The new face of luxury: Train travel

Lately, it's seemed like a lot of travelers have a one-track mind. With President Obama's push for high speed trains beginning to bear fruit in the United States, many rail fans are contemplating a future in which airplanes won't be the only regional travel option.

In this brave new world, passengers could go from New York to Chicago in a few short hours, working on their computers and making cell phone calls all the way. En route, they could walk from car to car, eat at their own schedule, or even simply look out the window as the countryside speeds by. Best of all, they wouldn't have to face the misery of airport security checks, and ticket prices would likely be comparable to or cheaper than current airline charges.

While we wait for America's travel infrastructure to catch up with that of 1960's-era Japan, some companies are offering a glimpse at the comfort and romance that first made train travel a legendary experience. The leader of the pack is probably the Orient Express, perhaps the world's most storied train, which began offering service in 1883.

While it no longer offers service from Paris to Istanbul, it has expanded its lines around the world, and currently runs trains in England, Scotland, Southeast Asia, Peru, and Continental Europe. With private cabins, gourmet meals, and personal stewards, it offers a travel opportunity that is in many ways comparable to a cruise.