Taking the Amtrak from Charleston can be a better, cheaper experience

Image by Flickr user andyiImage by 20090201-amtrak.jpg Most trains have dining and work areas similar to this.

Update February 4: The Post and Courier also did a photo gallery, but it was hiding. Here's the link.

First reporting:

Robert Behre has a good piece in today's Post and Courier about the experience of taking an Amtrak train to Charleston heading from the north.

A sample:

Barring any big delays, they were scheduled to arrive in Charleston about 14 hours later, just after 5 a.m. — about the same time it would take to drive, provided gas stops and other breaks would be kept at a minimum.

Theirs is the kind of trip being taken by a growing number of Americans — Amtrak's ridership has climbed for six straight years and now numbers more than 28 million annually — but it also would illustrate the challenges facing the government-owned passenger railroad as it chugs into the future.

Behre also mentions that Amtrak is looking to build a new stop in Charleston, as the current one is hard to get to, uninviting, and like walking into a time warp to the '60s.

I'm generally a fan of Behre's writing and find it pretty smooth and informative. His story is well worth a read.

Oh, and there's a few things he overlooked (or didn't find worth mentioning):
Most pairs of seats have at least one regular power outlet for you laptop, dvd player, or whatever.
If you have a cellular wireless card, you'll get a pretty good Internet connection north of Richmond, but south of it you get a spotty connection and are connected maybe 60% of the time.
Amtrak's routes from Charleston run pretty much north and south, it can be a logistical pain if you want to head to Atlanta (you're sent to D.C. then back down), to Columbia (down to Savannah then back up), or anywhere west.
I really can't say enough about how much leg room there is -- if you were on a plane you'd think there was a row of seats missing.
The rail in the Northeast is much smoother than in the South, even more so compared to the rails in South Carolina.
Amtrak can be much cheaper than flying, and possibly driving solo. The smart consumer will break out the calculator. (On a recent trip I paid $89 each way to D.C., at the time a flight would have cost at least $400.)
Also consider that many rail stops in larger cities connect you with the urban transit, meaning you can avoid paying for parking, rental cars, or a taxi.
You can generally cancel/change you ticket without penalty.
And, no invasive security screening!

Looking at that, you'd thank I'm a fan of trains or something.

TheDigitel videographer, Geoff Marshall, did a great story and video last year which is also well worth a look if you haven't seen it already.