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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 65: 28 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysSadly, the nearer you get to the trains the tattier the station becomes. The platforms are so desolate and uncared for that on first sight I thought the railway might have closed without anyone telling us. There is not a single sign bearing the name of the city. The platforms, along which run narrow, rusting metal canopies, are empty of all the usual railway paraphernalia, except for the occasional seat and a rank of pay-trolleys.

The Desert Wind is made up of Amtrak Superliners, two-tiered coaches in silver, red and blue livery. Its interior, like the bullet train in Japan, but unlike the trains in China and India, owes much to aircraft design. A lightweight shell, moulded seats in open coach formation, inadequate but neatly designed individual lights, fold-down tables. There are also sleeping cabins, utilising the space quite skilfully but failing to disguise the fact that there isn't much of it. An attendant welcomes us aboard.

'No hurry, we got problems with the engine.'

Most of the passengers look to be holidaymakers or train buffs, so no one seems to care very much. I have the feeling that I'm the only one chasing time. Two big diesels pull us out almost an hour late.

'Thank you for travelling Amtrak train Number 36, The Desert Wind.' The announcements came thick and fast, and we are all issued with useful information on the country we're passing through. All of it rather tame compared to the days when Fogg crossed America and Passepartout had asked him 'if it would not be prudent, before starting on the Pacific Railroad, to buy a few dozen Enfield rifles or Colt revolvers'.

'We're now crossing the Los Angeles River, dry 350 days of the year.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 65
  • Date: 28 November
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: Los Angeles River
  • Book page no: 208

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