Tag: Train Travel

The Old Patagonian Express Rumbles On

I’ve always thought “The Old Patagonian Express,” Paul Theroux’s book about his trip from the U.S. down to South America by train, was one of his best.

I’ve sometimes wondered what became of the old train he writes about near the book’s end—the one he seized on for the title. It turns out, it’s still operating.

The same starkness of place that struck Theroux in the high Patagonian desert remains. Like a photograph from an earlier era, the train and the landscape remain unchanged.

High-Speed Rail in Australia?

Only if the country gives up its “national can’t-do mentality,” says Clive Dorman.

Interview With Carl Hoffman: Riding ‘The Lunatic Express’

Jim Benning asks the author about the joys and challenges of traveling in steerage

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76-Second Travel Show: The Best of the Trans-Siberian Railway

Robert Reid explains why the new virtual train ride can never replace the real thing

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Video You Must See: Tokyo Sky Drive

Video You Must See: Tokyo Sky Drive Photo by Ian Muttoo via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A mirroring effect turns a nighttime ride on Tokyo's raised monorail into something more

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Recommended Reading in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

The Millions asks its contributors to recommend reading material suited to different modes of transportation. Sample recommendation for travel by train: “I like the Russians for train travel. When you’re watching the natural landscape—the largely uninhabited regions—of a country fly by in flashes, it just feels right to be reading stories that take place over the great land mass of Mother Russia.”

President Obama Says Yes to High-Speed Rail Plans

It’s not often that a major Presidential speech makes ears perk up in the travel media—but President Obama happily got our attention this week when he talked high-speed rail during his State of the Union address Wednesday. Here’s part of what Obama said:

[F]rom the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the new factories that manufacture clean-energy products.

Then yesterday in Tampa he outlined where $8 billion in grants will go: A Tampa-Orlando-Miami route in Florida is first up, with projects in California, Illinois and elsewhere to follow. The Christian Science Monitor and NPR have more on the details.

And the response? Bruce Watson of Daily Finance is optimistic, pointing out that an improved rail network’s benefits go well beyond the employment created by the trains themselves. He writes:

For years, critics have argued that rail ticket sales don’t cover the cost of passenger service. However, the same could be said of America’s highway and airline infrastructure, both of which receive far more state and federal funding than Amtrak. The key point is that passenger rail’s profitability doesn’t accrue to the rail line—which will almost always operate at a deficit—but rather to the areas that it serves, where the influx of people will bring business opportunities, tourist dollars and other investment.

Time’s Bryan Walsh is more skeptical. He predicts that much of the money will likely be spent shoring up existing service rather than creating shiny new TGV-style lines, and adds, “America’s antiquated rail system will have to advance a long way just to make it to the present, let alone the future.”

Finally, Politico’s Josh Gerstein picks up on Obama’s recent quip about passengers keeping their shoes on when boarding passenger trains—and ponders why security is so different on trains and planes.

Wi-Fi Coming to Amtrak’s Acela Trains

Jaunted notes that the service should be in place on Acela, the northeastern corridor express trains, by March. It’s a step—but I’d rather have on-board internet access over a two-day long-haul ride, myself. Here’s hoping the long-distance routes are up next.

Photo You Must See: Troop Train in China

Photo You Must See: Troop Train in China REUTERS/Stringer Shanghai
REUTERS/Stringer Shanghai

Paramilitary police recruits wave goodbye to family before leaving a railway station in Changzhi, China.

The Benefits of Writing in Trains

Most of the writers featured in Emily St. John Mandel’s essay in the Millions write on trains out of necessity: They need to squeeze in writing time whenever they can, even if it means doing so during a commute. But there’s something else about trains, Mandel writes, that’s “oddly conducive to writing.”

For me it’s not so much about the hand writing—I write almost everything in longhand before I transcribe it to my computer anyway, whether I’m at my desk or on the F train—but the rhythm and the white noise, the momentum of travel, the feeling of being immersed in the life of the city.

Agreed. I occasionally write on trains out of necessity, but the rhythm of the rails does help me focus. It’s great. Until I miss my stop.

Photos: The World’s Most Architecturally Interesting Subway Stations

Photos: The World’s Most Architecturally Interesting Subway Stations Photo by Mike Knell via Flickr (Creative Commons)

As compiled by designboom. The gallery includes shots from Stockholm, Bilbao, Shanghai and Munich (pictured), among others. (Via Coudal)

Photo by Mike Knell via Flickr (Creative Commons)


What Psychologists Have Learned From Watching You on the Subway

Tom Vanderbilt looks at what psychologists have gathered from studying subway riders, and why the subway is “a perfect rolling laboratory for the study of human behavior.”

As the sociologists M.L. Fried and V.J. De Fazio once noted, “The subway is one of the few places in a large urban center where all races and religions and most social classes are confronted with one another and the same situation.”

Or situations. The subway presents any number of discrete, and repeatable, moments of interaction, opportunities to test how “situational factors” affect outcomes. A pregnant woman appears: Who will give up his seat first? A blind man slips and falls. Who helps? Someone appears out of the blue and asks you to mail a letter. Will you? In all these scenarios much depends on the parties involved, their location on the train and the location of the train itself, and the number of other people present, among other variables. And rush-hour changes everything.

World Travel Watch: Demonstrations in Venezuela, Clashes in Namibia and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Is This a New Golden Age for Train Travel?

Tony Naylor doesn’t think so. In this piece in the Guardian, he argues that rail travel isn’t the comfortable, scenic, low-carbon alternative to to air travel that it’s cracked up to be. Here’s a taste:

Four years ago, I decided to limit the number of times I would fly each year to one transatlantic flight, or two within Europe… The idea of the train as a far more authentic and civilised—not to mention non-lethal—mode of travel was seductive.

The reality, however, is more complex. You see more of the world, for sure, but that is a mixed blessing.

The Man in Seat 61 responds here.

Video You Must See: ‘Artificial’ in the London Underground

Paul Bryan captures the artificial atmospheric conditions of the London Underground.

High-Speed Rail Watch: From Russia to America?

A new breed of locomotive-less high-speed train will launch in Russia in December, running between St. Petersburg and Moscow—and Siemens, the German company behind the new model, is hoping to bring it to America next. The New York Times has the details.

Interview With Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith: ‘Clean Breaks’

Joanna Kakissis talks green travel, greenwashing and experiential journeys with the authors of a new book

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Travel Song of the Day: ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ by Gladys Knight and the Pips

Aboard the ‘Ladies Special’ in India

The New York Times reports from a new women-only commuter train in Delhi, part of a pilot program spanning four major Indian cities that’s aimed at cutting down on the harassment of female passengers. I’m thrilled to hear about the program, but here’s hoping it will only need to be a short-term solution—as one interviewee noted in the story, “You really need to make every train as safe as the Ladies Specials.”

London to Edinburgh in 2:16

That would be the journey time—down from 4.5 hours—if a new high-speed rail plan goes ahead in Britain. The possible line is just one of several high-speed rail proposals we’ve been keeping tabs on.