Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

This summer, as a special treat to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary, we went on holiday to California. Our holiday was planned around tourism and family things but, by sheer coincidence, one of the places we stayed was two miles from the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Honestly, it really was a coincidence!

I arrived on a brilliantly sunny morning, and collected my ticket from the ticket office.

In the early 20th Century the original railroad was constructed by the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company. At one point it had seven locomotives, over 100 log cars, and 140 miles of track through these mountains. The company operated by clear cutting, the removal of every tree in a parcel of land. As a result the track was laid into an area, all the trees were felled and the track was removed and relaid in a new area. They had a sawmill a couple of miles from the present railroad and they transported the lumber 54 miles to Madera county using a flume, a man made water channel. Unfortunately, the depression and a lack of trees caused the logging operation and the railroad to close in 1931. It is said that if all the trees that were removed from this area were laid end to end they would stretch three times around the equator.

Fortunately, the trackbed, gradients and rights of way remained in existance and the current railroad was established in 1961.

My train didn’t depart for some time so I could look around the depot. The train was headed by this Shay…

Number 10 is a 3 foot gauge Shay built by the Lima Locomotive Works in Ohio in 1928 . She is a huge locomotive. she weighs 81 tons and I was told she is the largest narrow gauge Shay ever built. Originally owned by the Pickering Lumber Company she worked for the West Side Lumber Company from 1934, until being purchased by the YMSPRR in 1961.

Number 10 is oil fired with three pivoting trucks (one under the tender) and drive to all 12 wheels. Here’s the front truck and part of the drive mechanism. The large cylinder is for the Westinghouse air brakes.

Here’s a close up of the bevel gears used to drive each axle.

Here is one of the longitudinal drive shafts. You can see the square sliding prismatic joints to allow the drive shaft to contract or expand to accommodate the rotation of the swiveling trucks.

Here’s one of the universal joints and part of the reverser shaft.

A close up of where the three cylinders connect to the drive shaft, and more of the reverser shaft.

On the other side of the loco is the pump for the air brakes.

Ephraim Shay was a schoolteacher and a civil servant before becoming a logger and a railway engineer. Also, he was a shrewd business man. He obtained several patents to cover this unique loco design. No 10 has a plate listing some of the patents, presumably to remind anyone that it might not be a good idea to copy the design.

After inspecting the Shay I looked at the passenger cars, some were covered…

…and others were open air log cars.

I walked down the depot past No. 402, a centre cab diesel.

This is the engine shed. Inside on the left is the line’s other Shay locomotive, No 15, built in 1913 and acquired by the YMSPRR in 1988 after she had been on static display for a number of years. On the right is one of the lines Jenny Railcars, Ford Model A automobiles converted for rail use. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to ask for permission to enter the shed and take some photos.

Outside the shed was every railroad modeller’s favourite accessory – a classic American pick up.

I boarded the train. With a lovely, deep whistle and the sound of the bell  ringing we headed off into the forest. The Shay has a very different exhaust note from the English engines I am used to. The whistle, bell and exhaust sounded fantastic and for the first time I understood why some modellers want to use DCC sound.

The first part of the line is downhill. The engineer told me he applies light braking downhill, this stretch out the cars slightly to give him more control. The locos use local water which is full of minerals. To stop the pipe work becoming blocked they blow out pipes once every journey. It’s an impressive sight. The steam is released at 450 psi and over 300 degrees F.

About half way round the tour we made a 10 minute stopover at Lewis Creek Canyon. The tender took on water…

…and I got the opportunity to talk to the engineer. (He’s the one on the left in case you were wondering 🙂 )

The return journey was mostly uphill. You could feel the power of the Shay and the sound of the engine was great.

After our hour long journey we arrived back at the main depot. I visited the Thornberry Logging Museum. They had this steam donkey engine that was used to pull logs to the railway or to the sawmill.

This gas (petrol) powered dragsaw was used to cut logs to size. These were the forerunners of the modern chainsaw.

Finally, I took a walk down the line and found some of the other stock. Firstly, this impressive snow plow (plough).

I’m told that is was the West Side Lumber Company’s plow No. 2 and it is rare to see a narrow gauge snowplow.

I think it would make a super model.

There was this enormous bogie tank wagon. Look at the aged wooden frame.

A simple bogie, flat wagon.

Finally, I was surprised to find No. 5, a two axle diesel switch engine built in 1935.

No. 5 didn’t seemed to have moved for a while and I was told she’s not operational at the moment.

Visiting the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad was an unexpected surprise, and a great pleasure.

Yes, I can say ‘I’ve been there, and I got the T shirt’.

 

 

 

 

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Beds ‘n’ Buck at Leighton Buzzard Railway

The boys from the Beds and Buck Narrow Gauge Modellers put on an exhibition at the Leighton Buzzard Railway today. Pages Park station was a great venue, there were lots of layouts and the visitors (young and old) were really interested in the displays.

Pride of place, right opposite the enterance, with a welcoming smile went to John Rees and his Old Oak layout. Everytime I see his layout John has done more work on it. John has added grass and sheep. All good layouts have sheep on them!

David Gander brought Green End which featured the ‘Narrow Gauge is Fun’ sign you see at the beginning of the blog. David mentioned this was the last time Green End will be exhibited. I think I’ve heard that before, but I was worried it might be true so I asked if I could operate. David kindly let me. It’s a nice layout to operate, simple controls that are easy to understand, and everything works well. Even I didn’t manage to crash anything!

Everyone likes a ‘landie’….

Danny Figg specialises in small or unusual layouts and he brought an interesting selection. Here’s Newnes Street Bridge a layout built for a competition at Expo Narrow Gauge.

This is the Owoh Nine Wells Watercress Farm. This working layout is built in a box file and measures approximately 34 x 24.5 cm.

Danny is creating a 1:32 scale loco from an inexpensive plastic toy.

Also, Danny brought “Emmenthal Incline”, a working incline layout built by Dawn Figg. It makes eveyone smile.

Brian Key exhibited Ilfracombe East. It represents a fictional extension of the Lynton and Barnstable Railway. It is really well modelled and the stock is lovely.

A Kerr Stuart in Southern Green…?

Brian’s layout even features the competitors every narrow gauge railway fears – charabangs!

All of the locos, stock and buildings on the layout are scratch- or kit-built, although Brian has recently invested in a Heljan loco. The detailing on the loco is excellent. Brian tells me he ran it for over an hour on his test track yesterday and he is very chuffed how well it runs.

Late in the day I spotted this very nice railcar, but I didn’t manage to get any details about it from Brian.

Tony Clarke’s Mirkwood is a narrow gauge railway serving a small slate quarry and village in Wales.

I’ve seen the layout a couple of times and everytime I see it I’m struck by how well modelled it is. Look at these gardens.

The buildings are kits or scratch-built by Tony.

I like the village store.

The quarry is very atmospheric. I believe Tony used real Welsh slate.

Exhibiting layouts at a narrow gauge railway was something new for the Beds and Buck group and was very enjoyable. I spent four hours there, and the models and conversation were so good, I didn’t even look at a real locomotive!

A Sunny Day at Leighton Buzzard

On the hottest day in April I visited the Leighton Buzzard Railway. At Page’s Park Station a train, headed by this charming O&K loco, was waiting to depart. She had a fine head of steam and the safety valves were venting off the excess.

These’s something attractive about polished brass plates.

The train was an eccelectic mix of carriages, in all shapes, styles and sizes.

I hopped aboard and we headed off.

The 2 foot gauge Leighton Buzzard Light Railway (LBLR) was opened in 1919 to serve sand quarries and brickworks and connect them to the standard gauge just south of Leighton Buzzard. Originally the line was very rural but the town developed and now the first part of the line runs through housing estates. This was fascinating. The line runs over ungated road crossings and the guards stop the road traffic with red flags to allow the train to pass. The train weaves past gardens, shops and even a school, then out into open countryside and past a sand quarry, to arrive at Stonehenge Works Station.

Stonehenge is the base for the railway’s internal combustion loco collection. The first loco I saw was this Baguley-Drewry, built in 1973.

I was struck by the simple, clean lines of the loco. Quite easy to model.

Nice ‘wasp stripes’ (or should I say ‘Shunter Chevrons’…).

The railway has a fine collection of Simplex locos. These were built by the Motor Rail & Tram Car Company, which set up its factory in 1916 in Bedford, around 20 miles from the LBLR. The original 20hp Simplexes were used to construct the line, and haul trains on the quarry branches. In 1921 the 40hp version replaced steam on the ‘main line’ of the LBLR. There are lots of examples to see at Stonehenge, here’s one being repaired.

There’s a fine collection of skip wagons.

This Ruston Hornsby was built for the West Kent Main Sewage Board in 1932. Apparently, it is the second oldest Ruston Hornsby locomotive in existence. Rather ugly, but strangely attractive at the same time!

Back in the station I found ‘Peter Wood’ a Hunslet built in 1994. I do like the ‘curved’ effect of the axle boxes.

The journey back to Page’s Park.

The railway has an impressive collection of steam locos. In the engine shed at Page’s Park there was another O&K loco.

And this very elegant Andrew Barclay 0-6-0 originally built in 1919.

Outside in the yard this very beautiful Baldwin Class D loco, built in 1917 for the War Department. After the war it worked in a sugar mill in India until the 1980s, before being restored and returned to service in 2007.

I love the unlined, black livery. Simple and elegant.

Finally, the oldest loco on the line, a lovely vertical boilered De Winton originally built in 1877.

Too small to haul regular passeger trains, she is steamed on gala days.

The Leighton Buzzard Narrow Gauge Railway Society have done a great job of keeping the line open and assembling a large, diverse collection of locomotives. It’s well worth a visit.

 

Three Narrow Gauge Lines in One Day

At Easter we visited Bressingham Steam and Gardens in Norfolk. I got the chance to ride on three narrow gauge railways, each one a different gauge, on the same day. If you like lovely gardens and railways I recommend a visit.

We started with the 10¼ inch gauge garden railway. Our loco was built at Bressingham and is modeled on a Hunslet quarry loco. She is named after the founder of the gardens, Alan Bloom.

The Garden Railway is around two thirds of a mile long (1.25 km) and runs around the beautifully landscaped garden with trees, flowers and the ‘island beds’ pioneered by Alan Bloom. The loco can pull up to 60 passengers in three coaches, and she made very light work of this when we visited.

After a walk around the gardens, we went to the 2 foot gauge Nursery Railway that runs for 2½ miles (4km) around the old plant nursery. This time we met a genuine Hunslet, Gwynedd, the first ‘Port’ class locomotive supplied to Penrhyn Quarries in North Wales in 1883. She worked the quarries there until 1954, and has recently been fully restored by the Bressingham Steam Society. She reentered service in 2016. She looks fantastic…

…and runs well too…

The second loco running on the 2 foot gauge was George Sholto another Hunslet loco that operated at Penrhyn. Built in 1909, she has been reboilered and overhauled and reentered service in 2011.

In the engine shed I found Bevan, a loco built at Bressingham in 2010 and based on the Kerr Stuart Wren design. I don’t think the originals had tenders and, to my eyes, it makes Bevan look more like a miniature railway loco that a 2 foot gauge one.

Just to show I can appreciate the subtle beauty of a diesel loco, here’s a diesel Hunslet built in 1980 (works number 8911).

I like the asymetrical bonnet…

.. and the very simple cab.

The Nursery Railway runs alongside the 15 inch gauge Waveney Valley Railway in a couple of places and it is great fun to see the two trains running so close together. Here’s a view of the 15 inch gauge from our 2 foot gauge carriage.

Obviously, we had to visit the Waveney Valley Railway. St Christopher is the main loco on the WVR. She was constructed by the Exmoor Steam Railway in 2001 and moved to Bressingham in 2011. She’s a good looking 2-6-2, well proportioned and sturdy, with outside frames and Walschaert’s gear.

Here’s the makers plate.

It’s interesting to compare the modern style of this plate with the Hunslet makers plate from 1909 on George Sholto – how styles have changed!

I was very pleased when I saw the carriages on the 15 inch line.

These very elegant carriages were built in 1937 for use in an exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany. I first saw one in the engine shed on the Bure Valley Railway (see these photos) and I was so impressed I wanted to ride in it. Today, I was going to get the chance 🙂

Here’s the makers plate. The Waggonfabrik Uerdingen AG was founded in 1898, merged with the Düsseldorfer Waggonfabrik in 1935, and is owned by Siemens now. Interestingly, the carriage I saw on the Bure Valley Railway was Fabrik-Nr 11811…

The Waveney Valley Railway have this ‘brake’ coach, that combines passenger seating, a guard’s compartment and (what I assume) is a luggage space. I wonder if this is original or a later modification. I’d love to know a little more about the history and design of these coaches.

In the yard there was this bogie.

Perhaps it’s one of the original bogies for the Dusseldorf carriages.

At Bressingham there are two 4-6-2 pacifics built by Krupps of Essen in 1937. These were the locos that hauled the passenger coaches in the Dusseldorf exhibition park. Amazingly, both locos survived the war and, although Rosenkavalier was overhauled she was placed in storage and never used.

Alan Bloom purchased both locos, and several coaches, in 1972. He paid £10,000 (plus £1,750 transport costs) for the lot. Having acquired them, he built the 15 inch gauge line at Bressingham. It was completed in 1974.

These are large, imposing locos and it must have been an impressive sight to see them in steam. Sadly, both locos are out of service and will need to be overhauled before they can run again.

A third loco was built by Krupp to the same design, and this was purchased by the Romney, Hythe
& Dymchurch Railway in 1976 and is now known as ‘Black Prince’.  Additionaly, the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway are currently restoring a very similar locomotive and there’s an interesting history here.

It’s good to look around for little details that are worth modelling. For example, these two point levers. One is boarded over to protect the point rodding…

… in the other the pull rod just disappears into the ground.

There is a standard gauge line at Bressingham too. I didn’t examine it in detail, but two things caught my eye. Look at this lovely, weathered coach.

And this diesel shunter made me smile. Do the side skirts hide a Kato 103 chassis…?

There is more to Bressingham than railways. We rode on the Gallopers, had a great time on the 1950’s Dodgems with Rock and Rock background music, and tried our luck on the penny slots.

Plus, best of all, we got to meet one of our heros… Peppa Pig…

Oink!

 

 

 

A Busy Day at the Bure Valley Railway

Mark Timothy at Aylsham

Recently, I joined the Norfolk and Suffolk Narrow Gauge Modellers for a day out on the Bure Valley Railway. It was a busy and enjoyable day.

First, we went for a ride on the railway. In the picture above No. 9 ‘Mark Timothy’ is waiting to leave Aylsham station. We spent the whole journey to Wroxham having a good natter about all aspects of narrow gauge trains, which was great fun.

At Wroxham the driver and fireman turned Mark Timothy on the turntable and we all took photos.

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Rebuilt to resemble a Kitson from the Leek and Manifold Railway she’s a really good looking loco. 003

Ready for the return journey.

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Following an excellent ‘sausage, chips and beans’ in the Whistlestop Café at Aylsham station we got the chance to tour the workshops. Who could resist…

Andrew Barnes, the Managing Director of the BVR, conducted the tour. Here’s an overall view of the workshops. No. 6 ‘Blickling Hall’, a half size replica of an Indian Railway ‘ZB’ class of locomotive, is currently in the ‘shop undergoing a major overhaul. Work is progressing well and she is due to have her first steam test in November 2016.

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Here’s a view of her cab interior.

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‘Blickling Hall’ had her last overhaul from 2001 to 2004 when she was given new cylinders, smoke deflectors and a multi jet ‘Lempour exhaust’. The Bure Valley team have put her original cylinders on display in the workshop.

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Also in the workshop at the time of our visit were a couple of coach bogies. The railway has adopted this design as the ‘standard’ for all their passenger vehicles. Note the air powered brake system (not vacuum).

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There are no CAD operated machines – it’s ‘IT free’ engineering at the Bure Valley :-). Here’s the wheel lathe that is used for turning all wagon, passenger and loco wheels. It’s just big enough for the loco wheels.

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It was great to see some of the detail behind the running of the railway. Here are the Carriage and Wagon Reports… a couple of pit inspections pending, I see.

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Each loco in the roster has a blackboard with a log of all key maintenance information.

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From the workshop we went to the engine shed. Most of the locos were under dust sheets.

Here’s No. 7 ‘Spitfire’. Like her sister ‘Blickling Hall’ she’s loosely based on the Indian Railway ‘ZB’ class of locomotive. These are substantial locos, 28 feet (8.5m) long, 4 feet 3 inches (1.3m) wide and 5 feet 7 inches (1.7m) high with a working weight of 12.5 tons. That is a massive 15 inch (38cm) gauge loco. I’d love to ride on the footplate!

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Although she was originally built in 1994, ‘Spitfire’ carries a plate dated 2001.

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No. 1 ‘Wroxham Broad’ originally built as a steam-outline petrol-hydraulic she was converted to steam in 1992. She’s finished in the very attractive ‘Caledonian Sky Blue’.  (Unfortunately my photo hasn’t captured the colour very well).

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Below is No 8, ‘John of Gaunt’. She is named after a Lord of the Manor of Aylsham who was the son of King Richard III and father of Henry IV. Under the covers she resembles the ‘Vale of Rheidol Railway’ locos and is just over 18 feet (5.5m) long.

The Bure Valley Railway isn’t a place for small locos. They like their locos to be able to pull a train of 12 coaches, with up to 240 passengers, and a generator coach, up a 1 in 100 gradient and have power to spare (!).

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Having said that, here’s the smallest loco in the shed, a very well restored Lister.

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Originally 2ft gauge she was used on the peat railways in Somerset. When the railway acquired her she was already converted to 15 inch gauge but had a wooden ‘tram’ style body. The BVR team are converting her back to her original appearance.

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Nice work.

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Also, in the shed coach 31 one of 6 wheelchair accessible coaches undergoing renovation.

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This lovely open coach has a classic continental feel. Built in Dusseldorf in 1937, I wonder if the railway use her on regular services. I’d love a ride in this.

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Original makers plate.

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From the old to the new. The BVR are making a new generator wagon. A work in progress.

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The tour continued out in the yard. A nice hopper wagon.

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The inspection pit.

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The permanent way coach, complete with it’s own toilet.

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A very attractive Hunslet. No. 4 is used as the Aylsham Station shunter and to operate the railway’s flail machine. Built in 1954 for a 2 foot gauge line, she has been converted to 15 inch gauge and substantially refurbished. Now, she is powered by a Peugeot 205 car engine and has a hydraulic drive. I do like the colour of this loco.

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Inside the cab.

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If you are partial to a permanent way ‘scooter’ you will love this. Unfortunately, I know nothing about it. It looks great though.

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The Bure Valley Railway track was originally laid with shingle as ballast. This isn’t ideal as it is not particularly stable. The railway has started a program to replace the shingle with granite ballast. The first section to be replaced was at Wroxham station, which was reopened in April 2016. Another quarter of a mile of track will be relaid in February 2017. I will take the railway around 15 years to lift and relay all the track and replace all the shingle ballast.

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The final part of the day was the opportunity to discuss and play with model trains. The BVR let us use a meeting room on one of the platforms and the Norfolk and Suffolk Narrow Gauge members brought along locos, stock and layouts for a ‘modelling afternoon’.

Graham Watling brought his latest 009 layout ‘Ellerbank’. It has a river side station and goods yard, with a simple bridge over a stream.  Jolly nice it is too.

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Andrew Barnes, MD of the railway, is also a railway modeller. Here’s the Lynton and Barnstable inspired layout he is building. I was impressed by the track plan, design and the build quality. It’s going to be a nice layout.

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This is Richard Doe’s ‘Lester Tin Mine Engine House’ layout that he built for the 2016 ExpoNG Challenge. Very nice. I like the simple design, the sense of space, the mill, the curved backscene and the painted sky.

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There were lots of other interesting things: a japanese battery operated, snap together mini layout in HO9; a Gn15 Heywood style open coach made from laser cut card; and a 1/16th scale diesel loco.

Many thanks to Richard Doe for suggesting and organising such a great day and to Andrew Barnes for being an excellent host.

Ashdon Halt

ashdon-halt-1In contrast to my previous post on the elaborate and beautiful Gare du Nord in Paris… This is the very simple, and derelict, Ashdon Halt.

Situated on the Great Eastern Railway Audley End to Batlow line, Ashdon Halt was opened in 1911.

Ashdon Halt in 2016

Ashdon Halt got a major upgrade in 1916 when the GER added an old carriage body to act as a waiting room. Remarkably, the carriage is still there 100 years later (these photos are from July 2016).

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The platform was built of earth, topped with clinker and edged with sleepers. The sleeper edging was very characteristic on many of the local GER stations, including Thaxted.

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If you are interested in some historical photos of Ashdon Halt, visit the Disused Stations website.

Paris: Power and Pinball

paris_gare_du_nord_4_bisOn a recent business trip to Paris I stayed opposite the Gare du Nord. Built from 1861 to 1865 for the Chemins de Fer du Nord company, the building is imposing and impressive. It illustrates the power the railway companies had at that time and how they liked to demonstrate their power…

I took the RER Bleu to the airport. Well organised, clean, quiet and smooth – the London Underground should take note. However, the thing that I liked the most was the route indicator board inside the train. It was illuminated to indicate the route the train was taking and the next stop was shown by a flashing light. Very clear and informative with a rather retro style, it reminded me of a pin ball machine.

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Then I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport which was total chaos. Perhaps trains are still better than planes…

Photo of Gare Du Nord By Velvet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons