Travel and Leisure

Reflections on Train Travel around the World

Train Travel

Reflections on Train Travel around the World : As a Certified Travel Agent for four decades, international airline employee, researcher, writer, teacher, and photographer, travel, whether for pleasure or business purposes, has always been an important and integral part of my life. About 400 trips to every part of the world, by road, rail, sea and air, covering both worldly and exotic destinations. This article focuses on my train travels around the world.

The My Railroad Program, which covers a 24-year period from 1995 to 2021, covers 45 coal mines, steam excursions, narrow gauge steam, narrow gauge steam, cog, short-haul and long-distance with 35 rail lines, covering 12 countries, eight Canadian provinces, 22 US states, and more than 10,000 miles.

Seven long-distance trips in Canada, the US and Mexico count towards my lifetime rail program. Three of them occurred in Canada.

The first, on VIA Rail Canada’s The Ocean between Montreal and Halifax, Nova Scotia, covered 1,346 kilometers. Parallel to the St. Lawrence River and the Gaspe Peninsula, it crosses the line between Quebec and New Brunswick. Crossing the Miramichi Basin, the geographical center of the province, crossing the Moncton intersecting path, crossing the Nova Scotia border. Avoiding the Bedford Basin, it closed the gap to Halifax, completing a two-day journey.

The second, this time on VIA Rail Canada’s Hudson Bay, is a 1,697-kilometer three-day trip from Winnipeg to Churchill, considered the polar bear capital of the world. The night departure saw him climb gradually northwest, past Lake Manitoba and Lake Dauphin, before turning west and down the road between Riding Mountain National Park and Duck Mountain Provincial Park and reaching Glenella a few minutes before midnight.

Piercing the vast expanse of subarctic tundra above the treeline for much of the second day, he arrived at Churchill that evening.

The four-day trans-Canada crossing, 4,459 kilometers to the east, from Vancouver to Toronto, this time in The Canadian, requires crossing the Rocky Mountains via British Columbia and Alberta, and then over prairie through the western lowlands of Saskatchewan. The Activities Car provides a lounge, books and games, and the dome topped provides great views, along with croissants in the morning and hot hors d’oeuvres and wine in the evening.

Accommodation, like other long-distance train journeys, is in private compartments, and all meals, which are detailed on a leather-lined menu, are provided in the dining car. One of those dinners included cream of chicken and shataki mushroom soup with tarragon; mixed vegetables with vinaigrette sauce and hot and buttered rolls; apple and cranberry stuffed chicken breast with champagne risotto, carrot chunks and asparagus; chocolate cake with raspberry sauce; coffee; and chocolate candy.

Traveling through the prairie wheat fields of the western lowlands, Canada breaks through the undeveloped forests and lakes of Whiteshell Provincial Park as the last few kilometers of Manitoba, a province halfway between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, pass. In 1630, after crossing the Manitoba-Ontario border between Winnitoba and Rice Lake, the train crossed the western edge of the billion-year-old Pre-Cambrian Shield, which is common with glacier-carved lakes.

Toronto’s bright skyscrapers, looming ahead like a glittering, jewel-encrusted monolith, suddenly appeared in the distance, in the reverse order of those that had receded earlier in the journey, and grew in size with each kilometer traveled. Now inching toward its eastern end at Toronto’s Union Station on track 7 under clear skies, twinkling stars and a 65 degree temperature right in front of the flimsy CN Tower, the Canadian assumed barely-noticeable speed and movement. The tower itself serves as a physical and symbolic confirmation of the completion of the journey.

Three long-distance rail trips also took place in the US.

The first, at 361 miles, threads all the way from New York’s Penn Station to Montreal as the Adirondack, passing through the Hudson Valley, Adirondack Mountains, and Lake Champlain, before stopping briefly at a Canadian Customs checkpoint in Cantic, Quebec, and then continuing through farmland. flat and over the River St. Lawrence to his destination.

The US to Canada transcontinental counterpart, though in the reverse or west direction, and covering only two-thirds of the way, occurs in the California Zephyr Amtrak from Chicago to Emeryville (serving San Francisco), California. Glide over the Great Plains of Nebraska on a three-day, 2,438-mile trip, across the Colorado state line and approach the majestic Rocky Mountains, parallel to the Sungin length, constituted the route’s longest, and pinnacled at a 9,240-foot elevation.

Accommodation was in the Bilevel Superliner’s first-class compartment, meals were in the dining car, and two interpretive programs about the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains were given, while the lower level of its sightseeing lounge and café offered fare for tourist class passenger purchase.

Continuing past the Great Salk Lake in Utah, it entered California, the seventh and last state on its route. Proceeding through Truckee, it entered Donner Pass and arched its way through its horseshoe curve to the two-mile-long Tunnel 41. Alternatively known as the “Big Hole,” it bored its way through the Sierra Nevada Mountains at a 7,040-foot elevation .

Emerging from the mountains and no longer topographically speed-restricted it traveled through the flat tan, brown, and green geometry of the Sacramento Valley until the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and city-signature, pyramid-shaped Transamerica Tower affirmed its approach to and imminent arrival in Emeryville.

The third long-range US rail journey covered 1,389 miles during its West Coast climb from Los Angeles to Seattle in the Coast Starlite, crossing the rolling green Santa Cruz Mountains and threading its way through Pajero Gap, before entering the Santa Clara Valley.

A peak through the curtains at 0650 revealed an otherworldly vista sharply contrastive to that of the previous day, leaving one to wonder if a gap in speed and time had somehow not been accounted for. The bright blue of the Pacific had been replaced by volcanic mountain peaks and blankets of snow.

A thin line of dull orange, glowing on the eastern horizon, flowed up over the dark, gray cloud obstruction like molten lava, oozing through until it had successfully eaten through its cover and created a multitude of cold, orange fissures which progressively burned through the otherwise thick, metallic gray insulation.

Following the winding tracks through northern California, the silver, bilevel Superliner cars had thread their way through tall, thick pine abreast of 14,162-foot, snow-draped Mount Shasta, the tallest peak in the Cascade Mountain range.

Burning with greater fury, dawn’s volcanic eruption lit the sky between two volcanic peaks a fiery orange, spreading its flames across the cloud fabric until it had engulfed it with burning victory. As the light now penetrated the windows of the train, the dual-floored city of the Coast Starlight awoke.

Dinner that evening included a mixed salad with bleu cheese dressing; Pacific salmon with white wine sauce, rice pilaf, and green beans; cheese cake with strawberry sauce and whipped cream; and coffee.

The Coast Starlite proceeded over the Oregon-Washington state line through Tacoma to it Seattle destination.

The seventh long-range rail journey, from Chihuahua to Los Mochis in the Chihuahua Al Pacifico Railroad, bored its way through Mexico’s Copper Canyon, its pre-dawn departure inviting breakfast in the dining car. This consists of a ham and cheese omelette, fried potatoes with peppers and onions, refried beans with cotija cheese, and tortillas and salsa.

Plunging through Tunnel 4, at 4,134.8 feet, the line’s longest and marking the third Continental Divide crossing, it then climbed 8,071-foot Los Ojitos, passing mountain and canyon topography.

An overnight stay in a lodge in Posada Barrancas preceded a re-departure the following afternoon. The train, descending into the Santa Barbara Canyon, proceeded through the town of El Fuente, lurching beneath dark, velvet, star-studded skies as it covered the remaining distance to Los Mochis. Snagging its brakes at 2205 local time after a 16-hour, 20-minute journey (excluding the overnight stop). It connected the plains with the Pacific by means of the Copper canyon, in what could only be labeled a feat of railroad engineering.

Although all of these long-range journeys employed the “journey is the destination” theme and were taken to facilitated research and book,.log, and article writing, several others, while relatively short in duration, were taken for pure-travel purposes, such as those on the Kowloon-Canton Railway (KCR) from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, on the Swiss Federal Railways from Geneva to Lausanne, on the Belgian Railways from Brussels to Bruges and Ghent, on the Moroccan National Railways between Casablanca and Marrakech, on the Bergan Railway from Voss to Myrdal in Norway, and on the Tacna-Arica Railroad from Chile to Peru across the Atacama Desert.

Several short-duration excursion trains were also sampled, such as the Black Hills Central Railroad in South Dakota, the Branson Scenic Railway in Missouri, the Catskill Mountain Railroad in New York, the Mount Hood Railroad in Oregon, the Great Smokey Mountains Railroad to the Nantahala Gorge in North Carolina, the New Tygart Flyer in West Virginia, the Naugatuck Railroad in Connecticut, the West Chester Railroad in Pennsylvania, and the Conway Scenic Rhighway in New Hampshire.

Steam trains are also often taken into account in these track-plying trips. Notable ones are the Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad in California, the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania, the Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia, the Western Maryland Railroad in Maryland, the Wilmington and Western Railroad in Delaware, and the Belvedere and Delaware River Railroad in New Jersey.

However, there is a striking difference. The Beckley Exhibit Coal Mine Carriage in West Virginia, for example, passes through the dark low-pit mine itself, the oxygen content of which was once measured by the strength of the flame of the candle that used it. The Cog Railway, a National Historic Engineering Landmark, grips, like claws mounted on an axle, the track climbing Mount Washington in New Hampshire, sometimes climbing at an angle of more than 37 degrees.

Crossing the Appalachian Trail, it ends in almost winter-like temperatures and clear air atop the 6,288-foot White Mountain, where the four states of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and New York can be seen, along with the Canadian province of Québec.

Narrow rail travel is carried out in Alaska on the White Pass Railroad and the Yukon Route and in Snowdonia National Park in Wales on the Ffestiniog Railroad, while steam locomotives combined with the narrow track, count for travel on the Eastern Broad Upper Railroad. from Orbisonia in Pennsylvania and Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino via Tierra del Fuego National Park in the Patagonian region of Argentina.

Finally, one of the most beautiful and dramatic journeys takes place on the Flam Railway, is Norway’s main tourist attraction.

Tracing its origins in 1895, when its rail roots were first planted in a verbal form, it initially attracted opposition, especially since its Flam station, located at the end of the fjord, was impassable in freezing winter conditions. But support came from Ingolf Elster Christiansen, regional governor at Sogn og Fjordane and later a member of parliament and cabinet minister. The shortest and cheapest rail line, he advocated, would be able to transport products and goods from the Sogn region to eastern Norway, thereby removing them from the Bergen market. However, the advent of the automobile prompted many to consider the road as a better alternative.

On March 1 of the previous year, the Norwegian parliament had approved the construction of the Bergen Railway from Oslo, but there was no provision for the extension of the branch line from it to the Flamsdalen Valley to the Sognefjord. His only artery at that time was a steep, narrow, winding path.

Finally approved, the rail alternative began in 1924 with the manual excavation of 18 of the eventual 20 tunnels, always beginning with drilling a hole in the middle and two or three on either side. cart.

The actual laying of the rails took place between the summer of 1936 and the spring of 1940, when the Norwegian State Railways issued a statement which read, “On `August 1, 1940, the Myrdal-Flam line was opened to temporary traffic of express goods and cargo.”

The following summer was officially designated “Flam Railway.”

The motive traction is initially supplied by steam, but is quickly converted to electricity, which is generated by the Kjosfossen waterfall in the valley it flows through.

Currently, it is the steepest standard gauge railway in Northern Europe.

Released the brakes and inched away from the 865-metre Myrdal Station, the train passed several snow sheds before passing through a 55 percent grade line and offering views of the mountainous plateau and snow-capped peaks of Tarven.

Boring through the Loop Tunnel, which requires internal circumnavigation, it follows a path constructed no more than the edge of a mountain range. A short descent at the 238-meter-high Kjosfossen Station, one of eleven, offers views of a rushing waterfall, cascading down a sheer rock cliff, gray and green, erupting into a fine mist.

Continuing its journey at a speed of no more than 30 kilometers per hour, the Flam Train passes through the Nali Tunnel, the longest of the 20 lines at a speed of 1,341.5 meters, and, after making a sharp turn, passes through Rjoandefossen, one of the highest waterfalls in Norway at an altitude of 140-meter vertical drop.

Below, along the riverbanks of the Flamsdalen Valley, are the velvet green fields and orchards of the area’s farms.

Reducing speed, the train stops at its end, the Flam, flanked by 1,000-meter-high mountains and accessible water by the mirror-reflecting blue Aurlandsfjord, which is also a branch of the Sognefjord, ending its 20.2-kilometer journey on two barely-registerable tracks. . elevation meters.

The city only has a population of 400, but the rail line carries 400,000 passengers a year.