Writing and the Train

Murder on the Orient Express is my favorite Agatha Christie mystery. From Russia with Love is my favorite James Bond film.

So it only stands to reason I would find train travel romantic. As a writer, the prospect of finally taking a train cross-country was exciting.

It’s kind of strange it took me so long to do this. I lived in London for a semester while I was in college, studying abroad. I had the opportunity to get a EuroPass and travel the continent to see a bunch of exciting things, including the fall of the Berlin Wall.

But I didn’t do it.

And I’ve travelled all over the U.S. for business and pleasure. I’d drive or fly, somehow finding the money to do that.

But this year, everything lined up right. I was going to Madison to visit my brother and friends. I couldn’t get a cheap plane ticket, and gas is well over three dollars a gallon. But a train ticket was only $63. Sure, it would take long erthan if I’d driven, but I could ride instead of drive, and I could work.

I took the train from Kansas City to St. Louis, and then from St. Lou to Chicago, where Dave picked me up and drove me to Madison. It was not without inicident.

Apparently, really hot temperatures can cause tracks to superheat and trains to derail. So we weren’t able to go more than 60mph once the 100-degree heat set in. That put us behind schedule everywhere we went, meaning we had to stop frequently to let other trains pass.

The power went out in several cars twice. We had to stop, so they could manually reboot the circuit breaker to keep us cool.

I forgot my phone charger, and being out in the middle of nowhere (where the trains run) meant no signal. My battery was sucked dry as the phone searched for service. To preserve it, I had to keep shutting the phone off and then turning it on to send progress texts to Dave, so he could gauge when to come to Chicago to get me.

At Springfield, a ton of passengers got on, and a comfortable, half-full train, became a cramped full one. A five-hour-and-40-minute trip became an eight-hour one — and that was just St. Louis to Chicago.

Overall, it was a lot more adventure than I bargained for.

Writing on the train from St. Louis to Chicago

But I got 13 chapters of Red Dragon Five rewritten. Thirteen!

I took several naps. I enjoyed watching the countryside roll by and looking at the little towns we cruised through and to. I was able to write right up to the point we got to the station. There was no forcing me to

shut down my computer for takeoff and landing. TSA didn’t hassle me. I got to keep my shoes and belt and hat on.

As a writer, the train was an ideal way to travel. I got so much writing done it was silly. And I didn’t have to drive. And I wasn’t packed in like a sardine.

If you’re in the middle of a writing project and you need to travel, I highly recommend the train. It was extremely conducive to working.

And, if I didn’t see Hercule Poirot or James  Bond aboard, I  at

least had their spirits in my mind and on my computer.


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