Mexican artists ride abandoned passenger rails in an Earthbound "spacecraft"

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.

[Video Link]

What it's like to take a 36-hour sleeper train from LA to Seattle

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.

Read the rest

Cambodia's creaky, funky bamboo trains: like riding 'a bat'


A norry being operated by Doak Khemra moves down the tracks at the village of Stung Touch. Jesse Pesta/The Wall Street Journal.

Jesse Pesta has a wonderful, colorful piece in the Wall Street Journal about a form of transportation unique to Cambodia: bamboo trains, known locally as "norry." Snip:

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."

"Creaky Trains Made of Bamboo Still Rule the Rails in Cambodia" [wsj.com]

House for sale, complete with rideable scale railroad and trainyard

Marty sez, "I've seen lots of homes for sale but this one is quite unique. A rideable scale railroad encircles the property, complete with a trainyard, trestles, the works."

“Railway Resort” is Apparently a Thing (An Amazing Thing)

Hop a high-speed train

Here's a fascinating idea for how people could board a high speed train without it ever having to slow down.

Gentleman crawls into boiler of steam locomotive

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!

Video Link

If London Underground lines were people, what personality types would they have?

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.

Crashes from Thomas the Tank Engine

"I was bored so I decided to make a compilation of the crashes on Thomas and Friends," writes YouTube's monsterjamfan100. [via hellojed at Metafilter]

Previously: The ultraviolence of Thomas the Tank Engine was blogged about by Mark more than a decade ago. Don't miss Biggie Smalls the Tank Engine.

Neil Young loves model trains

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.
"Neil Young, Model Train Geek"

A train hopper's photos

NewImageNewImageWhen 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.

You can also see a selection of these photographs at Mike Brodie Photography. (via So Bad So Good, thanks Dave Gill!)

Why do trains stay on the track as they go around a curve?

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.

Grand Central Station's clocks are a minute off

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."

Guy re-creates a VIA Rail car, in his basement, down to the most minute detail

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.

The Guy with the Train in his Basement (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Inside L.A.'s lost subway

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.

Via Scott Galvin

Here is a giant snow blower

Just look at it.

Thanks to Aaron Bockelie for posting this in the comments from a post earlier this week. And to Tom Levenson for pointing it out to me!