Slice Of Amish Life: Disembarking In Portland

This photo shows Amish people getting off an Amtrak train in Portland, Oregon. In states without Amish settlements (like Oregon), public transit stations are among the few places you’re likely to see Amish folks (here’s another example from Alabama).

This shot, taken in 2011, captures a moment – perhaps we’re witnessing that happy relief at the end of a leg of a long trip. It’s smiles all around for these two older couples. They look to be exchanging some pleasant words with an English gentleman, maybe a fellow traveler, maybe a passerby. Is this a moment of goodbye after company well-spent on board the train? Enjoying a couple last quips together?

By their dress, I would guess they are from a Midwestern community, perhaps Holmes County, Ohio.

Where are they heading? That’s a decent bit of luggage along. Are they visiting sights out West? Some Amish head in that direction for medical treatment in Mexico, but they’d be taking quite an out-of-the-way route to get to Tijuana.

If I had to guess, I would guess they first took the train out to Montana, maybe to visit the settlement at Rexford. It’s a popular place for Amish from the East to visit.

The line continues on from there to Portland. Then a switch of trains and you can go down into California. It might be a combination sightseeing trip plus a stop to visit relatives or friends in Big Sky Country.

The photographer writes: “They didn’t want to pose for a photo, but said I could ‘catch’ them if I wanted.” That sounds about the way it goes for Amish in the mainstream-to-progressive Holmes County churches.

Amish people do make pretty regular use of Amtrak (at least compared to most Americans). Funny enough, the photographer claims to have bumped into these folks twice on this train journey: “We took the same trains twice, with a 5 day break in-between. (What are the chances?)”.

Caught in this moment, they appear to be having a great time. I’m seeing some of that carefree feeling one has on an exciting journey, to new and undiscovered places.

Image: kittymeetsgoat/flickr

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    1. Tim

      Looks like they are staying awhile with all that luggage.

    2. Pat Monti

      Slice Of Amish Life: Disembarking In Portland

      It’s been our observation in our area (central Illinois) that Amish view Amtrak/train trips as we English view cruises (pre Covid 19 in our household.)

      1. Nice analogy. A long-distance train trip can be a fun and even relaxing adventure (as long as the train is not too packed of course). In the US the furthest I’ve gone is a train out to Kansas. From Chicago to Lawrence was pretty flat and I remember a lot of corn. Further west has to be a lot more scenic. These couples no doubt took in some great sights along the way.

    3. Al in Ky

      I’ve taken many trips on Amtrak’s Empire Builder from Chicago to St. Paul, Minn. and back many times the past ten years and have had several enjoyable conversations with Amish people also taking that train. Quite a number of Swartzentruber Amish from various settlements in New York, Ohio, Indiana, etc., take that route from Chicago to get to other Swartzentruber settlements in Wisconsin or Minnesota. They usually say they are either going to visit relatives or going to weddings or funerals. One conversation I enjoyed was with three Amish family members who were going on Amtrak from northern Minnesota to a destination in Ohio to pick up a large order of health treatment products (like B & W salve) and herbal products to take back to sell at their home settlement in Minn.

    4. John in Holmes

      They are from Holmes County. Charm, Oh to be exact.

    5. Carolina Smitt


      If you ever are in Maryland, travel down Augustine Herman Hwy and then travel South onto hwy 301. You will see just how rural that area is and why so many Amish are moving there. You can travel 2 or 3 hours and see mostly farms. Basically, from Chesapeake City at the North in Cecil County all the way down to Salisbury in the South is farmland. This farmland stretches deep into Delaware, which kind of provides a buffer to development for that part of Maryland.

      When I was down there a few weeks ago, I noticed the Amish were present, especially in Cecil County. The Amish settlement in Cecil County stretched roughly from Earleville in the western part of Cecil County to Warwick, near the border of Delaware. It was hard for me to guess the size of the population, because it seemed to be a large area of the county that I noticed their presence either because of the buggy signs, businesses on the back roads, or the occasional Amish farmer outside that I noticed. I might be mistaken, but I was pretty sure I also saw am Old Order Mennonite business down there somewhere between Crystal Beach and Mount Harmon Plantation. I could tell by the way they dressed they were Old Order Mennonite. I hadn’t heard anything about the Old Order Mennonites being present in the area, so that was interesting to find. That part of Maryland being still very underdeveloped by East Coast standards will probably continue to attract Amish, especially from Lancaster and Dover settlements. Lancaster is very developed compared to Southern Cecil County, Kent County, or any of the other counties along the eastern shoes. The area kind of reminds me of upstate NY, but without the hills and mountains.