Jessica Gross tweeted the idea to Amtrak who responded with an offer to test out her theory on a New York to Chicago round trip. Kudos to Amtrak’s social media manager, Julia Quinn, (no relation to the bestselling romance writer) for swiftly moving to make the idea a reality.


Now particulars for future rides are still to be fleshed out, but given the overwhelming social media response to this news, Amtrak will not lack for applicants once they roll out their full schedule. Romance writers alone are sure to queue up for the experience. I find it hard to imagine a more inspiring environment; I could finish one book and get off at the end of the journey with ideas for five more. Plot bunnies abound!

Do you enjoy train travel? Would you take the trip to write in residence?

Follow LadySmut. We’re one hell of a trip.

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  • Post authorC. Margery Kempe

    Given that my last train trip back from London was a nightmare of delays, overcrowding and then getting caught behind slow trains so even more delays, my batteries ran out on the phone and the iPad and I finished the paperback I had with me — oh, I still love trains, too. So much less hassle than flying, especially since I have now been thrown into the ‘search luggage at every opportunity’ category >_<

    Reply to C. Margery Kempe
    • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

      I know. Even the hassles are excusable on trains for some reason. I’m always fascinated by the trip, that you get on in one station and get off somewhere completely different. That’s the case whenever you travel, but for some reason, when it’s by train it has a greater mystery to it. “I was just there a moment ago. How am I now here again?”

      Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    I do not love travel in general—but my god I love trains! They are completely awesome. I had a magical anniversary trip with DH on a train–so fabulous, so romantic. They’re great for getting out of your life and away so you can see things from a different perspective–but without being rushed.

    I sympathize with CMK — but I always bring chargers with me, and for writers trains are fabulous–so many plugs everywhere. I wish Starbucks would get hold of the cafes on American trains, however. I usually bring a lot of snacks with me. There’s a famous stop in the bad lands of the Dakotas where you can call ahead for pizza and they’ll have it at the train stop for you to pick up during the ten minute layover.

    Going through the rockies at midnight on a train is the BEST.

    Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

      Why would you want to go through the Rockies at midnight? You can’t *see* anything!

      Trains are getting a lot better at the snack stocking (I hear; it’s been a while) but I’d still bring my own b/c I’m picky that way. I like what I like. Love the “order ahead” idea. That’s my kind of out-of-the-box marketing.

      Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
  • Post authorLizEverly

    I take the train from Va. to NYC at least once a year. It’s the only way to go. I hate flying because once you land, it’s another major PIA to get into the city. The train brings you right into the heart of it. I’ve been able to get a lot of writing done on some of my trips, but others? I don’t know…sometimes the trains are a lot more “jiggly” that other times and there’s a lot of jostling, so I can’t write because it makes me carsick. But really, tha’s only happened once. I am so down with the Amtrak opportunity!

    Reply to LizEverly
    • Post authorKiersten Hallie Krum

      You definitely get jiggy with it on a train. But I think typing rather than hand writing probably brings with it less aggravation with the – ah – bump and grind of it all.

      Reply to Kiersten Hallie Krum
  • Post authorElizabeth Shore

    Kiersten, what a beautiful post. You really captured the appeal of train travel. I have a great friend in the D.C. area who I visit a few times a year, and the Amtrak trip to get there is always part of the fun. I bring my laptop, I gaze out the window, I write, I dream. Awesome.

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore

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