Reflections of Worldwide Rail Journeys

Reflections of Worldwide Rail Journeys

As a four-decade Licensed Journey Agent, worldwide airline worker, researcher, author, instructor, and photographer, journey, whether or not for pleasure or enterprise functions, has all the time been a big and an integral a part of my life. Some 400 journeys to each portion of the globe, by the use of highway, rail, sea, and air, entailed locations each mundane and unique. This text focuses on my worldwide rail journeys.

My Rail Program, spanning the 24-year interval from 1995 to 2009, entailed 45 coal mine, tour steam, narrow-gauge, narrow-gauge steam, cog, short-range, and long-range by 35 rail traces, encompassing 12 international locations, eight Canadian provinces, 22 US states, and greater than 10,000 miles.

Seven long-range journeys in Canada, the US, and Mexico factored into my lifetime rail program. Three of those passed off in Canada.

The primary, on VIA Rail Canada’s The Ocean between Montreal and Halifax, Nova Scotia, coated 1,346 kilometers. Paralleling the S.t Lawrence River and the Gaspe Peninsula, it crossed the road between Quebec and New Brunswick. Traversing its Miramichi Basin, the province’s geographical heart, it plied the Moncton-intersecting tracks, crossing the Nova Scotia border. Circumventing Bedford Basin, it closed the hole to Halifax, finishing its two-day journey.

The second, this time on VIA Rail Canada’s Hudson Bay, was a three-day, 1,697-kilometer journey from Winnipeg to Churchill, thought of the polar bear capital of the world. A night departure noticed it make a gradual, northwesterly climb, skirting Lake Manitoba and Dauphin Lake, earlier than arcing onto a westerly course and threading its method between Using Mountain Nationwide Park and Duck Mountain Provincial Park and reaching Glenella minutes earlier than midnight.

Penetrating the huge, subarctic tundra expanses above the tree line for many of the second day, it arrived in Churchill that night.

A four-day, 4,459-kiilometer eastbound, trans-Canada crossing from Vancouver to Toronto, this time on The Canadian, entailed a traverse of the Rocky Mountains via British Columbia and Alberta, after which a prairie-passing via Saskatchewan’s western low lands. Its Actions Automotive supplied a lounge, books, and video games, and its higher dome afforded magnificent views, together with croissants within the morning and scorching hors d’oeuvres and wine within the night.

Lodging, as with the opposite long-range rail journeys, was in a personal compartment, and all meals, detailed on leather-covered menus, had been supplied within the eating automobile. One such dinner included hen and shataki mushroom cream soup with tarragon; blended greens with French dressing dressing and scorching dinner rolls and butter; apple- and cranberry-stuffed hen breast accompanied by champagne risotto, carrot strips, and asparagus; raspberry-sauce-drizzled chocolate cake; espresso; and chocolate mints.

Touring previous the grain area prairies of the western lowlands, The Canadian chugged via undeveloped forest and the lakes of Whiteshell Provincial Park as the previous couple of kilometers of Manitoba, the province positioned halfway between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans, ticked away. By 1630, having crossed the Manitoba-Ontario border between Winnitoba and Rice Lake, the prepare penetrated the western fringe of the billion-year-old Pre-Cambrian Defend, prevalent with glacier-carved lakes.

The lighted Toronto skyscrapers, looming forward like glittering, jewel-bedecked monoliths, immediately appeared within the distance, in inverse order to these which had receded behind originally of the journey, and grew in measurement with every traversed kilometer. Now inching towards its japanese terminus at Toronto’s Union Station on observe 7 beneath clear, star-twinkling skies and 65-degree temperatures instantly in entrance of the needle-thin CN Tower, The Canadian assumed barely-registerable pace and movement. The tower itself served as each bodily and symbolic affirmation of the journey’s completion.

Three long-range rail journeys additionally passed off within the US.

The primary, at 361 miles, threaded is method from New York’s Penn Station to Montreal because the Adirondack, passing via the Hudson Valley, the Adirondack Mountains, and Lake Champlain, earlier than briefly stopping on the Canadian Customs checkpoint of Cantic, Quebec, after which continuing via flat farmland and over the St. Lawrence River to its vacation spot.

A US transcontinental counterpart to the Canadian one, albeit within the reverse or westerly, path, and solely protecting two-thirds of the way in which, occurred on Amtrak’s California Zephyr from Chicago to Emeryville (serving San Francisco), California. Gliding over the Nice Plains of Nebraska on its three-day, 2,438-mile journey, it crossed the Colorado state line and approached the majestic Rocky Mountains, paralleling the snaking Colorado River, and threading its method via chiseled canyons, rust-red rock, and initially small, pine tree-dotted hills. The Continental Divide-crossing Moffat Runnel, at 6.2 miles in size, constituted the route’s longest, and pinnacled at a 9,240-foot elevation.

Lodging was within the Bilevel Superliner’s first-class compartment, meals had been within the eating automobile, and two interpretive applications in regards to the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains got, whereas the decrease stage of its sightseeing lounge and cafĂ© supplied fare for vacationer class passenger buy.

Persevering with previous the Nice Salk Lake in Utah, it entered California, the seventh and final state on its route. Continuing via Truckee, it entered Donner Go and arched its method via its horseshoe curve to the two-mile-long Tunnel 41. Alternatively generally known as the “Massive Gap,” it bored its method via the Sierra Nevada Mountains at a 7,040-foot elevation. Rising from the mountains and not topographically speed-restricted it traveled via the flat tan, brown, and inexperienced geometry of the Sacramento Valley till the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and city-signature, pyramid-shaped Transamerica Tower affirmed its strategy to and imminent arrival in Emeryville.

The third long-range US rail journey coated 1,389 miles throughout its West Coast climb from Los Angeles to Seattle within the Coast Starlite, crossing the rolling inexperienced Santa Cruz Mountains and threading its method via Pajero Hole, earlier than coming into the Santa Clara Valley.

A peak via the curtains at 0650 revealed an otherworldly vista sharply contrastive to that of yesterday, leaving one to marvel if a spot in pace and time had in some way not been accounted for. The intense blue of the Pacific had been changed by volcanic mountain peaks and blankets of snow. A skinny line of lifeless orange, glowing on the japanese horizon, flowed up over the darkish, grey cloud obstruction like molten lava, oozing via till it had efficiently eaten via its cowl and created a large number of chilly, orange fissures which progressively burned via the in any other case thick, metallic grey insulation. Following the winding tracks via northern California, the silver, bilevel Superliner automobiles had thread their method via tall, thick pine abreast of 14,162-foot, snow-draped Mount Shasta, the tallest peak within the Cascade Mountain vary. Burning with better fury, daybreak’s volcanic eruption lit the sky between two volcanic peaks a fiery orange, spreading its flames throughout the cloud material till it had engulfed it with burning victory. As the sunshine now penetrated the home windows of the prepare, the dual-floored metropolis of the Coast Starlight awoke.

Dinner that night included a blended salad with bleu cheese dressing; Pacific salmon with white wine sauce, rice pilaf, and inexperienced beans; cheese cake with strawberry sauce and whipped cream; and low.

The Coast Starlite proceeded over the Oregon-Washington state line via Tacoma to it Seattle vacation spot.

The seventh long-range rail journey, from Chihuahua to Los Mochis within the Chihuahua Al Pacifico Railroad, bored its method via Mexico’s Copper Canyon, its pre-dawn departure inviting breakfast within the eating automobile. This consisted of a ham and cheese omelet, fried potatoes with peppers and onions, refried beans with cotija cheese, and tortillas and salsa.

Plunging via Tunnel 4, at 4,134.8 toes, the road’s longest and marking the third Continental Divide crossing, it subsequently climbed 8,071-foot Los Ojitos, passing mountain and canyon topography.

An in a single day keep in a lodge in Posada Barrancas preceded a re-departure the next afternoon. The prepare, descending into the Santa Barbara Canyon, proceeded via the city of El Fuente, lurching beneath darkish, velvet, star-studded skies because it coated the remaining distance to Los Mochis. Snagging its brakes at 2205 native time after a 16-hour, 20-minute journey (excluding the in a single day cease). It linked the plains with the Pacific by the use of the Copper canyon, in what might solely be labeled a feat of railroad engineering.

Though all of those long-range journeys employed the “journey is the vacation spot” theme and had been taken to facilitated analysis and guide,.log, and article writing, a number of others, whereas relative quick in period, had been taken for pure-travel functions, reminiscent of these 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 Nationwide 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 throughout the Atacama Desert.

A number of short-duration tour trains had been additionally sampled, such because 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 Nice 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 Railroad in New Hampshire.

Steam trains additionally steadily factored into these track-plying journeys. Notable had been 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.

There have been notable variations, nevertheless. The Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine prepare in West Virginia, for instance, bored via the low, darkish mine itself, whose oxygen ranges had been as soon as measured by the power of the candle flames harnessing them. The Cog Railway, a Nationwide Historic Engineering Landmark, clutched, like axel-installed claws, the tracks up New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, generally climbing at greater than 37-degree angles.

Crossing the Appalachian Path, it terminated on the virtually winter-like temperatures and rarefied air of the 6,288-foot White Mountain summit, the place the 4 states of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and New York might be seen, together with the province of Quebec in Canada.

Slim gauge rail journeys had been taken in Alaska with the White Go and Yukon Route Railroad and in Snowdonia Nationwide Park in Wales with the Ffestiniog Railroad, whereas steam locomotives mixed with narrow-gauge tracks, accounted for journeys on the East Broad Prime Railroad from Orbisonia in Pennsylvania and the Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino via Tierra del Fuego Nationwide Park in Argentina’s Patagonian area.

Lastly, some of the scenic and dramatic journeys occurred on the Flam Railway, was Norway’s main vacationer attraction.

Tracing its origins to 1895, when its rail roots had been first planted in verbal kind, it initially attracted opposition, significantly as a result of its Flam station, positioned on the finish of a fjord, would have been impassable in icing winter circumstances. However assist got here from Ingolf Elster Christiansen, county governor in Sogn og Fjordane and later a member of parliament and a cupboard minister. The shortest and most cost-effective rail line, he advocated, would be capable of transport merchandise and items from the Sogn area to japanese Norway, thus eradicating them from the Bergen market. Nevertheless, the appearance of the auto prompted many to contemplate a highway the higher different.

On March 1 of the earlier yr, the Norwegian parliament had already accredited building of the Bergen Railroad from Oslo, however there was no provision for a department line extension from it down the Flamsdalen Valley to the Sognefjord. Its solely artery was then a steep, slender, winding pack horse path.

Finally accredited, the rail different started in 1924 with the guide excavation of 18 of its eventual 20 tunnels, which all the time started with the drilling of a middle gap and two or three on both of its sides, Its fragments had been eliminated by horse-pulled dumping wagons.

Precise observe laying occurred between the summer season of 1936 and the spring of 1940, at which era the Norwegian State Railways issued an announcement that learn, “On `1 August 1940, the Myrdal-Flam line is opened for non permanent site visitors of specific items and freight.”

The next summer season it was formally designated the “Flam Railway.”

Motive traction was initially steam-supplied, however was shortly transformed to electrical energy, generated by the Kjosfossen waterfall within the very valley it plied.

Right this moment, it’s the steepest standard-gauge railroad in Northern Europe.

Releasing its brakes and inching away from 865-meter-high Myrdal Station, the prepare handed via a couple of snow sheds earlier than plying the 55-percent grade observe and providing breathtaking vistas of mountain plateaus and snow-draped Tarven peak.

Boring via the Loop Tunnel, which entailed an inner circumnavigation, it adhered to the observe that was constructed into nothing greater than the mountains’ ledges. A short alight on the 238-meter-high Kjosfossen Station, one in all eleven, supplied views of the pounding waterfall, which poured down the craggy, grey and inexperienced rock banks, erupting into ethereal mist.

Persevering with its journey at not more than a 30-kph pace, the Flam Railway handed via the Nali Tunnel, the longest of the road’s 20 at 1,341.5 meters, and, after executing hairpin turns, handed Rjoandefossen, one in all Norway’s highest waterfalls with a 140-meter vertical drop.

Under, alongside the Flamsdalen Valley’s riverbanks, had been the velvet-green fields and orchards of the world’s farms.

Lowering pace, the prepare pulled into its terminus, Flam, flanked by 1,000-meter mountains and water-accessed by the blue, mirror-reflecting Aurlandsfjord, itself a department of the Sognefjord, ending its 20.2-kilometer journey at a barely registerable two-meter elevation.

The city had a inhabitants of solely 400, however the railroad carried 400,000 passengers per yr.

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