A Train That Shouldn’t Actually Exist

7 months ago

Tickets? Tickets, please. May I see your ticket? Our train departs in — let’s see... yeah, right now... and off we go, on the most scenic railway route in England. It’s 72 miles of track between Settle and Carlisle, with 380 numbered bridges. Yeah, count ‘em! The line follows the natural twists and turns through the Pennine hills. Hey, is anyone else getting some Harry Potter vibes yet, or is it just me?

Back at the end of the 19th century, when the line was designed, there were several independent companies that owned the railroads. The competition was pretty tough. The Midland line connecting the east and the west coasts made an agreement with another line that they would take Midland passengers on this route. But their competitors didn’t play it fair, and Midland passengers would sometimes end up in carriages attached to extremely slow coal containers. And that’s why the company addressed Parliament to get permission to build their own line. While they were waiting for an answer, they settled their disputes with the competitors. The Parliament didn’t appreciate the sentiment and nearly forced Midland to build the line anyway.

Construction lasted for 7 years, and 6,000 workers were involved in it. It ended up being a real masterpiece of engineering. Some constructions on the route have worn out over time, and there were plans to close the line for passengers altogether. But the public stood up for their favorite picturesque route, and you can still admire the beauty of the landscape, viaducts, and tunnels today. The most dangerous railroad in Japan and probably the whole world runs along the foothills of Mount Aso — the biggest active volcano in the country. You never know when it’s going to wake up next, so once you buy a train ticket here, it could come with a bonus for front-row seats for a spectacular natural show. You can see lava rivers and a steaming volcano top from the comfort of your seat. And if you’re lucky not to see that show, a part of the route passes across a high iron bridge, which is narrow and doesn’t have a fence. It feels like one wrong move — and the train will end up in the abyss. But those views are unbeatable!

Devil’s Nose railroad in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador runs at 9,000 feet above sea level and was one of the most difficult ever to design and build. It’s just about 7 miles long, but it will give you the thrill of a rollercoaster. There will be a steep climb up and a near-vertical drop — so hold on to your seat. The only way for trains to pass on such a landscape is by using switchbacks. The train goes forward ahead past a junction, then backs down the next section before rumbling forward again. Have you ever taken a train ride in the middle of the sea? The Pamban Bridge in India offers such an opportunity. It is more than 100 years old and rests on over a hundred piers. The central part of this engineering marvel opens up for boats, ships, and ferries. And if you’re concerned about its safety, the bridge once survived a cyclone that leveled an entire port town.

Indonesia is famous for its emerald green fields, and you can see as many of them as you want if you hop on an Argo Gede Railroad train from Jakarta, the capital of the country, to Bandung. Be prepared to cross a bridge hanging at 200 ft above the valley floor. The German city of Wuppertal has an 8-mile-long network of suspended trains. In the late 19th century, the city was growing way too fast because of a boom in the local textile industry. They needed to find a way to transport thousands of people around. It was impossible to build a regular railroad because of the long and winding Wupper river. Wupper you talking about? That river — it’s a wupper. Okay, I’ll stop. Anyway, that’s why the city officials announced an idea contest for the best solution. As you can see, the suspension railroad has won. Now, the ride through all of its 20 stations takes 35 minutes at the height of a 3-story building, over roads, rivers, and buildings — talk of a scenic route.

There’s a train route in Thailand that goes directly through a market. Maeklong Market Railway has been around since 1905. The train is moving rather slowly, and vendors hear it long before it gets there. They quickly remove baskets of goods, their overhead tents, and umbrellas from the tracks. The train passes by 8 times a day, so close you can reach it with your hands. Once it’s gone, the market goes back on track. Can you imagine a train that is over a mile long? This was the length of the world record breaker in train length. The locomotive carried 25 electric trains connected to each other through the Swiss Alps to honor the Swiss railway anniversary. This memorable trip took a lot of preparation. Swiss engineers conducted trial runs for months. They had to test communication and safety systems and make sure all train drivers would be able to inform each other about speed and incline while going through the mountains. It all turned out well in the end, and 3,000 lucky ticket owners traveled through the most stunning landscapes for an hour. A lot of train lovers and photographers watched the train from the hills as it passed through some tight curves, steep gradients, 22 tunnels, and 48 bridges, all over a distance of just 15 miles. And what did they do in the dining car? That’s right — chew chew!

You’ll unlikely have a chance to study the landscape outside when traveling by the world’s fastest commercially operated train — China’s Shanghai-Maglev Train. Reaching top speeds of 267 mph, it runs from Pudong International Airport to Longyang Rd. Station. That’s a distance of about 20 miles in under 8 minutes! The world’s second-fastest train is also in China. It reached a speed of 260 mph during tests. There are up to 16 cars long with a maximum capacity of 1,200 passengers. And you definitely won’t be bored aboard: they offer at-seat entertainment, smart glass displays, and wireless device charging. In case of extreme weather, the train can switch to autonomous operation. It is the only automatic high-speed train in the world.

The next railroad route on our list isn’t exactly high-speed, but it has its own special twist: passengers have to disassemble and put the train back together. It happens in Cambodia, where bamboo trains named norry transport around a dozen passengers, livestock, and other goods between small villages. A norry consists of a single queen-size bed platform and a lawnmower or boat engine that lets it speed up to 25 miles per hour. When two norries meet on the only line, the lighter one stops, and the drivers and passengers disassemble it and let the bigger one pass. Then they put it back together, all in less than a minute. If you’ve ever wanted to cross an entire continent on one train ride, head to Australia and catch The Ghan, the longest passenger train in the world, which runs on a fixed schedule. During the peak season, they add extra cars, making the train 3,600 feet long, with 44 carriages for passengers who want to enjoy the gorgeous views of Australia. The Ghan runs for 1,850 miles from the southern city of Adelaide to Darwin in the North. The journey takes 3 days and 2 nights to complete. Tickets cost a minimum of around $4,000.

Hey, while you’ve got your wallet out, if you have around $4,650 to blow on a 4-day cruise around the sights of India, then the Maharajas Express Luxury Train is something for you. This opulent train travels across Northwest and Central India and goes through most of the major tourist spots of the country. It consists of 23 cars and is basically a moving palace for 88 guests. And for those who somehow get bored of the gorgeous views from the window, there’s an LCD TV and Wi-Fi in every cabin. You can choose between a Deluxe cabin, Junior, and Presidential Suite. Ooh!

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