THE SOCIAL MODE OF TRANSPORTATION.  A November 2007 New York Times article about a trip on a very late Sunset Limited has been salted away in my draft posts file, and the article has not yet been sent to the bit bucket.
“WHERE else can you dine with an astronomer and a Buddhist monk?” said Ann Smith, a retired teacher from California heading home across Texas aboard the Sunset Limited.

There are no strangers on a train, and passengers on this storied route, American railroading’s oldest named line, are no exception. Theirs is a special fellowship, after all, one that still savors the journey, and forsakes the speed of air travel and the freedom and anonymity of the road.
You can learn a lot about the country by riding a train across it, and the opportunity to walk about the train to the lounge car or the diner is a big part of it.

Apparently a few travelers are uneasy about being seated at table with people they'd not previously met.  Amtrak's dining car stewards apparently recognize that, as their announcements now note that passengers will be seated "with new friends" in the diner.  In my experience, the ritual works out pretty well, you see a lot of handshakes, "where are you from" or "where are you going" and more than a few business cards change hands or pictures of grandchildren get passed around.

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