PALM SPRINGS -

Although budget restraints mean it could be several years before Amtrak provides daily round-trip train service between the Coachella Valley and Los Angeles, what's offered now is a start.

The Sunset Limited train currently pulls into Palm Springs three days a week as it travels between Los Angeles and New Orleans.

"We live in an area where coming to the Coachella Valley should be really an easy thing and sometimes it's not, but rail travel, I mean here we are, could this be any better?" said Judy Vossler, senior vice president of the Palm Springs Desert Resort Communities Convention & Visitors Authority.

Vossler was among a group of Valley leaders who were invited by the nonprofit Southwest Rail Passenger Association to ride the Sunset Limited in an effort to promote better train service for the Valley.

During the trip, passengers in the observation car began singing the song, "I've Been Working on the Railroad," proof that time spent on the train while getting from Point A to Point B can be as much fun as you want to make it.

"I think the comraderie, you get to know each other, you're talking, you're chatting," said passenger Adina Wineland. "And its different than having to put up with the airport and all these other types of things."

In riding the rails, you see things you can't see off the highway. Train enthusiasts said it's like getting a peek at America's back yard.

"You see some unpleasant sights and then you see some quality sights," said Bob Manning, president of the Southwest Rail Passenger Association. "The thing is, it's a real education traveling by rail."

And speaking of education, Audrie and Josh Ellis, 10 and 12 years old respectively, were allowed by their father to skip school in order to take their first Amtrak ride.

"Trains are an important part of our history, in this country as well as in Europe, and for them to experience it and have a good day out is very, very important," said Tim Ellis, president of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce.

In fact, Amtrak might want to consider offering Audrie Ellis a lifetime boarding pass.

"I want to do it lots of times in my life," she said.