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    Back in the day

    We hate to complain about flying, we really do. We live in an age where it’s easy to hop on an airplane and travel across the country in half a day. What’s not to love about that? 

    But back when life was slower and plane travel was less accessible (or nonexistent), trains were the preferred method of long-haul travel. The time in transit was longer, yes, but that time invited relaxation, unlike the harried and hurried journeys of today. Here, 11 vintage photos of train travel that might make you reconsider buying that next plane ticket.

    Courtesy of National Archives

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    Saying Good-bye, 1905
    Passengers about to board the California Limited, which chugged from Chicago to Los Angeles. The journey took a mere 83 hours and 50 minutes. 

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    Open air, 1921
    Taking in the scenery and fresh mountain air en route. 

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    Dining in Style, 1937
    Dressing up for dinner was a must if you were a passenger on the San Francisco-bound Forty-Niner. The luxury was short-lived, however; 1941 was the train’s last year in operation. 

    Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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    Breakfast on board, 1941
    New York City’s suburban commuters didn’t worry about grabbing a slice of toast on their way out the door in the mornings; the train was a handy place for breakfast. 

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    Patiently waiting, 1942
    Sitting on your suitcase because you’re tired of standing around while waiting to board has always been an acceptable kid’s move. 

    Courtesy of Library of Congress 
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    Eating the time away, 1951
    Diners enjoy a meal while making the 45-hour journey from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest aboard the Empire Builder. 

    Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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    Platform movements, 1964
    Another busy day on the platform at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    Groovy views, 1974
    One of the best things about this Amtrak route from Albuquerque to Los Angeles? The train had a dome car, where passengers could marvel at the passing scenery of the American West. Although Amtrak has since retired this particular car, the company still operates a route between the two cities. 

    Courtesy of National Archives
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    Bingo!, 1974

    On the same Amtrak train (which, at the time, was called the Southwest Limited), passengers could play bingo in the lounge car to pass the time. The real question is: Why isn’t this available on all commercial flights?

    Courtesy of National Archives

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    Lounge car jams, 1974
    A few musically inclined passengers have an impromptu jam session in the lounge car of the Lone Star. They were en route to Houston, traveling from Chicago. 

    Courtesy of the National Archives
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    Before the journey, 1974
    If there’s a travel theme that has remained consistent over the years, it’s waiting. Two women wait to board their train at the Fort Worth, Texas, station in 1974.

    Courtesy of National Archives
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11 Vintage Photos of Train Travel in the U.S.

When life was slow and the travel was slower