A combination of a travel image and the job stuff today. We were driving from Nairobi to Amboseli on our first full day in Kenya. The road we took initially is the main road to Mombasa which is the principal port for not only Kenya but some of its neighboring countries. Parallel with the road is a railway and, as we headed southeast, a train was coming the other way. A pair of diesel locomotives were pulling the train, and they had a message on the side about their role. I understand they were built by CRRC in China. One for the rail fans who read my blog, I think.
Last year, while we were staying in London, I got to take my first trip on the Elizabeth Line or what was known for a long time as Crossrail. This is a major addition to the transportation network of the town and appears to have been very successful. I only took one trip through the core of town and one to the airport. It was a very quick way to cover a journey that previously was a lot more drawn out. However, the thing that impressed me most was the stations. They are huge. The trains are long from the start, but they have built capacity to have them longer and the platforms are about 250m long as a result. You need to know which end to get out to make sure you don’t find yourself several blocks from where you intended when you get to the surface.
The UK has a large selection of preserved railways. The cuts in the second half of the twentieth century that closed many branch lines provided opportunities for the preservation movement to get going and the result is a lot of lines that you can visit and ride on. They are usually very well run operations. The Watercress Line runs from Alresford to Alton in Hampshire. We wandered past the station in Alresford when we were visiting with some friends there but it wasn’t operating that day.
However, since we were nearby and staying for a long time, I did take the opportunity to nip back out at some point to see the trains in action. I got to see one of the services departing from the terminus at Alresford but, I was a little thwarted on that occasion because the locomotive was billowing steam forwards and almost totally obscuring the view of it from the bridge I was on.
I also stopped off at an intermediate station which had a passing location which allowed trains operating in opposite directions to pass each other and continue on their way. A steam locomotive is quite an impressive thing to watch as it works and a little video does a better job of conveying the impression than stills. Neither will give you the full sensation, though. The smell and the feel if it passing beneath you is hard to replicate.
Our schedule was pretty full and didn’t leave time for playing with train rides but it might be fun to have a ride on this line or another like it when we are next in the area. I’m sure it would be quite fun. However, watching one of these old things at work seems better from the outside than the inside. (The line does run along a ridge that parallels the main road and I would like to go back at some point to try and get some shots of this location too.)
When I first started planning to trip to the Mojave Desert for the Edwards AFB show, a friend of mine in the Midwest was also planning on being there. He said he was also going to visit the Tehachapi Loop. I was vaguely aware of it but decided to look it up. While he ended up not making the trip, I took some time on my last day to go across to see the loop for myself. The Tehachapi Pass is a steep climb for a train to make and, in order for it to climb sufficiently in one section, the engineers that laid out the alignment put in a special configuration.
The trains make a 360 degree climbing turn and, given the length of the trains, the leading part of the train will pass over the top of the back end of the train as it climbs. It is quite something to have a long train twisting around on itself as it climbs the grade. Of course, descending is the reverse but that is less dramatic because the train is braking whereas the climbing trains are working flat out to make it up the hill. The sounds of the locomotives at high power reaches you long before they come in to sight.
When I got there, I had no idea whether I would see a train or not. I had plenty of time but I didn’t know whether the trains were regular on a Sunday. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before a train came into the loop heading down the hill. I watched it negotiate the curves and the parts of the train appear and disappear. The interesting news was, as it got a little further down the hill, it stopped. This looked promising in that it was probably holding for a train coming up the other way. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the sounds of multiple locos pulling hard came up the slope.
There were four locos on the front of the train dragging their load towards the summit of the pass. The cars were stretched out behind them down the grade and, at the back (long after the lead locos had gone), another pair of locos were bringing up the rear. With the train safely by, I decided I wouldn’t hang around to see if there was more traffic. I had a drive back to the airport to do and didn’t need to wait around just in case.
I visited the Sound Transit operations and maintenance facility in the south part of Seattle for meeting recently. This is the original facility but they have added one in Bellevue and another will be built in Federal Way in the coming years. Plenty of the trains were parked in the storage tracks including the original cars and the new ones getting delivered by Siemens for the extensions due to open soon. Too good to pass up the chance to grab some shots with my phone.
I’ve posted photos of 737 fuselages on the delivery trains before so this is a repeat. This time it was a collection of five fuselages on one train, possibly the most I have seen at once. I saw the train across the field but thought I might have time. I was getting something else and, since the train has to switch off the mainline south of the airport, it often has to wait for the route to be set. I did get around just before the train moved which was handy.
With that many fuselages, I wanted to get a longer shot with a long lens. That is something that can only be done well in the winter when heat haze is significantly reduced. The overcast conditions mean that the green of the protective film on the fuselages looks a bit more vibrant than it does in bright conditions.
One evening, while up near Everett, I had a bit of spare time on my hands. I had noticed a park along the waterfront called Picnic Park and had noted that I would check it out at some point. This was a good time to try finding out what it was like. The weather was not great but, with time on my hands, I headed down there. It is a small park along the water and there is a bridge across the railroad to reach it. As I walked across the bridge, there was a nice view down to where the coast curves around and the trees along the shore had some nice fall colors.
With the sun popping in and out on a regular basis, I thought this would be a good place if a train was coming. As it happened, the Sounder commuter rail train from Seattle to Everett was not far off so I decided to wait for it to come through. A few minutes later it came in to view. There was a family with a young child standing on the bridge waving to the crew and, when I looked at the photos at home, I could see both crew waving back. It was a pretty short train. The Sounder North has not been too successful and the commuter rail ridership is well down due to COVID. I guess there is no need for more cars just now.
A railroad used to run through what is now Whatcom Falls Park. While the tracks have now gone, a trestle bridge across the water still remains. I may have lived in the US a long time now, the presence of trestle bridges still fascinates me. They have a look of Victorian railroads about them but many have survived. In the UK, old bridges are either iron or brick with multiple arches. The trestles have a distinctly American feel to them.
There were some barriers around the end of the bridge while we were there. Checking out some photos online, it looks like the rails used to be suspended across some of the space. Maybe these have been removed to stop people getting up there. Fortunately, the majority of the bridge is still intact. I wonder what happened to the track bed. The rails are visible up on the top with ties (sleepers) between them but no support which suggests. Train would have had a rough ride. There must have been more there at some point.
I might be sneaking some planes in to a post that would normally be a non-aviation day but I am going to claim that this is a post about trains rather than planes. If you don’t agree, I shall refund your subscription fee! The BNSF main line runs alongside Boeing Field and I saw a train run past the north end of the field heading south with three 737 fuselages on their railcars. I figured I wouldn’t be able to get around in time to see them up close but then the train seemed to slow.
I figured it was worth a shot and drove around. The train has stopped but it was also behind another stopped train so I couldn’t see it easily. Instead, I head further along the track to a location where you could look up towards the train and where you would have an angle on it as it moved again – assuming it did of course. There was quite a wait for some passing commuter trains before it finally got going. The three fuselages will probably have been switched out at the yard just south of where I was and then moved to the Boeing factory at Renton.
I was out on the bike doing a short trip to Bellevue to a) get some miles in and b) buy some new cycling gloves. On the way back, I decided to take a different route and try out the Cross Kirkland Connector. This is a bike and walking trail across Kirkland that uses an old rail route. This is part of a network of trails which, when finished will take you from the Skagit county line, through Snohomish, down to Woodinville, on to Kirkland and then via Bellevue to Renton. It will be a while before it is all open, though.
I have ridden on the connector once when we lived in Juanita. It isn’t paved so is a little dusty but it is a good surface in the most part. There is construction underway at one end where a bridge will soon take the trail across a larger road. It feels remarkably secluded given that it is through some densely populated areas. One part of the trail has what seems to be a railway halt. There is a shelter and some old track and signals to show the heritage of what the line once was. The right of way would be ideal for reintroducing passenger service but I think the objections to that would be strenuous from the trail’s users, even if tracks and trails could coexist. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime!