My latest Post.

This view,this beauty
A tear unbidden
Creeps into my eye.

My stay is short
But I shall return to this place
If only my life is long enough.

Such beauty
Gazing upon it
I hope my years are many.

Bokusui Wakayama.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Trains, Trains and more Trains.

   In my post, "My Pet Peeves - Litter", I shared with you one of my (many) obsessions. This post is about another of my obsessions - Trains.
   This interest (a more appropriate description) commenced back when I was a child, and where I was raised. Dunsandel is a small rural town situated on State Highway-1, midway between Christchurch and Ashburton Cities, as well as on the South-Island Main Trunk Rail-Line. For most of my childhood my father worked as an Assistant Station-Master at the Dunsandel Railway-Station (unfortunately the station isn't there anymore) and, being the main loading-point for the rural area, was kept very-busy, especially 
Tr-18 Shunting-Train.
with the loading of  livestock. It was trains, like in the image on the left, that would call-into the "yard", connect any loaded wagons, before heading-off to the main freight-yards in Christchurch. As the son of  one of the station staff, I was privileged to be able to ride in the cabin of one of these as it shunted up-and-down the yard. But the highlight for me was to stand on the platform as the Christchurch-to-Dunedin passenger express rolled-through. These things were enormous giants and, as they roared-past, they would be clocking in excess of 70m.p.h. 
Steam Locomotive. 
It was one thing to experience this,but another to be riding on one. Railways staff were given generous discounts on the rail network, and I was fortunate to have travelled on the North-Island Main Trunk Line that ran between Wellington and Auckland Cities, one of the most spectacular rail journeys in the world (of course I would say that).
   Lets come forward to 1993, and the network of Rail Enthusiasts Clubs spread throughout Great Britain. And let me tell you, there are many. My first experience was at the Bluebell Railway in the south-east of England.
C-Class No 592
Steam Locomotive.
I shall be eternally-grateful to my Auntie & Uncle for bringing me here. After 25-years, since my last ride on a steam locomotive, it was great to ride on something so beautiful, old and well maintained. The 10-mile trip through the very-scenic English countryside was also a delight. This was, unfortunately, my only opportunity to experience this in England. But it was the Narrow Gauge Railways of Wales that was to grab my attention (and time & money). The wee-beauties were incredible, not just for the way they had been faithfully restored & maintained, but for the magnificent scenery they took one through. Take for instance, The Snowdonia. Could you imagine yourself taking a train-ride to the summit of one of the tallest mountains in Britain (Map)? Well, that's where "Enid", or one of the many other trains will take you. If you think you haven't the stomach for this, you can always hike up to the summit.                                                                                           
Earl of Merioneth
The Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways was also a delight to experience. Commencing at the village of Portmadog this short 13.5-mile trip takes you through the misty hills, so typical of Wales, to the hill-side village of Blaenau Ffestiniog (try pronouncing that). From here I was able to take the regular B.R.Train to Conwy.
Vale of Rheidol.
I can't leave Wales without telling you about the Vale of Rheidol Railway. Commencing at the seaside town of Aberystwyth this 12-mile trip takes you up the Rheidol Valley to Devils Bridge. Because of the open-carriage one was able to become very-close to nature - sight & sound. This journey is a nature lovers delight.
The Jacobite.
   Onto Scotland and where better to start, than Fort William. You should recognize this bridge from the "Harry Potter" movies. Once a week, the local steam enthusiasts use the B.R. Rail-Line through the port town of Mallaig, with the freight-wagon converted into a museum (with views such as in the attached image,I wasn't too concerned with the museum), with continual commentary during the course of the journey. With a hot-coffee and scone, I was in heaven.
   Lets now come forward to the present, and Japan. Japan does have it's rail-museums and steam-excursion lines, but not on the same scale as in Britain. Today's Rail Transportation in Japan is very important to the countries infrastructure, and it's history dates-back to the 1870's when the first line was opened between Tokyo and Yokohama. The best way to describe the rail network here is to compare it with the Vascular System of the Human Body. There are not many places you can't get to where there isn't a rail line to take you there on. And, if there isn't a rail-service, there is sure to be a bus-service. By my reckoning, there are twelve types of Railway Lines in Japan. I will cover a few of the ones I have traveled-on, beginning with the Shinkansen (commonly known as the "Bullet-Train).
Yours Truly
Shin-Osaka Station.
N700 Series.

My first Shinkansen experience happened in 2004 when we traveled to Kyushu. I was fortunate to have been invited to the Guards office to view the bank of monitors displaying the trains operation. To see the needle move from 0-to-280kmph in just a few seconds was awesome. I have traveled on the Shinkansen many-times since then and, if you want to get from a-to-b in a hurry, this is the best way to do it but, if you want to see some great Japanese scenery, this isn't the best way - most of the lines go-through tunnels and are lined by barrier-fences.
J.R.Rail Express and Local Trains
Kyoto Station.
In the image on the left are two of Japan Rail's Main/Suburban Line trains - the Super-Express (on the left) and the Rapid/Local (on the right). The Super-Express you pay extra to ride on (over-and-above the normal fare) but it only stops at a few stations. There is a catering service provided (one is best to take their own food/drink as you pay a lot more). The Rapid, which you pay the regular fare, stops at more stations than it's bigger-brother. The Local means just that.
Yours Truly
Kamo Station.

 My favorite trains are the country lines, like the Kansai Main Line, and their fleet of  KiHa 120 Diesel Trains. These are a community train, where everyone-knows-everyone, and travel-through some great back-country scenery. There are many programs on television about these lines that involve the people who work/travel on these trains, the villages and stations and, let's not forget, the scenery.
KiHa 120 Diesel Train.

In the coming weeks, during the winter months, when (I hope) there is plenty of snow on the ground, I plan to  travel this line (again) taking photos of the scenery for a blog I will attach to this post.
Funicular Cable-Car
of the
Eizan Railways.

The Funicular Cable-Car are quite common throughout Japan and, like the "Snowdonia" in Wales, are an experience to travel on. The shape of the vehicle is similar to that of the grade of the hill you are about to ascend/descend and, once inside, accessing your seat is similar to that of a Douglas DC-3 airplane - you have to climb your way to your seat.
   Before I sign-off, let me tell you about the Umekoji Steam Museum (website) and Umekoji Steam Museum (Wikipedia) in Kyoto City. I stumbled-across this facility quite-by-accident in 2003 as I was passing it while travelling on the J.R.Kyoto Line
C612 Steam Locomotive
Umekoji Steam Museum, Kyoto.
The sight of 20 Locomotives, all parked in an arch, with three in full steam, raised my excitement-level to the point of jumping-off the train. But, if we weren't travelling in excess of 100kmph at the time, I would have. I returned the following day.
Steam Locomotive with Carriages.
The complex is well laid-out - you enter via a museum, which includes a replica of  George Stephensons "Rocket" - which features a Roundhouse, with a walkway connecting several of the static displays plus Locomotives that are steamed-up, a Turntable plus a short track used for exhibition trips (needless-to-say I went for a ride).
Yours Truly

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