The 3-day, $2750/person Rovos Rail train safari from Pretoria to Durban is pulled by 1930s steam trains; features giant, luxurious staterooms with their own bathtubs; offers high tea; and, true to its Edwardian time-warp, passengers are prohibited from working in public areas, lest this break the atmosphere of idle wealth and privilege.
The Central Japan Railway Company has invited members of the public to take test rides on its new magnetically levitated train, which goes over 300 mph. Visit the link to watch a video of happy riders. If Halliburton and Goldman Sachs hadn't taken all our money, we could have neat toys like this, too.
This summer, my pal Sarah Smith at Institute for the Future took a ten-day transcontinental train trip to explore the future of food systems and wrote about it at National Geographic. In this piece, she profiles how the train's chefs, who considered the experience a “renegade culinary adventure," experimented with waste management, local sourcing, daily food practices, and decadence.
Calling themselves Los Ferronautas (or "railanauts"), Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene documented the impacts of the privatization — and subsequent immediate closure — of Mexico's passenger rail lines. Their home-built vehicle could travel on the rails or on the ground, from Mexico City to the Atlantic.
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, which it bills as “A Grand West Coast Train Adventure,” is its last remaining full-service sleeper train. The Coast Starlight is home to what would have previously been standard: a dining car, an observation car with floor-to ceiling windows, a movie theater, and a full slate of entertainment options, including the two complimentary wine tastings. Nicole Dieker takes the trip.
In Cambodia, real trains are almost as rare as bamboo trains anywhere else. The impoverished country has a network of tracks left over from French colonial days, but there are hardly any actual trains running anymore. Only one line is in service. The railway never recovered from the horrors of Khmer Rouge murder and war decades ago.
Don't miss his great photos and videos accompanying the article online A six-year-old girl photographed just before her first norry ride is told by her mom that it would be like riding "a bat."
My friend Andrew linked me to this nifty old-timey video showing London, Midland, and Scottish Railway employees repairing a steam locomotive. There's a lot of neat stuff happening here, but I particularly loved the part where a guy crawls backwards into the train's firebox to diagnose boiler and engine problems from the inside. TRAINS!
For the last couple of years, each train line on the London Underground has been given its own voice. Ed Jefferson analyzed the lines' tweets to assign Kiersey/Myers-Briggs psychological temperaments to each. [via MeFi]
You might think that Waterloo & City Line couldn’t even have a Myers-Briggs Type, being a tunnel in London with some trains in it, but you’d be wrong. Whilst the normal way to establish a Myers-Briggs Type is get someone to fill in a questionnaire, it’s apparently possible to use a sample of text to analyse the personality of the author. And while the Waterloo & City Line didn’t have much to say for most of its 115 year history, for the last couple of years, it, and all the other London Underground lines, have been tweeting. So I use samples of tweets to discover what kinds of personalities they have.
I just took the test (an enneagram-style sorting hat of dubious scientific rigor) and join the Waterloo & City Line in being an ESFP.
Regardless of type, of course, the Northern Line (ESTJ) is a complete arsehole on Friday nights. One interesting takeaway: the results suggest that two or three individual writers are handling all the lines.
Neil Young talks model trains with David Letterman. Young isn't just a model train enthusiast, he's also an inventor. From Dangerous Minds:
Young first created a research and development company, Liontech, to help the storied Lionel, LLC train manufacturing company, founded in 1900, create model trains with sound systems and control units. Young then became part owner of Lionel, along with an investment company. It was Young’s designs and inventions for Lionel that helped to bring the company out of bankruptcy in 2008. Young’s first train-related invention was a control unit, the Big Red Button, that enabled his son, who has cerebral palsy, to control the trains.
When Mike Brodie was 17, he hopped his first train and instantly fell in love with the freedom of riding the rails, sans ticket. Shortly thereafter, in 2004, he came upon an old instant camera and quickly earned his nickname of The Polaroid Kidd. Eventually, he "upgraded" to a 1980s camera and 35 millimeter film but continued to ride the rails and document what he saw. The result is a raw, gritty, beautiful, and often inspiring collection of snapshots now compiled into a book, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity.
The other night, Joshua Foer posed this question was posed to a table full of science journalists. Most of us started talking about friction, and/or possibly something to do with the little flanges on either side of a train wheel.
We were all wrong.
This is a Richard Feynman video, yes, but it's more about mechanics than physics. Turns out, you can learn a lot about how trains stay on the track by looking under your own car.
Here's The Atlantic on how New York's busiest train station helps commuters get there in time: by giving them an extra minute: "The idea is that passengers rushing to catch trains they're about to miss can actually be dangerous -- to themselves, and to each other. So conductors will pull out of the station exactly one minute after their trains' posted departure times."
Jason Shron is nuts for VIA Rail trains, so he re-created a car in his basement, down to the minutest detail (he bought a to-be-scrapped VIA car and harvested its fittings). His charming tour and construction time-lapse shows just the right mix of self-awareness and overwhelming enthusiasm.
I always forget that Los Angeles has a subway at all, let alone the fact that it used to have a much more extensive one.
Parts of that old subway have sat, abandoned, beneath streets and buildings for decades. They've become part of the stratigraphy of the city, as humans do what humans have always done — build the new on top of the old and forget about what we covered up under there. It's no different than the way Rome was built, with the columns of old buildings serving as the foundations of new ones.
Back in May, blogger Gelatobaby got to go on a tour of one part L.A.'s lost subway, exploring a secret world exposed by renovations on a building that was once the city's main subway terminal. Her photos — including the one posted above — are amazing. Go check out the whole thing.
British people! Did you know that it is Railfest Week at your National Railway Museum? And did you know that that means you can get up close and personal with (and even go for a ride on) an amazing variety of vintage and modern trains, plus special talks, music, and theater shows? Among the attractions: Giant, rail-based snow plows, a sail-powered rail car, and beautiful historic engines that have gone through extensive restoration.
This, for instance, is Sir Nigel Gresley (of course he is), a steam train from 1937.
This playlist from YouTube user hideyasann features more than 100 short clips of trains and train restrooms in Japan. Most of the train videos are of trains pulling into a station, or changing tracks. Most of the toilet videos emphasize the flushing mechanisms—of which there are a surprising variety.
As a rail fan, it's interesting to see what so many different Japanese stations and trains look like. And there's no narration, so it's also interesting to watch these very matter-of-fact clips and think about the visual context they trigger in your head. Men in suits waiting on a platform for a train to change tracks—that's a scene from a serious drama about the inner psychology of a businessman. A shakey clip where the videographer walks towards an arriving train, and a station agent, while breathing heavily—that's totally a scene from a horror movie. I'm honestly not sure what to make of all the toilets.
It's also kind of awesome to just think about the level of obsession that went into this playlist. I'm not really sure what hideyasann is trying to document—Train variety? Train cleanliness? Is he or she just collecting the same footage from as many trains as possible? Whatever the goal, you can clearly see the love and fascination here. There's totally a Happy Mutant at work.
In the New York Times, Brian X. Chen reports on Amtrak's plans to use Apple iPhones as an electronic ticket scanner on several routes, including Boston, MA to Portland, ME, and San Jose, CA, to Sacramento, CA. "By late summer, 1,700 conductors will be using the devices on Amtrak trains across the country," and passengers can choose to print tickets or display a bar code on their smartphone screens for conductors to scan.
STNautilus created a detailed model-train replica of the long-gone, dearly missed Disneyland Mine Train through Nature's Wonderland. Dan sez, "I nearly plotzed from this scene being so charming." (Warning: contains animated varmints).
Do you like trains? Do you have a lot of Continental Airlines OnePass miles? Until December 31st, you can turn those air miles into Amtrak GuestRewards points. There are certainly some people this wouldn't make sense for, but I know some of you will be interested, so I thought I'd post it. Call the Continental service center at 713-952-1630 to make the switch. (Thanks to my Twitter Train Buddy rstevens!)