As a tourist in England my view of the rail system that seems to work so well is probably a little different from those people who have to use it daily. In my case I can only compare it to the system that I have seen in the United States. For all its issues it is so vastly superior to anything I have ever seen in the United States that I just wanted to voice my opinion.
My first experience with the trains in England was taking the train from London to Brighton. It was fast and efficient and even if it was not a scenic route it got us to where we were going with a minimum of stops and when it was time to return the train was again , just where it was supposed to be. At that time I was not used to train travel and I found it quite easy to figure out.
Taking the train from Alnwick to Edinburgh was an economical and easy option which allowed us to park our car and not have to try to park in a city the size of Edinburgh.
When our friends needed to reach us in Lincolnshire, they were not able to get very close to where we were staying in Saracens Head. They could have gone to Lincoln but we opted instead to have them go to Peterborough and we found them at the station there right when they were supposed to arrive.
If you are making your base in London and want to visit Hampton Court or Windsor Castle, the easiest way for you to do that is to take the train. The trains are frequent, comfortable and in my experience quite punctual.
For visitors to England who do not feel comfortable driving on what we consider the wrong side of the road, the train is a very good option. Some of the most popular tourist destinations can be reached by the train. Bath, Oxford and Stratford on Avon are all easily accessible on the train. All of these cities are very difficult to park in even if you were willing to drive. Taking the train is a relaxing and stress free option.
I love the train from Gatwick Airport to Victoria Station in London. It is so much easier then trying to get into the subway at Heathrow. To get from Heathrow to Victoria Station we always need to change lines usually at South Kensington. While this is easy when you are just traveling when you have your luggage in tow it is quite a task what with stairs and platform changes.
For my part I have always enjoyed my train journeys in England, some I will admit I enjoy some more than others but I have never been on a train that was not in good repair and all were far cleaner than anything we have in the states.