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Railroads

Transportation is Communication

http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/places/sara-wheeler/station-stati...

During the revolution, Bolshevik representatives of the People's Commissariats commandeered trains to take propaganda to the villages. Many people had never seen a film before, and they paid for their tickets with eggs. These agit-trains carried a printing press to allow customised posters to be produced and thrown out of the windows.

Comeuppance for Apple

Albeit a minor comeuppance, it still amuses:

Apple is [most recently] famous for accusing Samsung of “slavishly copying” the design of its iPhone. The copying claims led to a long-running legal battle that ultimately resulted in Samsung owing Apple about $1 billion. It seems Apple has been doing a bit of copying designs of its own.

The Swiss are famous for clocks and watches. Switzerland has long been the source of some the most iconic watch designs and beautifully intricate timepieces in the world. The Swiss Federal Railway service has accused Apple of copying its iconic railway clock.

Happy Anniversary!

http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/31607.html

On August 12, 1812, the Middleton Railway put two steam locomotives into regular service, marking the beginning of the railroad era—the social, economic, and political consequences of which would be vast.

Indeed.

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Boston Choking on Transit Subsidy

I enjoyed wasting a lot of time playing the original version of SimCity. It simply but reasonably modeled the basic problems in city planning. As my town’s population grew, roads got so congested that commerce started to fail. So, like a good planner should, I would build transit lines.

Using cheat codes to give my plans an essentially unlimited pile of tax revenue to spend, I built block upon block of high-density buildings. Eventually, all the roads were replaced by transit lines. That allowed further increases in density, but, eventually, even the transit lines were choked by all the demand for traffic.

What I saw on my computer screen in 1990 is happening to Boston today:

Chessie

From a plaque on a wall inside NRR’s Main Terminal Station:

The sleeping kitten seen on our sign boards is named Chessie. She used to work for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. When the C&O evolved into the CSX Corporation, Chessie was let go. We found her wandering the intertracks and decided to give the old gal a new home.

I am delighted to discover there is a photo from the day we met, all those years ago.

Cat walking on rail

H/T: Theo Spark

Iran and China Tied by Threads of Steel

Global politics and global economics are interwoven. The way the warhawks talk about Iran, one would think it is just another primitive society. It isn’t.

IRAN: The Minister of Roads & Urban Development attended a ceremony to officially launch work to electrify the Tehran - Mashhad line on February 1. The first phase of the upgrading project is expected to take 24 months to complete.

Electrification and infrastructure upgrades will raise the top speed of passenger trains from 160 km/h to 200 km/h, and allow journey times on the 926 km route to be cut from around 12 h to 6 h. Capacity will be increased with a view to raising annual traffic from 13 million to 20 million passengers.

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Happy Mardi Gras!

Trade Will Find a Way

With the Arab Spring devolving into an even more unstable Arab summer, European trade may be cut off from South and East Asia. Increasingly anti-Western Egypt controls the primary route, via the Suez Canal.

Instead of falling back to caravans of camels, Israel is considering a rail link:

No Cause for Shame

The Barrister at Maggie‘s Farm links to a collection of photos of the previous Penn Station in Manhattan. He begins by quoting a NY Times editorial:

"Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn't afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."

—"Farewell to Penn Station," New York Times editorial, October 30, 1963

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Six Veeks of Vinter

If I cross Groundhog Day with railroading and view the result through a fuzzy Minneapolis filter, I see this:

For Minnesota kids, Casey Jones was a friendly TV host, named after a legendary railroad engineer.

One of the most beloved figures in local television was a man who portrayed a railroad engineer, dressed in a pin-striped jacket, cap and overalls, with a red 'kerchief around his neck, and called himself "your old buddy, Casey Jones."

Temple of Yesterday

Buffalo, NY abandoned train station -- interior

A temple (from the Latin word templum) is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual activities, such as prayer and sacrifice, or analogous rites.

It is easy to imagine prayers offered and sacrifices made in a grand space like this. One might say commerce is the American religion. Our glory was built on rails. Every respectable town had a train station. Cities built temples of transportation.

Trade and transport are both future-oriented. People go somewhere to get something they think will make tomorrow better than yesterday.

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Next Stop: East Jesus Flats

Pine tree on a lonely handcar on a rail embankment

Merry Christmas.

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Poisoning Public Transport

I’ve seen several headlines about two Delta Airlines employees ambushed by a gang of teens while riding Atlanta’s commuter rail.

Borepatch, an expert in computer security, sees the incident in those terms:

Security types call this a "Resource Poisoning" attack, where something that was previously valued and trusted becomes worthless because of abuse.

Crime need not be actualized for resource poisoning to occur. If the environment feels unsafe, people choose not to take the trip.

Minneapolis Riverfront in the Days of Disco

The now-demolished Great Northern Depot in downtown Minneapolis could inspire many posts on railroads, how changes in transportation technology changed the role of railroads, and how that allowed planners to re-purpose land at the core of cities, specifically Minneapolis, since this depot stood at the gateway to Northeast Minneapolis. Those changes were driven by economics and politics.

But I’m not ready to launch into any of those. I just happened across an archive of photos of the Great Northern Depot from the 1970s. It was one of those times where I was following the intertracks without a destination in mind, and found a treasure. For railfans and history buffs, at least.

Mainstream preservationists and historians—if that’s not an oxymoron—seem mostly interested in façades. I’m more fascinated to understand how the buildings worked.

1978 view beside Post Office looking upriver toward GN Depot

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Nazi Technology

German engineering is not always brilliant. I can imagine this “Rail Zeppelin” was a work of machining art. But a giant propeller whirring right beside passenger platforms did present a safety challenge.

Propeller-driven railcar beside passenger platform

The Wired Magazine article on this one-off wonder makes an interesting point:

The concept and execution of Schienenzeppelin (“Rail Zeppelin”) predated the Nazis by years. Like quantum physics, Bauhaus architecture and Marlene Dietrich, it was a product of the Weimar Republic. All the Nazis contributed was the loco’s eventual dismantling to turn its aluminum into Messerschmitts.

Nazis get more credit than they deserve for technological advancements. They were the first to field jet fighters and guided missiles. They produced motor fuels (gasoline and diesel) from coal. The Allied powers were concerned about their potential development of nuclear weapons. But all those were applications of ideas already exisiting when the Nazis gained control.

Don’t Wait for the Authorities

Nearly everyone on this platform was hoping the proper officials would stop the train in time. Nearly everyone…

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Chinese Set Rail Speed Record

A Chinese passenger train smashed World speed records after hurtling at speeds of over 300 miles per hour.

The speed record was set during a test run of the yet-to-be opened link between Beijing and Shanghai according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Reaching 302 miles an hour (486 kilometers per hour) the train clocked up the fastest recorded speed by an unmodified conventional commercial train.


The new line is due to open in 2012 and will halve the current travel time between the capital Beijing and Shanghai to five hours.

It’s Not the Train’s Fault

As a rail fan, I was pleased that Hollywood was made a movie about a train: Unstoppable. The trailers make it look like an action picture, and that curbed my enthusiasm. I prefer actual acting and cinematography to special effects. But every so often I can look past the explosions and enjoy the rest of it. So I planned on making one of my rare ventures into the world of first-run film for Unstoppable.

Not anymore:

True to the title, the train is unstoppable. It defies its brakes, it blasts through an RV, it flips over several police cars, it flips a train in front of it which then explodes with the blast of the Manhattan Project, ignores a SWAT team shooting assault rifles at it (really) and not only rides right over the Automatic Derailers, it shoots them off the tracks where they take out some more police cars.

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All Aboard Amtrak

Setting aside the politics and much of the economic silliness that comes with politics, does rail service offer anything to compete with air travel? This guy took a train and liked it:

Everyone we met, from trainmen, conductors, and attendants to counter clerks, security personnel, and our fellow passengers were, if not downright happy, at minimum in a good mood. Unlike the aggravated, anxious, aggressively rude misanthropes at the airport, from packed waiting rooms to the exclusive waiting rooms to the sightseeing car, people were polite, relaxed, and smiling. The security matched that of the airport—without the striptease: the ticket clerk asked for a photo ID.

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Add a Trip to My Wish List

A train from Moscow, first since 1914, arrived in the French resort city of Nice on Saturday evening, covering the distance of 3,177 kilometers (1,974 miles) in about 52 hours.

The train, which departed from Moscow's Belorussky rail terminal every Thursday afternoon, crossed the territories of five states.

The once-in-a-week train makes stops at Smolensk in western Russia, Minsk and Brest in Belarus, Warsaw in Poland, Vienna and Innsbruck in Austria and at Italian cities of Milano, Genoa and San-Remo and arrives to Nice on Saturday evening.

Prices for a one-way ticket range from 1,050 euro ($1,416) for a luxury compartment to 306 euro ($413) for a second-class carriage.

Russia launched trains to Nice from then Russian capital St. Petersburg in 1864, but the service was halted in 1914.

H/T: Maggie’s Farm

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