“When I closed my eyes this sensation of flying was quite delightful, and strange beyond description.” British actress Fanny Kemble provides a spirited account of the first passenger railroad trip in 1830.
Philadelphia's 30th Street Station is home to one of the few remaining "split-flap display" departure boards. The flipping, clicking board, which is managed on four desktop computers running Windows 95, will soon be replaced by a digital display. Other stations' split-flap display boards have been replaced by digital displays that try and mimic the look and sounds of the original. Aficionados and nostalgics, take note: the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg may be acquiring 30th Street's board. Interested in seeing a split-flap board in action before they're all gone? Wikipedia has a list of remaining boards around the world.
What Works: The Train That Saved Denver - "How Denver overcame regional factionalism to build a rail system that is a model for 21st century growth... it all happened, Hickenlooper and others note, because Coloradans across the base of the Front Range were willing to set aside crippling rivalries and make some big collective investments in themselves." (viz. Spain, cf. California & Florida; via) [more inside]
Stretching 57km (35mi) under the Swiss Alps, the Gotthard Base Tunnel officially became the world's longest and deepest active tunnel when it opened for service earlier today, completing a critical link in Europe's rail network. The tunnel's completion was commemorated by an extravagant ceremony and interpretive dance. [The last two links may be NSFW]
London takes stock for the New Tube. Revealed after three years of design work, here are the deep tube trains Londoners will be riding until the middle of the century. Although the designers are being coy over full automation - a politically sensitive area - with features like active displays replacing the internal advertising and route signage, the removal of internal car divisions, and new door designs for swifter passenger movements, the constraints of the capital's venerable tunnels and stations are being pushed as far as possible. Bonus info in article: what unique features China and New Zealand demand for their next-gen trains
The Yamanote Line is the most famous and well-travelled train line in Tokyo. Each station on the Yamanote plays a song (eki-melo, "train melody", 発車メロディ or "hassha melody") when trains are about to depart, differing by platform, direction and station. Click any post to listen to that station's eki-melo! (Links to sound clips can be tricky to discern - begin with the station list, find a station you like and then click on the title of song which follows the platform & station names.) [more inside]
US transit projects are way more expensive than those in similar countries. Addressing the reasons why could help us build more transit.
The Canadian Pacific Christmas Train is a rolling holiday party for a cause. Two beautifully lit trains - on a US Route and a Canada route - cruise through the Midwest, stopping in 150 towns along the way to present live music and light shows while bringing donations of cash and food to local food banks.
WikiTravel calls The Shanghai Sightseeing Tunnel "A slow-moving tram, through a comically low-tech tunnel of antiquated 80's era rope lights, lasers and car dealership ilk inflatables." YMMV. [SLYT, lots of blinking lights]
Near empty trains rattle around the countryside at odd hours of the day and night... Why Britain has secret ghost trains [more inside]
Thinking of hiring a stretch limo for that graduation, prom, wedding or some other event? Top tip! If you do, perhaps don't try and drive it over a level crossing. Especially on a rail line used by trains hauling a "ten thousand ton" load. (Video features train collision with unoccupied vehicle, amateur video production effects). As in the Telegraph, Jalopnik, ABC news and Car Buzz. And a follow-up video by the county sheriff.
Tama, the feline station master and mascot of Kishi Station, has passed away at the age of 16. [more inside]
Brian Carpenter is a master of dark Americana. Hailing from Boston, his style is fluid, mostly referencing early 20th Century American jazz and other folk/roots music. His first band that caught attention, Beat Circus worked in a self-described "American Gothic" style, releasing three albums with three different themes. But this is not his sole musical endeavor. [more inside]
The land of fjords, trolls and vikings is a nation of 5 million people, and snow. Photographers like it, as do jumpers and skateboarders. Norway is pretty and has a long coastline due to the lovely crinkly edges, making it nice to sail in. There are islands such as the Lofoten archipelago, long train journeys, steep train journeys, the Northern Lights, ferry journeys that last 134 hours, road tunnels, cathedrals, more Aurora Borealis, mountains, lights, some skiing, sunrises and sunsets, cosy hotels, long walks and whales. And the Aurora. Their tourist board has an unfair advantage. Camping is nice, either with other people or on your own. Svalbard is quite north. Did we mention the scenery and Aurora?
On the evening of Wednesday, November 22, 1961, a US Army "Duty Train" left Berlin for West Germany, traveling through Soviet-occupied East Germany, when a young East German, in a bid to escape, jumped aboard the train when it slowed for a curve, and was let aboard. The incident was eventually dramatized as a film called Stop Train 349, or Incident at Marienborn.
Iron, Steam and Coal. Photographer Matthew Malkiewicz captures the timeless beauty of the steam locomotive and steam trains - the steam, the tracks, the folks who run them and just the folks who love them. (Via Petapixel)
Attention Tim O'Toole : You are the CEO of First Capital Connect and my train is late almost every day. I'm going to change your face every time my train is delayed. (SLTP)
"[S]tock jobbers[,]... confidence men,... an impecunious transportation entity", politicos, judges, scoundrels and Jackie O.: the near-death of Grand Central Terminal, and how it foretold the 2008 financial crisis. [sl Harper's]
Crawling the lost tracks of Latin America. Artists Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene, a.k.a. "Los Ferronautas," converted a car into a retro-futuristic rail vehicle they dubbed SEFT-1 (Sonda de Exploración Ferroviaria Tripulada, "Manned Railway Exploration Probe") to explore the abandoned passenger railways of Mexico and Ecuador.
Designer Adam Chang rode New York's trains for 20 hours, using 9 swipes to visit 118 stations, to bring you the NY Train Project.
Railroad track today is laid by such monsters as the Plasser & Theurer SVM1000 Infranord, and specialized work trains renew old track (out with the old, in with the new in one pass) [more inside]
A $3.5 million estate for sale in Sherwood Oregon, outside of Portland, comes complete with almost 20 acres of land, a media room, a home gym--and its own miniature railroad.
If you're looking around historic logging regions, you might come across trucks, trains or even just axles with strange, wide steel wheels. They weren't intended to run on very large tires, but pole roads for logging. Here are some trains designed for such log roads, and here's a history of logging trucks that includes three types of wooden roads used to improve logging access. Here's a short clip of a logging train running on an elevated log track, and if you're thinking about building your own log road, The Timberman provides a lot of details and some schematics (Google books), straight out of 1918.
BRITISH "GHOST TRAIN" FACADES FROM THE 1970s AND 80s
(from the National Fairground Archive digital collection)
(from the National Fairground Archive digital collection)
Feeling horny? Here's a visual and audio guide to diesel locomotive horns. A definitive resource. For example, most Amtrak locomotives have a Nathan Airchime KL5A installed. Ever hear a sick-sounding horn on a train? Don't miss the sections on When bad things happen to good horns (Scroll down on the KL5A page for one such section). Turn your speakers up and enjoy!
Much like the animated train in the old Gumby television series, the UP 4014 Big Boy is moving along hopscotched panel track on the first leg of its trip to restoration (previously) at the Union Pacific's Cheyenne Steam shop. [more inside]
Two weeks ago, 14 year-old Avonte Oquendo was last seen running out the door of his school in Long Island City, New York. Because Avonte has autism and is non-verbal, he was supposed to have one-on-one supervision at all times. Now, an unprecedented citywide search for the boy that includes searching commuter trains and subways and playing his mother's voice out of emergency response vehicles remains underway. [more inside]
London to Brighton, side by side. "In 1953 the BBC made a point-of-view film from a London to Brighton train. 30 years later it did the same again. And after another 30 years it did so once more." [more inside]
HYPERLOOP Elon Musk & SpaceX finally reveal their plan for a radical new mass transportation system, Hyperloop.
Spain has declared three days of mourning following a deadly train crash that killed at least 80 people and injured many more. [more inside]
Last Saturday morning, a town in Quebec exploded. A runaway train carrying roughly 100,000 liters of crude oil derailed and subsequently exploded in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic in the early hours of Saturday morning. A significant amount of the downtown is burnt or leveled, and as the search for survivors continues, residents are beginning to realize the scope of the destruction [more inside]
A train derailed after hitting a truck near Baltimore yesterday. TV news / Raw helicopter footage and citizens on the scene. (NSFW Audio and explosion is about a minute or so in)
Ward Kimball's home movie footage of Walt Disney playing with a backyard scale model railroad in 1948.
In July 1939, French authorities started building a 120m² bomb shelter under the Gare de l’Est (East Railway Station) in Paris so that traffic controllers could keep on working if the station was attacked. However, it was not completed in time and the Germans used it instead. The bunker, which includes a pedal generator, is still there, in near perfect condition. Other images and video (in French). Bonus underground Parisian bunker: this Cold-war era bunker under the Ministry of Transportation (equipped with tandem pedal generators) will become a datacenter early 2014.
The band Mano Negra are here introduced by MTV Europe in 1990. They are today best known for having been the original band of singer Manu Chao, but they were a pretty damn good band in their day. The band went from strength to strength but broke apart in 1993 after building a train and bringing ice to Macondo (or its inspiration, the city of Aracataca, Colombia). Manu Chao talks briefly about the trip here. His father, respected novelist and journalist Ramón Chao, accompanied his son's band and wrote a book describing the journey, which has been translated into English as The Train of Ice and Fire. The publisher of the translation, Route Online, made a YouTube playlist of related videos. The most interesting and substantial one has Ramón sharing a number of stories from the voyage (subtitled in English).
Yesterday, the New York Post published a dramatic image on its cover of a Queens man just seconds from being hit by a Q train after being pushed by another man who is now in custody. [more inside]
The Saga of Tim & Freya : Comedian Janey Godley's real-time reportage of a breakup on a train. [more inside]