Effective Travel by Train Can be Found in Europe

traingeekboy Sep 21, 2018

  1. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

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  2. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    I can say that here in Europe, building high speed train lines got a lot of cars out of the road, and planes on the ground.
    If you have to go up to 400 miles, train is the best alternative: faster and more confortable tha both trains and cars. Prices are comparatively high, even with the european fuel prices, but if you plan in advance, and do not travel during peak hours, you can get nice deals.
    We are going (2 adults and 2 kids) from Kaiserslautern to Hamburg which is 700 km, (a daunting 9 hours with the car, traffic permitting), and 140 euros of fuel only, paying 120 euros in 6 hours (much less if we did not have to take a regional train for 90 minutes).
    In european big cities, cars are a liability, not a useful means of transport; even in Rome where the transit system could be greatly improved, it is better to drive just to the closest transit stop.
    Unfortunately high speed trains just killed most overnight services.
    And yes... a good and well funded system improves ridership. Just an example, in the alps there is a major tourist spot, the Pusteria Valley, 80 kms long and served by a single track line dated from the late 800; not what you can call high speed, and a 2 lane road that, of course, is always packed full of traffic from tourists and locals.
    15 years ago, there were an average of a train every two hours, desolately empty.
    The local government took it very hard on the National rail infrastructure company, that was "leaning" the infrastructure (that means taking away passing sidings and reducing services - a well known trick of killing the railroad by forcing people out of trains and then claiming poor ridership) and basically told them: we give you the money and you rebuild the line to our standards.
    In five years they put back all the sidings, now there is one train every 30 minutes in both directions, created their own operating company, bought new trains, got stops close to the skilifts, put special fares for both residents and tourists, rearranged the bus lines to feed the trains and... guess what?
    Ridership exploded: the same buses now give a better service as they serve shorter lines, tourists can bike along the vally leaving the bikes at the stations.........
    They also reopened another 50km branch in the same area, with the same standards, and got the same results (the line is also being electrified)......
     
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  3. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Maurizio, that is very well written. In the States if our elected politicians were not so well-funded by automobile, petroleum, and freight rail companies, we might benefit from the same results. However, we are what we have allowed to develop with little prospect for change over the next few generations.
     
  4. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

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    I watch a lot of cab ride videos from all over Europe. I'm impressed with what I see. If I was ever there I would strive to take the train.
     
  5. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

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    Hank, what I notice when comparing European and North American trains is that each system came to a solution that worked best for them and the solutions are not interchangeable. North American trains haul much more freight much longer distances and the system is optimized to do it efficiently. The trains I see in my European videos are not nearly as long and they probably do not go as far between terminals. I imagine it's easier to mix shorter freights with passenger trains. Our highway system makes travel by car inexpensive and efficient so there's less incentive to travel by train.

    When I've got time to spare I've traveled between Minneapolis and Seattle several times on the Empire Builder but am not so interested in driving that distance. This summer I flew my airplane out to Seattle. It took about 10 hours to fly vs about 3 hours to fly the airlines. Amtrak takes about 37 hours. I would budget 2 days minimum to drive there straight through with an overnight somewhere.

    The flight was eye-opening to how large the distances. It was a bit over 4 hours threading my way through the mountain passes to to get from Bellingham, WA to Great Falls, MT. Then it was 2.8 hours over some very sparse terrain to Dickerson, ND, and finally another 2.8 hours to Minneapolis. For that distance I enjoy Amtrak the most but usually end up flying commercial.

    I'm not sure I'll ever make it to Europe to ride their trains but I do enjoy the cab ride videos and I am impressed with their rail infrastructure.
     
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  6. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    I agree with you, our system was mainly deisgned for BOTH passengers and freight, and passengers are still being carried in huge numbers, especially sohrt distance commuters and medium distance when high speed is available. (The first are subsidized, high speed are not). Other difference here is that the network is state funded, just like roads and airports.
    I had a private pilot licence and would gladly fly myself, but here is outrageously expensive and had to quit.
    Anyway longer than 600 miles is mostly airlines’ traffic even here.
    In any case my opinion is that in the US with less ideology and some serious planning and funding, the passenger service could be vastly improved, especially in large urban areas (i am not just talking trains, but an integrated transit).
    European freights have to be “short” for two main reasons:
    We are still using the old fashioned screw and buffer manual couplers and these can not hold more than a couple thousand tons
    The infrastructure was designed and still is to cater for short (750 meter) trains as we have frequent stations and stops, compared to US; freights usually run at night or have to give way to passenger trains’ schedules, therefore some acceleration is needed unless you wish to stay put on a siding for the whole day watching passenger trains running.
     
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  7. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

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    Yeah, but outside the pleasure you have to fly your own airplane (I know that, I'm owning one myself ;) ), if you consider all the time you're wasting in these f#%§ing airports, queueing up for almost everything, transportation from downtown, check-in, passport control, security, boarding, off-boarding, passport again, luggage recovering and finally transportation to downtown, I'm not sure your 10-hour trip flying your own Cessna, Piper or Mooney was such a loss of time. ;) Furthermore I prefer enjoying my ride at 6500' with a panoramic view of the landscape I'm flying over rather than beeing crammed inside a fully loaded economy class cabin, my nose 10 cm from the previous seat and my knees behind my ears, with the fat neighbouring guy outflanking on me and armies of kids/babies screaming all the way round .... ;)

    About railroading, I'm puzzled to read comments of american people about the lack of passenger train options. Here in Europe, we see something like a lack of passenger train options because everything has been killed by over-expensive high speed trains, which are more expensive than driving, even for a single passenger/driver. And furthermore, finally, here in France freight railroading is dying, slowly but sure, because our national state railroad SNCF doesn't even care from losing its little market share to trucking, leaving us drivers with highways overcrowded with infinite numbers of trucks...:mad: (BTW I'm puzzled, everytime I'm driving in the USA or in Canada, by the small number of trucks I'm seeing compared to here in France...:whistle:)

    So to summarize, I'm not sure which transportation system, american style or european style, is the best.:rolleyes:

    Dom
     
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  8. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

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    You and Maurizio have succinctly summarized European rail service; strengths and weaknesses. I don't believe there's any "best" to be found; each does what it was designed to do. I believe that private ownership delivers better service because individuals have skin in the game, that holds them accountable to shareholders and customers. Unelected government bureaucracy, not so much, if at all. There's plenty of room for improvement in America's rail system and railroads will pursue improvement where they perceive return on investment. I doubt there's much hope for improving American passenger rail service without government subsidy. Rail cannot compete with our other transportation options.
     
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  9. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    The European rail system is fantastic. My family took a trip from Kaiserslautern (KL) to Berlin and again to Munich. We parked at the KL Hauptbahnhof and relied on rail options within both cities. We used trams, underground, buses, and regional trains to navigate. We didn't have to walk more than a km to get anywhere.

    After switching trains in Mannheim, our ICE train departs:

    [​IMG]

    Regional trains like the S-Bahn in this photo were our preferred method of traveling to most fests.
    [​IMG]
     
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  10. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

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    Whenever I travel, I try to work in a train trip somehow, just because. It is always an adventure and I usually get where I want to go. ;) I love the trains in Europe and the UK.
    OK, now which train goes to Venice? Maybe they spell it Venezia here. I guess I'll try that. :confused:
    IMG_0771.jpg
     
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  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    One thing too many folks cannot envision, in these discussions, is distance. For example, the US State of Texas is larger than the Nation of France. Forty one US states are larger than either the Netherlands or Switzerland. The county in which I reside is the size of Northern Ireland. My State is larger than Germany. Thus enormous cost of infrastructure, to undertake any major expansion or long distance. And HSR, yikes... So, airplanes are the chosen method for the majority of non-commuter passengers.
     
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  12. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

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    I really got an eyeful of distance when flying between Great Falls, MT, and Dickerson, ND. There's a lot of Big Sky and not much civilization. When I saw an isolated ranch house I wondered how they manage when everything is miles and hours away.
     
  13. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

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    That's why I so thoroughly enjoy watching the European cab ride videos. The action is fast and frequent, and European railroads seem to love complex trackwork. I'm treated to narrow and dual gauge tracks, and cog railroads in Austria and Switzerland. I've also discovered great videos from Eastern Europe, Greece, Japan, Vietnam, Mexico, and South America. I typically watch videos while doing inside exercise; a perfect way to mix boring but essential activities with interesting action and scenery.
     
  14. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    This is something most folks cannot understand. Unlike urban and suburban dwellers, you must be prepared for anything, at all times. This is absolute independent living. Not co-dependent like populated areas. It can be tough, yet also thoroughly wonderful.
     
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  15. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

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    Hey, I live there!
     
  16. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    I worked with a UK engineer in Philadelphia, PA in the early sixties. He asked his recently widowed father to visit him for a week. His father sent him an itinerary that included the cities he wanted to visit during that week; Monday: New York; Tuesday: Chicago; Wednesday: St Louis; Thursday: San Francisco; Friday: Dallas; Saturday: back to Philly, all driving mind you. He quickly wrote to his father that the US was 38 times larger the entire UK, including Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. That it would take about a month of driving eight hours every day to visit each of those cities. (This was before Interstates.) His father visited Philly and New York and was very happy with his holiday. The father had a very wise son. :cool:
     
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  17. SLSF Freak

    SLSF Freak Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    @HemiAdda2d & @minesweeper used to live in K-Town myself! I'll throw in my .02 for train traveling in Europe. Back in the early 80's I lived near Frankfurt. During the summers we'd do our European travel - Eurail Pass for two weeks. We could walk from our apartment about 2 blocks to the U-Bahn station, take that to the S-Bahn, then take that to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhoff. (our Eurail Pass was good for all of these systems) We'd often reserve a couchette and sleep in the train overnight then in the AM when we'd arrive, put our luggage in lockers and hit whatever city we were in. For the bigger cities we'd get a hotel and do multi-day tourism. Best travel experience of my life from Spain, France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands. The only high speed rail at the time was the TGV from Lyon to Paris. I remember our Eurail Pass (1st Class) was good for the TGV but they were kind of snotty about it I guess because we didn't really look first class...lol. It's a shame that the high speed trains have caused the costs to skyrocket though.

    Seemed like you could go anywhere in the world from here:
    [​IMG]
     
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  18. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    Good Grief, can you imagine dispatching that yard. It makes my brain ache, even with the soothing effect of an adult beverage. :eek:
     
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  19. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

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    Yes, italian name of Venice is Venezia. Or instead, american name of Venezia is Venice. ;)

    Dom
     
  20. hoyden

    hoyden TrainBoard Supporter

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    There was an interesting article in Trains Magazine describing the downside to passenger trains on rail traffic. Even when dispatchers give priority to Amtrak, Amtrak can still fall behind schedule due to the time it takes to clear the route of other trains. I can imagine hosting Amtrak isn't a revenue enhancing activity, especially when the dispatchers have to put higher priority trains in the hole to let Amtrak pass. Everyone loses; Amtrak loses time as it slogs through regular freight traffic and the railroads lose revenue as they scramble to get their trains out of Amtrak's way.
     
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