When the pandemic struck wife Sarah and I withdrew from society. Soon after lockdown I made a list of “silly” things to do whilst holed up. One mad idea was to travel the world using the internet visiting railroads that I would never be able to visit. This is one of them.
As I mentioned in an earlies post I have been reading a lot about the people who came to Egypt and built the pyramids. In one of the many “things” I have read was a reference to a railway that runs more than 400 miles across the Sahara in Mauritania. Mauritania is a huge country in Northwest Africa. It is the eleventh largest sovereign state in Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara to the north and northwest, Algeria to the northeast, Mali to the east and southeast, and Senegal to the southwest. At more than 430 miles long, the Mauritania Railway has been transporting iron ore across the blistering heat of the Sahara Desert since 1963.
I have NO wish to ride this railroad. You’ll see why when you watch the vid: Click on the vid ro read the “script.]
Until very, very recently I thought that this song told the story of the last train to San Fernando:
For the first time in my life this ghastly pandemic has enabled me to sit at home and cruise the ‘net. In the course thereof I have found a LOT of interesting stuff (to me that is) about the geometry of the pyramids, the geniuses who built the pyramids and the orientation of ancient monuments to the night sky. In the midst of my self-education(?) I have watched NUMEROUS train related videos.
To cut to the chase – the story in the above song is NOT about the last train to San Fernando.
Most people will tell you that San Fernando’s last service train was hauled by engine TGR No11 which today is on display at Harris Promenade, San Fernando. This is incorrect.
The very last train, as the video below reveals, was the service which departed platform 1, Port of Spain railway station on Monday August 30th 1965 at 5:12 pm (it was 37 minutes late, scheduled to depart at 4:35 pm). The Locomotive which hauled the last service train was TGR (Trinidad Government Railway) Engine No27, which was a member of the 21 Class 4-6-0 locomotives.
This train really was the very last passenger train to San Fernando.
Here she is:
Over the years both the event and the song – “The Last Train to San Fernando” – have become a part of Trinidad folklore, although largely through myth rather than fact.
“Last Train” was composed by MIGHTY SPITFIRE (local Trinidad Calypsonian, whose real name was Carlton Joseph Gumbs) in the 1940s as — “a celebration of a late night stay in Port of Spain rather than the allusion to the closing of the San Fernando line”. A listing of the Trinidad Calypso Monarch competition winners over the years lists thr song as the 1950 winner, composed by the MIGHTY DICTATOR (his Real name was Kenny St Bernard). The closure of the line to San Fernando occurred in 1965, a full 15 years after the song won the 1950 Monarch Competition.
Listen carefully to the lyric on the following vid (which really shows the last train to San Fernando) you’ll hear that the song has nothing to do with the closure of the San Fernando line at all.
Nevertheless, over the years it has certainly taken on a symbolic significance almost becoming the remembrance anthem for the closure of the Railway to San Fernando. Perhaps, justifiably so because it is fabled to have been played by guitarist as the “Last Train to San Fernando” pulled out of Port of Spain in 1965.
I was attracted to this vid in part because I had relatives who lived very close to St. Helens in Lancashire in the north of England. Alas, I have not seen the Bellerophon. Bearing all her Victorian elegance she was built in 1874 by Haydock Foundry, near St Helens, Lancashire She worked at Haydock Collieries. After a working life of ninety years, Berllerophon finally retired in 1964 since when she has been a popular engine, running on a number of heritage railways around England. Her exploits on the 1 in 19 Foxfield Bank have become legendary for a locomotive nearly 150 years old.
These vids got me into a lot of hot water. Wife Sarah could not understand how I could spend so much time watching vids of train journeys, So a warning to the wise these vids are looooooooooong. The original post does not tell you how long each is. The site has a lot of advertising “clutter” on it so I have taken it apart and added a bit of personal stuff. So here we go with number one.
The Bernina Railway
Switzerland’s Unesco listed Berninabahn (Bernina Railway) is one of the world’s most spectacular mountain railways. It contains some of the highest (over 7,000 feet) railway crossings in Europe and is one of the steepest railways in the world. This vid last TWO HOURS and takes you through the section between St.Moritz in Switzerland and Triano in Italy. The alpine mountains make a spectacular backdrop to this trip. I have actually made this journey and can attest that it is great. Note that this a narrow gauge railway.
Line 7, NYC Subway
I have ridden the NYC Subway but never this route. While the number 7 NYC subway express line might not be among the prettiest train journeys in the world, for real and wannabe New Yorkers, it remains a cultural experience. The route offers some iconic views of the New York City skyline in its above-ground sections. This virtual train journey takes you on the Manhattan-bound leg of the train line nicknamed the “international express” due to the number of ethnic neighborhoods it crosses. The unique front-facing view in the video also gives a pleasantly calm feel to a rush-hour commuter train journey. This vids takes 41 MINUTES.
The Nagaragawa Railway
Number 3. When you think of Japanese trains, the first thing that likely comes to mind is super-fast bullet trains that remain one of Japan’s cultural icons. However, Japan also possesses a vast network of rural railway lines that take its citizens and visitors nearly everywhere in the country. This journey takes you on the Nagaragawa Railway in Gifu Prefecture and winds through a snowy winter wonderland surrounded by high mountains. Grab some ramen or a bento box to complete the feeling of traveling through Japan in the middle of winter. I have never been to Japan so this was a revelation to me. Travel time is 43 MINUTES.
The Flåm Railway
The Flåm railway line is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions. Although only 20 kilometers long, it packs a massive amount of dreamy Norwegian mountain scenery into a short space of time. It’s also one of the steepest standard gauge railways in the world as it climbs up through remote mountain villages in Norway’s Vestland province. This vid takes you along the windy, steep, and breathtaking route from the train driver’s point of view. Alas, I have never been to Norway. This one lasts 40 MINUTES.
The Belgrade to Bar Railway
This is the fifth vid trip. The Belgrade to Bar railway, which takes travelers from Serbia’s capital city to the Adriatic coast in Montenegro. It is one of the world’s greatest feats of railway engineering. The line, which crosses the region’s mountainous terrain, has 254 tunnels and 234 bridges. This video journey takes you on the final section of the route from Bijelo Polje to Bar and brings you through high mountain ravines down a 3000 feet elevation change before stopping just short of the coast. This one lasts 3 HOURS 26 MINUTES. And yes, I have watched all of it.
VIA Rail Canada – Toronto to Vancouver
I have not taken this one in one foul swoop. When I lived and worked in Canada part of my job was to visit all of the major cities in Canada, Rather than sit in an Air Canada tobacco smoke filled cabin of an egg beater I would try to go from city to city by train. I did from Toronto to Winnipeg, Winnipeg to Calgary, Calgary to Vancouver or Edmonton to Vancouver.. Traveling from Toronto to Vancouver takes at least three days and four nights. If you fancy making the same journey in 16 Minutes, then this compressed account of an epic trans-Canadian railway journey is worth checking out. The comprehensive video showcases the highlights of a three-day railway journey from a passenger’s point of view. It includes shots of meals, sleeping arrangements, and some fantastic scenery.
Nothing like a trip by train when you are at home.
I was talking to a gentleman at our Model Railroad a while back who thought I was an Aussie. Before I could tell him otherwise he asked me if I knew of Slim Dusty. I replied, “Yes.” “Then, ” he said you being “into” trains you know his song about the Indian Pacific.” Before I could answer he said, “You sound just like Slim in his song, “G’day, G’Day.”
As is usual as a result of such encounters I jot down something to help remind me of the conversation and to look up what I was presumed to know. Today I found a note with the words, “G’day, G’Day,” recalled the conversation and wrote this blog ………
If you want to learn Oz the song, “G’day, G’Day” is as good a place to start as any.
The Indian Pacific is Australia’s most famous train. It runs across Australia from Sydney to Perth. (Click to enlarge the map.)
Indian Pacific Route Map with elevations
It is one of the few truly transcontinental trains in the world. The train’s route includes the world’s longest straight stretch of railway track, a 297 mile stretch over the Nullarbor Plain. The length of the journey is 2,704 miles and takes between 70 and 75 hours.
This vid by Slim Dusty gives you an idea of what the Indian Pacific is all about.
My good friend and club member Hank Simonson and his wife Flo rode the Indian Pacific when they visited Oz to meet Flo’s cousins. Hank told me it was the highlight of his retirement.
Video editor Denis Shiryaev has remastered the iconic 1895 Lumière Brothers film “L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat” into a 4K high definition version at 60 frames per second. Shiryaev achieved this through neural network learning, which smoothed out the rough edges of the original.
Truly remarkable for a film taken over 125 years ago.
Douglas, Wyoming isn’t a very big place – 6,120 people at the 2010 census. Its former railroad passenger depot is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Douglas was platted in 1886 when the Wyoming Central Railway (later the Chicago and North Western Transportation Company) established a railway station; the settlement had been in existence since 1867 when Fort Fetterman was built and was first known as “Tent City” before it was officially named “Douglas”, after Senator Stephen A. Douglas. It served as a supply point, warehousing and retail, for surrounding cattle ranches, as well as servicing railway crews, cowboys and the troops of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Fetterman.
None of the above tells you why Club Member Dan Fessler went to visit Douglas – he went to the Railroad Museum there. The Douglas Railroad Museum is housed in the historic FE & MV Railroad Passenger Depot. The historic depot was updated in 2018 and today features exhibits highlighting Douglas and the region’s railroad history. The building is listed on the National Historic Register and is surrounded by seven historic railcars including the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad 4-8-4 Steam Locomotive #5633. The steam loco was built in Burlinghton, Iowa in September 1940. She remained in service until 1956.
Visitors are invited to climb aboard many of the rail cars including a day coach, a dining car and a new caboose exhibit. Here’s a gallery of the pics he took on his visit: