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Mesmerizing views from a rolling Amtrak train (pictures)

An avowed techie enjoys slowing down and taking in crumbling buildings, faded western towns and colorful freight engines from the window of a train from Albuquerque to New York City.

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Amanda Kooser
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1 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Amtrak engine waits at the station

Like so many people these days, Crave writer Amanda Kooser prizes speed, especially when it comes to her gadgets and Internet access. But on a  long-distance train ride last week, she stopped to appreciate the value of slowing down once in a while, at least when it comes to travel. Here, she shares some snapshots from her journey.

A rail journey from Albuquerque, N.M., to New York City takes several days and covers high plains, mountain passes and big cities.

An Amtrak engine waits on a side track, prepared to pull a series of passenger cars. The US national rail service began operations in 1971 and currently covers around 21,300 miles on its routes.

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2 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Abandoned Harvey House

The La Castaneda Harvey House in Las Vegas currently stands vacant, but there are plans to renovate and reopen it as a boutique hotel. La Castaneda is an intriguing sight for travelers riding on Amtrak's Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago.

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3 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

New Mexico high plains

Instagram is an ideal venue for sharing artfully filtered photos captured through a train window.

Amtrak's Southwest Chief travels across a large portion of New Mexico, passing through the high-plains area on the way to Colorado. This image shows the golden plains in spring. An antelope is barely visible near the center of the photo.

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4 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Wagon Mound, N.M.

The view of Wagon Mound, N.M., can be seen from the window of Amtrak's Southwest Chief as it covers the route from Los Angeles to Chicago. Located in the high plains, the small village of Wagon Mound is named for this wagon-shaped hill. It hosts an annual Bean Day Festival in celebration of pinto beans.

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5 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

A quiet Western town

Amtrak's Southwest Chief passes through many historic western towns along its route. Founded in the late 1800s, Raton, N.M., is still home to these classic buildings reminding train riders of a bygone era of mercantiles and bars.

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6 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Steam engine in Illinois

A steam engine sits near the station in Galesburg, Ill., my hometown. Host to an annual Railroad Days celebration, Galesburg is a quick stop along the route of Amtrak's Southwest Chief as it rolls along towards Chicago.

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7 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Metal bridge in the morning

A metal railroad bridge hangs over the water on the foggy morning, as seen from the windows of Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited. The Lake Shore Limited runs between Chicago, a major Amtrak hub, and New York City. It traces the Hudson River for a portion of the journey, giving passengers gorgeous views along the way.

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8 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Graffiti on a freight car

As a train passenger, you can become a bit of an art critic when it comes to graffiti on underpasses and the sides of boxcars. This particular piece is interesting for its lack of overwhelmingly bright colors, often a hallmark of the spray-painted vandalism. The color palette is almost subdued.

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9 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Foggy forest in New York

Amtrak carries over 30 million passengers each year. Many take long-distance trains like the Southwest Chief or the Lake Shore Limited. This foggy forest view is from the window the Lake Shore Limited in motion as it rumbles towards its destination at Penn Station in New York City.

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10 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Abandoned building by the tracks

An enigmatic ruin comes into view from the window of the Lake Shore Limited, Amtrak's long-distance train between Chicago and New York City. This massive 12-story structure in Albany, N.Y., is a bit of a mystery, giving no indication of its previous purpose. Broken windows, boarded-up doors and graffiti decorate the building.

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11 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Entering New York City by rail

Amtrak's Lake Shore Limited rolls between Chicago and New York City, though some of the passengers change trains in order to continue on the Lake Shore branch route into Boston. This impressive bridge structure greets passengers from outside the window as they near New York's Penn Station.

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12 of 12 Amanda Kooser/CNET

BNSF freight engine on a side track

Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight engines are a common sight along the route of the Southwest Chief passenger train from Los Angeles to Chicago. A BNSF engine painted in bright orange sits on a track as the Amtrak train passes by.

When it comes to travel, my desire for speed dwindles. I don't want to get there yesterday; I want to devour the landscape and revel in the chaos, decay and beauty just outside my window. I want to go by train.

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