"Beautiful things don't ask for attention." -The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Generally, yes, cargo trains do have priority over passenger trains in many rural areas of the U.S., which is why long-distance Amtrak routes have poor on-time records.
Traveling the U.S. via train might sound nice in theory, but takes darn forever because of all these delays. Having myself done an overnight leg in a private first-class sleeper cabin in Europe, from Amsterdam to Prague, the constant stoppages and/or slowdowns made for infuriating interruptions in my sleep, no matter how cushy the accommodations, and IMHO far outweighed the nice views from the cabin.
Trains are utilitarian but I'm glad I don't have to travel on them very often anymore.
Of course, it is true that I don't really like to travel at all. But I do have to say for some moderate length road trips, I have enjoyed going by automobile. However wrong that is.
Congratulations 2014 World Ice Dance Champions Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte!!!
My favourite part of the journey wasn't the mountains (which are lovely), but around Brandon Manitoba. We had left Winnipeg a couple of hours before and were going due west right into the sunset. We were in the dome car, watching the most gorgeous sunset (Prairie sunsets can me gorgeous) and we were going through giant fields of sunflowers on either side. Just as I was thinking "Life doesn't get any better than this", a steward came along with a tray of warm chocolate chip cookies. So it did get a little better!
I will do it again someday, but one does have to budget the time (3 days Toronto- Vancouver).
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
(Edna St Vincent Millay)
I don't mind Amtrak for short trips, but did coach once for an over night and will never do that again.
My former roommate just went on a trip this summer from Chicago to Seattle. He stayed in a sleeper car. It was rather expensive for one person travelling solo and he was not impressed with the cleanliness. He loved going to the observation car and seeing the plains, Rockies, Pacific Northwest though.
I meant to take the high road.... but I missed the exit.
If I have to go anywhere I don't feel is driveable I do the Amtrak sleepers. (The Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore Limited are the ones I ride most often.) Even coach on Amtrak is better than flying (for a start they don't practically strip-search you and you aren't forcibly strapped in your seat, never mind the odds are much higher you'll walk away from a derailment while if a plane goes down....mind a car's more likely to get you killed than either one) but the sleepers are lovely. Even the roomettes have plenty of room, your meals in the dining car are all-included (and you can have dinner brought to you if you want), you get to lie down and sleep, and you see far more interesting things taking the train than driving. Also for all you CAN have weather delays, it happens a lot less with trains than planes and the safety factor's higher than cars. Also the car crews (the porters in the sleeping cars especially) are a lot more customer-service oriented than the airlines. (In fairness they have fewer sucky customers than airport agents...)
I'm going to Northern Alabama this spring, and thought it would be fun to take Amtrak, but the Ft Lauderdale to Anniston, AL trip is 31 hours or 42, depending what route you take. Leaving home at 5am puts me there at 6pm by car. Think I'll just rent a car and drive instead.
I'd take Amtrak any day over the bus in the Eastern Corridor between Boston-DC (providing finances allow - it's certainly not as cheap as Greyhound etc).
North of that it does get slow due to delays - once I left Montreal at 10am and barely made the connecting 11pm train to Philly in NYC Penn Station. The border crossing didn't help of course.
My husband hates to fly--and I mean REALLY hates to fly. He took Amtrak from Detroit to Los Angeles and then from Los Angeles back to Cincinnati and told me to shoot him if he ever mentioned taking a train instead of flying ever again.
"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."-- Albert Einstein.
I've traveled on train across the country. I have a pretty high tolerance for such travel, so it didn't bother me. Don't know if I'd be up for it now, though. It's definitely more comfortable than a bus, but you don't really sleep well unless you get both seats to yourself, and even then it can lead to back aches. For a sleeper car, it's prohibitively expensive IMO. Traveling all over the country back and forth from OK would require you to buy a rail pass with a lot of segments since next to nothing connects with Oklahoma. That would cost you around $879. That's not including any expenses for when you arrive at some place, nor does it include meal costs. You'd be looking at easily over $1000 to travel, and likely well over that. If finances are a consideration, you may want to think hard about that.