American Dreamer Takes Midnight Train

CHI Union Station by Today in Chicago

Maya’s recent trip from Chicago to Buffalo, N.Y., was a true test. On the far end she would be asked 10 questions that would finally secure her U.S. citizenship 16 years after emigrating to the States from Russia.

“I did some last-minute studying on the train,” she says, “And I passed and so did both my parents. So we’re very excited.” (See their smiles in the photo below!)

Maya & Mom Earn US CitizenshipMaya, a journalist and photographer who runs the Tumblr “Today in Chicago,” has ridden rails all over the world, but hadn’t ridden Amtrak for several years and had never ridden the Lake Shore Limited route.

Although the Great Hall in Chicago Union Station was fairly quiet when she arrived the night before her test, Maya says the area closer to the gates was bustling.

“There were all kinds of different people there, which was nice to see,” she says. “I expected that it would be half empty, but it was full. It’s nice to see that people are traveling by train.”

During the over-night trip to Buffalo, Maya spent time sleeping in her reclining coach seat and snapping photos of the morning light filtering its way through her train car. “I woke up pretty early and started taking pictures because the light was really warm and beautiful,” Maya says.

Besides the convenient timing of the Lake Shore Limited, one of the best perks was the scenery the train passes, especially near Erie, Penn. “The landscape was just floating by like a movie, it was very soothing,” she says. “You feel like you’re immersed in a journey visually, and it gets you thinking in a contemplative way.”

Even though Maya didn’t find her seat’s footrest until the end of her trip (first-timers, take note!), she said her favorite part of the trip was the space that she got in her seat. “Traveling by plane is always so cramped and the seats are always so uncomfortable, the train is a cozy environment, and you can just watch the scenery go by,” she says.

Glad to hear we passed your test, Maya!