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Details, details, book me a train and don't bother me with the details
July 21, 2010 4:03 AM   Subscribe

From London to St. Petersburg with the Man in Seat 61. Actor Kenneth Cranham travels with Mark Smith, creator of worldwide non-air travel resource website without equal Seat61.com (previously).

The short film covers one of the many journeys on the site, London to St Petersburg, bringing the website's charts, maps, tables and links to life in an engaging 17-minute travelogue. The producers Guerilla Films hope to attract funding and interest from UK television channels to make a full series. Have a watch and then leave your comments here.
posted by Happy Dave (24 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn, I was hoping it was Mark E Smith.

He could do Paranoid Man in Cheap Shit Train.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:15 AM on July 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Interesting. I've always enjoyed train travel, and have used TMIS61's website in the planning stages.
posted by flippant at 5:17 AM on July 21, 2010


It's an invaluable website when you are dealing with semi-translated foreign train websites.
posted by smackfu at 5:35 AM on July 21, 2010


God, that makes me want to skip real life and take a train across the world!
posted by ChuraChura at 5:43 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it supposed to be funny that the advert running at the bottom of the frontpage is for British Airways?
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 5:43 AM on July 21, 2010


Joining the chorus: Seat 61 is a class act. One of the only legitimately good travel sites on the internet.
posted by schmod at 5:44 AM on July 21, 2010


Could anyone handle being stuck with mark e smith on a train journey from london to st petersburg ? Or even st pancras ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:44 AM on July 21, 2010


I'd rather be stuck with MES (even in shoulder pads) than St Pancras. I mean, seriously, Pancras was orphaned & taken in by Dionysius, of all gods, and still became a Christian. No wonder they beheaded him at age 14.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:54 AM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


This stupid website is the reason why I have been marginally obsessed with train travel between Mashhad & Ashgabat, goddammit. GRAR!

(The absence of that link is what's preventing me from arranging a train trip from London to Shanghai or HCMC via Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, etc. Which is not something I would have ever considered, except for this stupid website. Bastards.)
posted by aramaic at 5:59 AM on July 21, 2010


train travel in iran is spectacularly dull. hours & hours & hours of featureless barren plains with pissy little hills on the far horizon on either side, and the life on the train itself is equal to the scenery. you might coax a glass of tea out of the attendants, every few hours, but only if they think you're about to die of boredom & need a lift. internal flights, on the other hand, are pocket money. sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:07 AM on July 21, 2010


I've done this, we got back about 6 weeks ago. It was brilliant. Seat 61 is brilliant, we couldn't have done it with out that web page.

We went London - Berlin - Gdansk - Kalinigrad - Vilnius - Riga - St Petersburg - London

Everyone thought it was a cool plan but a bit mad, but then the ash cloud craziness happened and suddenly we weren't so mad anymore.

I love trains.

I love samovars on Russian trains. Urns of boiling water at the end of the carrage, meaning I could have a proper cup of tea every morning.

I'm not so in love with the fact that the Baltic countries have fallen out of love with trains. We had to get a coach between Vilnius and Riga (although it was hands down the most comfortable of all the trips, beating even sneaking into 1st class on the express from Cologne to Brussels - the coach had wifi. Free wifi.) And we had to give up on Tallinn altogether partly because there was no way to get there by train and also because we got stuck in Kaliningrad for a day longer than we planned due to a VE day parade being between us and our train out of there.

It took three weeks, and we were back at work on Monday morning as promised.
posted by Helga-woo at 6:20 AM on July 21, 2010


I, too, love Seat 61. Thank you, Mark, for making my vacations cheaper and that much more interesting. :)
posted by mdonley at 6:41 AM on July 21, 2010


I'm a seat 61 fan. Great website and I love the fact that it's useful, rather than beautiful. Incidentally, for UK-based fans of non air travel, I've recently discovered the overnight Portsmouth-Santander (N Spain) ferry. It's great - like going back to the 1970s, but in a really good way - all your fellow travellers are polite and relaxed. Also, as it's run by a French company, the food is good.
posted by rhymer at 6:52 AM on July 21, 2010


train travel in iran is spectacularly dull. hours & hours & hours of featureless barren plains with pissy little hills on the far horizon on either side, and the life on the train itself is equal to the scenery. you might coax a glass of tea out of the attendants, every few hours, but only if they think you're about to die of boredom & need a lift. internal flights, on the other hand, are pocket money. sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason.

I'm disagree with this 100%. Whilst I can understand that for time reasons you might need to fly rather than travel overland, if you have the time travelling overland is one of the greatest ways to go.

Visiting a country, hopping from airport to airport simply reduces your trip to a series of city-breaks. I have spent the last 18 months travelling round South America and having the luxury of time have not flown anywhere, and clocked up over 25,000 miles on buses (there are very few trains here). Staring out of the window at 24 hours of Patagonian steppe might not sound exciting but was one of the greatest experiences of my life. There was nothing, but that was the whole fucking point.

If you have the time, there really is no excuse for flying.
posted by jontyjago at 7:16 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was nothing, but that was the whole fucking point.

Well I can stand still and see nothing so I don't really see the essential role of the train or bus.
posted by smackfu at 7:56 AM on July 21, 2010


I think jontyjago is talking about the act of travelling (actually physically and visibly moving over territory, as opposed to six hour in an aluminium tube) being the whole point of his journey, regardless of what was outside the window.

Different strokes for different folks.

I'm a sucker for trains regardless, and have had some very memorable journeys in Europe. I dearly hope this potential series gets picked up.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:59 AM on July 21, 2010


Different strokes for different folks.

I guess. I mean, I like trains, but when you are in the middle of that eight hour trip between nothing and nothing through nothing, I'm not going to say "this is how I like to spend my holidays". It's surprisingly easy to romanticize it after the fact though.
posted by smackfu at 8:10 AM on July 21, 2010


Because of Seat 61, I'm sat, right now, in Lugano, Switzerland, typing this in a cafe overlooking the big lake, after leaving London yesterday afternoon, the Eurostar to Paris, overnight to Milan, via the Milan-Zurich to Lugano this morning, then a local train to Caslano for a meeting, and local train back to here. When I finish this beer, I'll get the train to Milan, then tomorrow, it's back to London via Paris. All in, 450 quid, which was cheaper than flying, and infinitely more civilised.

I am quite incomparibly cheerful about the whole trip, bordering on smug. Trains are awesome. I'm so doing this again.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 8:20 AM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


There is nothing wrong with plane or car travel but I've logged about 15,000 miles on the train over the last 3 years and traveling by train is its own thing.
Plane travel is frenetic and high-wire. Traveling by car you are constantly confronted with decisions.
On the train you have the satisfaction of progressing toward your destination naturally earthbound at a familiar clip and your mind can safely wander for hours.

Train travel feels like daydreaming.
posted by vapidave at 8:37 AM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, in the US, we might possibly have some 110mph (177 km/h) train service in the Midwest by about 2014. Proper high speed rail (220mph) is still 'decades away.'
posted by jedicus at 8:52 AM on July 21, 2010


Chiming in as a huge fan of rail travel. A few years back my wife and I took a trip from New York Penn Station to Portland, OR, with a stopover in Chicago for a few nights. We had a roomette on amtrak (small personal room with a door and bunk beds). It was really great, the train is timed so that you go through glacier national park at sunset, and then wake up to being along the lovely columbia river. we even saw a rainbow over the Bridge of the Gods. What I'm trying to say is: fuck planes (unless you need to cross an ocean).
posted by Mach5 at 9:15 AM on July 21, 2010


Thanks for this - I hadn't heard of Seat 61 before but I've bookmarked it for future reference, as a big fan of train travel! Looks very useful, and he even says nice things about poor ol' Amtrak. Aww!
posted by Quietgal at 10:23 AM on July 21, 2010


I'm disagree with this 100%. Whilst I can understand that for time reasons you might need to fly rather than travel overland, if you have the time travelling overland is one of the greatest ways to go.

Hey, don't get me wrong - I naturally favour long hauls on buses & trains, and agree with your point completely, except for the fact that the Iranian landscape (that I saw from trains; there may be more scenic routes) was unremittingly dull. Meanwhile, internal flights were around US$30.(disclaimer: not that I actually took any; in hindsight I would have)

On the bright side, when booking tickets, the railway clerk was all "OK, no problem, three seats for you and three for your friend" no matter how many times we insisted we only wanted one seat each. This was done so that we'd get a compartment to ourselves, which came out at something like US$6 each for a sixteen-hour overnighter to Tehran.

The ticket also had little explanatory rules on what you cannot take on trains, like oversized presents, goats, and bombs.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:47 PM on July 21, 2010


Seat 61 should be in any Best Of The Web listing. It's a genuine labour of love, and extremely useful: I've sorted out a few long distance journeys with its help: London - Tehran, London - Beijing, numerous journeys within India and China, and only this morning booked a seat from Helsinki to Kouvola after it pointed me in the right direction.
posted by Cobbler at 7:22 AM on July 22, 2010


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