I Am A Train Nerd!


I am a train nerd.

For almost seven years, when living in Calgary, I worked for the second largest railroad in Canada. In that time, I learned more about trains then I ever imagined I would or could. I can tell you some of the differences bettwen an MP40 and an SD40-2 locomotive, roughly how often a wood tie needs to be replaced, and I know way too much about patent issues behind certain centerbeam cars.

And since leaving, I never imagined that I would use that knowledge again, or even get so excited about other technical aspects of trains I would encounter in my life.

What can I say? I’m a total nerd.

train trip

An example of a tilting train from Japan. Image by: 出々 吾壱 from Wikimedia Commons

Our very first trip along the Eurail blog trail from Split to Zagreb saw us onboard a very unique type of train in Europe. It’s called a tilting train, and it enables increased train speeds. On particularly curvy tracks (like through the Dinarides mountain range that spans much of Croatia), the train tilts in the direction of the curve to compensate for the g-forces that can cause discomfort to passengers.

The benefits of it are huge, a formerly nine hour long train trip between these two Croatian cities was cut down to five and a half.

We tried our damndest to get a cool picture on board to demonstrate, but every time we were tilting, we couldn’t keep our own balance to do it. What I can tell you is that nearly everything we put on our table ended up on the floor – a juice bottle, pen, sunglasses, and yes, even our camera…twice.

On the plus side, as our stuff kept rolling under the feet of our neighbors across the aisle, we became fast friends with a sweet couple from Hungary. Speaking with broken English, they continually offered us bananas and walnuts for the rest of our journey, and made us promise that we would add Budapest to our list of places to visit.

I’d say our Eurail journey is off to a great start!

And if there are any other train nerds out there reading, the current rail speed record in Croatia is 185 mph, and there are 2,974 km or rails of which 248 km is double track.

(Okay…I’ll stop now!)


18 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • November 27 2011

    Yeah for new friends in other countries and getting places quickly!
    Claire recently posted..The Winner, a Tiny Rant, and then I’ll Leave You Hanging.

    • November 28 2011

      I will admit that I don’t mind long train rides (I love to just sit and stare out the window!) but making new Hungarian friends was a nice touch. Especially because they shared food!

  • November 27 2011

    I started really falling in love with trains last summer. Flights are getting to be more hassle with increased security and decreased services! So it goes faster because of centrifugal force? Must be kind of uncomfortable, no?

    • November 28 2011

      Wikipedia explains best how it works: “Tilting trains are designed to counteract this discomfort. In a curve to the left the train tilts to the left to compensate for the g-force push to the right, and vice versa.” They are nerdier then I am. 🙂

  • November 27 2011

    Great post! We sure have a long way to go here to catch up to them in rail tech!

    • November 28 2011

      Do we ever! Which is such a shame.

  • November 27 2011

    I don’t like it when a boat leans to one side. I can’t imagine that I would enjoy leaning into corners on a train. Isn’t it hard when you can’t see the corners coming?
    Steve recently posted..My 10 Favorite Las Vegas Casino Offers

    • November 28 2011

      Lean into it? Nah, we just rolled with it. (Almost literally :))

  • November 27 2011

    I know a train fact! The gauge of the tracks in the UK was originally going to be 2m as suggested by Brunell he was shot down however. If they had worked off the 2m gauge then the trains would now be able to run a lot faster!
    James Cook recently posted..Destination Summary : Majorca

  • While we have always had a n appreciation for trains, we’ve not had much experience with them. Having now taken the Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) speed train in Italy, I can tell you we are hooked.

    And it is not just a pleasant way to travel. For shorter distances (Bologna to Rome for example) is is a no brainer. The journey is complete in the same time it would take to simply check in and board a flight.

    It makes me irritated that we have such a crappy system in the US. If we had something similar to the Frecciarosa, you better believe we would take that between Vancouver BC, Seattle and Portland all the time. Even better, imagine being able to take a bullet train from Seattle to San francisco?!

    • November 28 2011

      Italy trains are the BEST – so comfortable and fast. (Although, we have a 12 hr jaunt to Sicily tomorrow, so we’ll see how that one goes!)

      It is more pleasant, sometimes faster, and much more environmentally friendly. It is an absolute no-brainer.

      That route would be well used, I am sure. With the population in Canada, such service would be hard to support, but there would definitely be some areas that would do well. We’re so far behind.

  • November 28 2011

    Dang, you are a train nerd! 😛 I agree with Caanan – it’s a disgrace that the U.S. doesn’t have anything similar. Amtrak is an awful heap of awfulness and doesn’t count.

    • November 28 2011

      I am a nerd of many things. Trains is just one of them! 🙂

  • December 2 2011

    Train nerds of the world unite, stand up and be counted! 🙂 Was that a Pendolino (Italian-made) train the titlting one? Think we have a few of those here too, on the Glasgow routes. You have some great journeys in Canada too. I went from Toronto to Vancouver earlier this year and loved almost every bit of it.
    Jools Stone recently posted..Airport shuttles & transfers, more air travel annoyance

    • December 2 2011

      WOOT WOOT! (That was a train whistle, if you couldn’t tell). I think that picture is actually a Japanese made train (stole it from the interwebz). I am ashamed to say that I have never taken the train in Canada…I’ve always wanted to do it through the Rocky Mountains but it is just so expensive!

  • December 2 2011

    Hooray, toot toot! (That’s my British-accented whistle) It certainly is, sadly, same here really. But, if you can be mega flexible and book like a week before you travel you can often get 75% off deals. Lots of Canadians seems to do this, see my post (umm, hope you don’t mind!) 🙂
    Jools Stone recently posted..Airport shuttles & transfers, more air travel annoyance

    • December 3 2011

      When I worked for the railroad, we got a whopping 5% discount! Ummm…5% off of a lot, still leaves a lot!

      Okay, that train looks SWANK! I actually lied, I did get to ride in one train as a part of training when I started work at the railroad. We rode for an hour in a smelly caboose and then got served pizza in it. And then got dropped off in a field and waited two hours to be picked up. Not my finest experience. 🙂

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