Download the first chapter, a Saturday Evening Post exclusive. You can also read McCommons’ cover article in the new May/June issue, on sale now.
In 2007, a business trip took travel writer James McCommons from his home in Michigan to the West Coast. McCommons, who hails from a railroad family, took a train west and flew back to the Midwest. His trip on “The California Zephyr” had transcendent moments of crossing the moonlit Great Plains and running through the Red Rock Country of the Rockies’ western slope, but also was marred by equipment breakdowns in Nevada’s deserts and repeated delays due to backed-up freight trains. He reached Sacramento 12 hours behind schedule.
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“On the flight home, I kept thinking about that train,” says McCommons, who teaches journalism at Northern Michigan University. “When are we going to have a decent passenger-rail system in this country again, one that moves people efficiently between major cities and provides Americans with a true alternative to airplanes and automobiles?” To answer that question, McCommons spent a year riding on and writing about America’s trains. He shares insights from his journey in the May/June cover story of The Saturday Evening Post, and also in his book, Waiting on a Train available for purchase from publisher Chelsea Green.