Low Vision Train Trekking
Vision comes in handy when traveling home for the holidays. But if you can’t drive, you’ll need to be a little more imaginative when it comes to getting from point A to point B. My husband recently drove me one hour to the closest Amtrak station where I hopped on the train from Bellows Falls to Montpelier, Vermont, a 2-hour and 20-minute journey. Though the journey was short, I gathered some tips for the low vision train traveler along the way.
If you’re a low vision traveler like me, the phone number 1-800-USA-RAIL makes you cringe. That number translates to 1-800-872-7245. Write this down in big dark print and put it in your pocket. Better yet, add this contact as “Amtrak” into your cell phone. It will be useful if you’re waiting on your train and want to know the estimated arrival time.
You can make reservations over the phone or on your computer using ZoomText to magnify your screen. Keep in mind that if you reserve online, you must pay online. If you reserve a seat over the phone, you can purchase the ticket when you get to the ticket office within 3 days of travel, or pay on the train if there is no ticket office at your station. Make sure you have your reservation number and train number with you in large print. Or better yet, record the numbers on your Victor Reader Stream – it’s also a digital audio note-taker.
Find out about the services and accommodations of the trains and train stations you’ll be encountering beforehand online. In my rural Vermont journey, the station hours were very limited and there were no ticket offices. The size of these old historical stations wasn’t correlated to the town’s current size and stature. Bellows Falls had an impressive station that was surely busy in its heyday. The Montpelier station, our state’s capital, was smaller than my living room.
When I took my seat, I was delighted to find that the comfort and roominess exceeded that of an airplane. And there was a power receptacle at my seat to do my last minute charging of electronic equipment. Sit back and relax for moonlight in Vermont.
Be safe when going to the café car; hold onto the railings between cars, the metal floors between cars can be icy or wet. And don’t take my relaxed “everything will be just fine” approach and forget to sort out transportation when you arrive at your destination. Evidently, just because a town is the state capital doesn’t mean they have a reliable taxi service. Keep in mind that your poor vision necessitates better planning. For example, don’t assume from a Google map that you can walk from the train station to your downtown hotel, especially at night.
Luckily, my return trip was in daylight so I could enjoy the scenic rivers and valleys. Though I’ve driven many miles in Vermont, you get a different perspective from a train and can listen to a good book in the meantime. My trip ended where it began, in Bellows Falls, over the sparkling ice covered dam where my husband was waiting, just like clockwork. It’s nice when planning pays off.