Here It Is: My Biggest Complaint with Amtrak.

I love to travel by train and use every possible excuse to do so. Unlike air travel, you’ll find that almost everyone on board a train is enjoying the experience. Well … OK … I will concede that those of us who usually ride in the privacy and comfort of a sleeping car may be enjoying ourselves a tad more than folks traveling in coach.

That said, it is true that there are times when things go wrong during a rail journey. Usually, that means a train is delayed, which can happen for any number of reasons. In fact, I’ve heard it said that the most commonly asked question on an Amtrak train is, “Why are we stopped?” *

And that brings me to what is my biggest gripe with Amtrak: conductors who do not keep passengers informed when there are problems and delays. I’m prepared for those things — after all, I’m on the train in the first place because I’m not in a hurry — but not knowing why we’re sitting on a siding somewhere in the middle of Montana drives me bonkers.

All a conductor has to do is reach for the PA system and say, “Folks, we’re stopped here on a siding because we’re waiting for a westbound freight train. It should be here in 10 to 15 minutes and we’ll be on our way again as soon as it comes through.”

Really, now … how hard is that?

*Insider Tip: If you’re on a long-distance train that has stopped for no apparent reason, take a look out of both sides of the train. If you don’t see a second track out there, chances are you have caught up to a slower freight train and are waiting for it to reach and turn into a siding. If there is another track out there, your train is probably on a siding and waiting for a train that’s coming from the other direction.