Actually, the first thought that came to mind was “mileage runs for trains,” but these people are very clearly not traveling at a discount. If anything, it’s a more expensive hobby than mine and can involve last minute flights to remote parts of the country to travel on tracks rarely seen by the public in the case of special events or weather diversions. You might better compare it to the obsession some people have with adding an extra line to their route maps on FlightMemory.com, like ANC-HNL, which is a bit out of the way for anyone from the contiguous 48.
I remember when I took the train to Vancouver a few months ago someone picked up the post and listed it on one of these train travel blogs, so I can confirm these communities are out there. And although it’s not related to most of the content on here, I thought it was interesting enough to share this article from today’s WSJ.
“Rare miles,” aren’t always rare but are highly sought after by people across the country interested in traveling segments of track that are no longer seen by most rail passengers. In the US, The Wall Street Journal says that individuals can only ride about 26,000 out of 140,000 miles of rail, or less than 20% of the total. Railroad buffs, typically older people, will seek out that missing 114,000 miles so they can lay bragging rights to traveling through areas few people get to see. Check out some photos of these tracks.
The article gives one example of a lavish $8,000 one-week journey covering only 2,500 miles, and you can probably bet that Amtrak didn’t hand out some bonus miles for those who went along. That price stuns me. The two most expensive flights I’ve ever paid for are roughly $1,000 each for the upcoming international and domestic portions of the Star MegaDO 4, and they’re both in coach and on routes I didn’t get to pick. (In contrast, the highest fare I’ve ever priced out doing my own research was about $750 to Paris.)
So certainly there may come a day when I can afford to pay for a business class ticket instead of relying on award miles, but these rare mile hunters are clearly in it just for their passion for rail travel, not because they can work the numbers to earn $300 in award miles for flying a $200 fare like some of us. I find it a bit endearing. My grandfather, before he passed away, was an enthusiast of large-scale model trains. So much so, in fact, that one of the clubs he joined in Medford, OR, named their railway station after him. I think for now those tracks are going to be the only “rare miles” I travel on.