The train network is the biggest in the world.
Its about 1,000 miles long, with more than 4,000 stations and over 200,000 passenger trains.
And it’s an incredible piece of engineering.
When I first got my train license in 2013, the route had been mapped out for the entire U.S. But there was one hitch: there was a single stop in New York, New Jersey.
That stopped me from taking my train from Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh.
I had to get off the train and walk across Pennsylvania, the next stop on my train journey.
I finally got to the Pines station, but it was a little tricky.
There was a huge red sign on the right of the platform stating that the train would be delayed because of an accident.
As soon as I stepped off the platform, the train stopped and there was this deafening silence.
It was almost surreal.
My heart sank.
The train was waiting for me.
How would I get there?
I asked myself, “What if I just walk over there?”
I knew there was no way to get there from Pittsburgh.
So I called my friend from New York and told her I was on my way.
Then, after some deliberation, I made a decision.
“I have a train ticket and I don’t want to walk the entire length of the Pilsen-Pittsburgh line, I want to get on the train, go down the platform and walk the next train.”
The next train, the Blue Train, would be my next stop.
In that moment, I felt like a hero.
With my friend and I, we had to navigate a maze of trains, stations and trains.
We also had to figure out how to get the train to the next station without losing the train’s signal.
This was my first trip on the PPI train, and it was amazing.
Our trip lasted a week.
Eventually, we finally reached the first stop, Pikes Park, in Pikes.
Pikes is a little town just south of Pittsburgh.
If you’re not familiar with it, Piles is a mountain.
On the other side of the mountain is the Pillsbury Doughnut Factory.
There’s a massive ice cream factory on the other end of the highway.
Here’s the next point of interest on the route.
And then we were on our way.
The next stop was the Pine Meadows, where we took the Pinstripe Train and made our way to the park.
For this stop, I brought my camera along to record the train.
Before we got off the Pice, we took a selfie and had a beer at a pub in the park for a while.
After that, I went to bed, ate a quick breakfast and started the long walk back to Pittsburgh to get my train tickets.
By the time I got back to the train station, I was feeling very, very proud.
One day, I thought to myself, I’d like to travel across the Pike Mountains and meet all the people I’ve met along the way.
I was going to make this my permanent home.
So I made the long, winding trip to Pikes and took a break for a couple of days.
But when I got to Pills, I knew I was in for something special.
At the end of that day, the weather was just perfect.
The clouds were thick, and the sun was shining.
You can tell that the weather in Pills is a real place.
To celebrate this moment, the city of Pikes set up a special event in honor of me, with live music and food.
From there, I moved on to Pincus, Pa., where I had the privilege of meeting my future wife, Laura.
Laura, the daughter of a local train conductor, was born just outside of Pittsburgh in the summer of 2016.
Now, she has lived in Pincuses hometown for nearly three years.
During this time, she made a promise to me.
She said that one day, she’d like me to come to Pines and have my first ever Pikes experience.
She said that once I got on board, I would never forget it.
That’s when I knew that I was onto something special!
So when Laura told me that I had signed up to be on the Blue train, I jumped on board.
Over the next three years, I became an amazing friend and train rider, taking my first train across the mountains and learning more about the amazing people and trains that are just miles away from my home.
As I have continued to learn about trains, the community, and train systems around the world, I’ve been inspired to do more than just be a traveler.