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GAME OVER? Amsterdam – Retro Games Store

GAME OVER? has existed for over 14 years, tucked away in a side-street in central Amsterdam. I was very happy to hear this when asking the owner about the history of the shop.

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game-over-map

This shop is bursting at the seams! Wall to wall of amazing retro goodness. You'll find everything here from VIC20/C64/Atari through to XBOX/Gameboy/PlayStation. The window is full of relics and will get anyone interested inside. Don't be fooled into thinking that what's on display is all there is to offer... If you know what you're after, then ask away and have the owner dig bits and pieces out for you.

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I happened to want one of the controllers in the window; turns out they're all damaged and just for display. I was then lead to a draw, on the left as you walk in, and a motherload of C64/Atari items was presented. Pretty ... much ... heaven. The owners are really friendly and let me take pictures inside the store... so do chat with them; their wealth of knowledge was very helpful!

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As you can see from above, I picked up two Atari controllers and my first ever C64 cartridge: Rat Radar Race. Am still to test it, but have been told it is in working order. I couldn't trek half-way across the globe and not purchase a few goodies when they were there in front of me. I actually tried a few of the 'markets' around Amsterdam but found zero retro gaming items.

Check this shop out if you're ever in Amsterdam!

25Jul/160

Spain, Majorca – Port De Sóller, July 2016

I've recently been in Amsterdam for my Brother's wedding. Whilst over there, the plan was also to celebrate the buck's party in Barcelona. Although a beautiful city, I've previously checked out the freight and wanted to go somewhere different. After a little searching, I came across the island of Majorca and saw it had quite a few railway lines. One of them specifically caught my interest: there was a heritage train from Palma to Port De Soller and I was determined to check it out.

Getting to Palma

Palma has its own international airport. It actually feels a little like Las Vegas when you arrive. The airport is new, and quite large. Out the front you'll find 20-odd coaches ready to take tour groups to their resorts.

You get the feeling pretty quickly that the island is used as a dirty weekend away. There were around 25 drunk (they started on the beer at Schiphol Airport) dutch students on my plane as we left at 6am. I didn't bother to see where they went after we disembarked.

You'll find flights from all major european airports direct to Palma. It took 2.5 hours to get there from Amsterdam.

From the airport, take Bus Number 1. This will drop you off straight out the front of the Estació Intermodal which happens to be across the road from the Estació Tren de Sóller.

Palma - Estació tren de Sóller

The Tren de Sóller runs from Palma through to Port de Soller. The Palma station is located just next to the main station in the center of Palma city.

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This station is at the end of the Palma yard and has multiple platforms. There is a main single platform from the station building, but this is only for arrivals. Every train I saw leave departed from the loop platform. This involves walking into the yard, across the first track. It seems that the staff are more than happy for you to wander around and take photos.

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Here you get to meet the train. It's a single electric locomotive hauling a fleet of around 5 carriages. All wooden construction is seriously endearing. The interior is simple and all windows can be opened. It seems that the Swiss helped build or electrify the railway. Don't expect air-conditioning either; it was 10am and the temperature was already over 30 degrees, so make sure you dress lightly!

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Expect to see some shunting in the yard too, and listen to the guards... chances are they're telling you politely to get out of the way. This is a heavily-utilised tourist train; so expect the odd foamer as well.

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The first service of the day from Port de Sóller arrived as we were about to leave.

Palma to San Sardina

This first leg of the trip starts with a run down a street in north-east Palma. Traffic is held at certain points and lights are coordinated. The train doesn't muck around either, full speed being met whenever possible through the city.

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10 minutes later the city fades away and you're in the country-side. There's a horse racing stadium on the north side, just after the city and some interesting stables. After this it's farmland and orchards.

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The first stop is then San Sardina. A lovely sandstone building that connects the Ferrocarril de Port de Sóller to the main metro train network. After this stop, the countryside really starts to get impressive.

San Sardina to Bunyola

There are other stops in-between; but the train hardly stops at them. Most people are destined to the very end station, so the intermediates aren't overly populated. Either way, the countryside doesn't disappoint. The backdrop is the mountain range that separates the plains from the ocean. On the other side is Port de Sóller.

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About 10 minutes before Bunyola you'll pass the maintenance yard. There's a rusting old hi-rail, that seems to have been made out of an old flatbed truck. There's also a triangle for turning vehicles... I don't know if it's still in use.

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From there, it's more olive groves. You'll then start entering a valley just before Bunyola Station. At the station keep an eye out for an older-style hi-rail and other construction vehicles.

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Bunyola to Sóller

The track now dives through quite a few tunnels before breaching the other side of the mountain range. Once on the other side, a large horse-shoe curve is navigated which provides a fantastic view of the town of Sóller. Note that we are still inland; the Port is still a distance away and alternative transport is provided!

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There's quite a few loops along the way. Expect to stop and wait for passes; unless the opposing services is already waiting for you.

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Before you know it, the train has navigated the descent and has arrived at Sóller Station.

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The town of Sóller

Above the ocean, surrounded in a valley, Sóller is the junction between the tram and the train. Spend some time here and check out the architecture and tapas menus!

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If you happen to wander behind the station, you'll find a few level crossings for the railway... many of which provide great vantage points. First you'll be able to see the rear of the station yard and then, following the track, all sorts of architecture that has been built to fit the railway in. One house actually consists of two plots, either side of the line, and has a private overpass!

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I got to one crossing late afternoon. You'll have to guess when the train comes through, but you can do that pretty easily with the timetable here.

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At one point, I walked down from Soller to the Port. This took a lot longer than I expected; but was totally worth it.

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Taking the Tram from Sóller to Port de Sóller

If you bought the combined ticket, then jump on the tram here. It's a long way to walk to the port! Unlike Melbourne, the trams from the city to the port consisted of multiple vehicles. The route is primarily single-track and there are loops at most stations. The consists are usually one driving car with two trailers, but the odd service has a driving car at both ends. Where required, the conductors will switch the driving car to the other end of the consist at the end of the line.

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The tram digs through suburbia and then descends, parallel to the highway, down to the port. At the bottom of the decent, you arrive through the mountain range into the port. At the bottom it's beach and marina; very different to everything you've just travelled through to get there.

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The tram makes its way along the shoreline. There's 2 stops before the end station which has a loop to swap the motor car around when needed. The trams then tirelessly work their way back up to Soller.

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Every so often there'll be consists trailing each other, especially after the train has arrived. There's a lot of juggling in the sidings all the way along the tracks!

Exploring the rest of Palma

After you've spent enough time at the beach, you'll find the tram/train service convenient enough to get you either back to your hotel (I stayed in Port de Soller overnight, totally worth it!) or all the way back to Palma. I ventured onto the Metro in Palma the next day to check out the area. There's a nice outlet mall called Festival Park accessible from Es Caullis Station.

On the way you'll pass Marraxti and, if you're looking out the north side of the train, you'll spot a miniature railway just before a highway overpass. Here's a map of the area. I didn't have time to check it out... but it looked to be in operating condition.

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The metro itself has a good mix of new and old stock and can take you all the way out to Inca and further. You can get to San Sardina and see the Sóller train pass. Otherwise, I had an early evening flight and heavy bags, so didn't venture far.

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Take note of the information signs on the network. They're very good at time estimation, to the point where they tell you if the service has left the start-point or not. Very handy!

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And that was that. Amazing island. Highly recommended. Spend a few days out at the remote areas and enjoy the transport in between.

17Mar/150

Paris, January 2015

So, the goal was to see the TGV La Poste. I'd also been warned.. it'd be dark. Well, it was. Pitch-black. I got to Maisons Alfort-Alfortville early on two mornings and saw the TGV La Poste (two, on one morning) pass. It was too dark to get a shot with the equipment I had. Another morning, I hung around the east end of the Gare De Lyon yards. The result is as follows.

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That, my friends, is the TGV La Poste. I then proceeded to scale the yard on foot, trying to find where the train stopped. It was nowhere to be seen... I have no idea what shed it rolled in to, but it is not visible from any bridge, road or platform.

The land of the TGV

I had seriously underestimated the sheer quantity of TGV rollingstock in France. The variety, too, was much grander than I had expected. My first model train was a Lima HO TGV in orange and grey and it was good to see that this model was still running... although somewhat refurbished.

Anyway, whilst scaling the yards for the yellow one... I took photos to make sure that my entire trip wasn't going to end in a puddle of tears.

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..next time it'll be summer... it'll be southern France... it'll be at the beach ... and the TGV La Poste will have been discontinued and chopped up.

16Mar/150

Zurich, January 2015

Zurich: 1, Steven: 0. There's a standard rule for train photography: The train will come as soon as you choose to leave.

The town

Zurich is like a European version of Japan. I could not believe how prim, proper and perfect the town was. Immaculate cars, buildings, people... Everyone seemed to smell 'foreigner' on me... It occurred to me later that I was the only one with facial hair (unkempt at best) in the whole town.

I'd always wanted to visit this country... not for The Sound of Music, but for the railways. I'd heard the standard saying that you could set your Swiss watch to them. I also have a Mondaine watch which is built on the design of the Swiss Railways clock (of course, the same design that Apple 'accidentally' borrowed!)

Chasing Trains

I'd been researching prior and understood that there was a main yard to the west of the main HBF and that some freight ran south to the west of Lake Zurich. This traffic joined the line somewhere near Thalwil and I'd found great shots online around the area.

So... As that I was there two days, I'd decided to scout the first day and tackle the trains on the second (in amongst urban-exploring, shopping, eating, etc...)

The first day I made it to Thalwil (the railway ticketing system is really easy) via Tram and Train and started wandering around. Within 10 minutes the police were already chasing me and asking what I was doing. It was a bit tense as I'd left my Passport in the hotel and had wiped my camera of my previous London photos. Either way they phoned the HQ and believed my story. I don't quite know how they verified my identity from my drivers licence.

A freight train was parked in Thalwil yard the moment I got there... bonus. It then left south. After Starbucks and a little more wandering I'd decided that the best bet would be to go to the next south station the next day.

Day two: Oberriedden

The morning started pretty bleak at Thalwil... I'd jumped on the next train south which happened to be an express that would skip Oberrieden, so I had to transfer. No problems, but I kept a low profile to not entertain the police again.

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Oberrieden is a two platform station with a dual-track line running through. It seems a lot of commuter traffic and a tiny bit of freight. There's a great curve to the north to catch south-bound traffic all day...

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That last shot is the Austrian OBB Railjet.

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There was a lot waiting at the station and a lot of the passenger traffic. In fact, out of the 2-3 hours spent, two freights passed, and they both passed to the north.

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They both had the cutest little (old?) electric engines on the front... very well maintained also as they were stealth. It was getting on to home time, so I'd decided to head back to Thalwil to transfer to an express back to the hotel. Just my luck... as I approached Thalwil there was a freighter with a string of open hoppers waiting for us to clear the southbound junction.

...Why...couldn't....I....have...waited...10...more....minutes!?!?! Either way, back at Thalwil a light-engine movement bolted past me.

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Zurich main yard

This area probably has a proper name, but I haven't researched it. It's a massive staging yard for long-distance and local commuter stock. There's sheds, stored freighters and they're even building new flyovers to bypass all of the junctions.

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..what a cute little shunter.. Next time I'll do some more research and find out where the real freights are.

11Mar/150

Steamers in the UK (London 2014)

Have always loved the A4; specifically the Mallard: the fastest steam engine on record and simply put, a beautiful engine. I was over in the UK for NYE and was lucky enough to be there for The Bittern Farewell Tour to Lincoln from Kings Cross. Unfortunately, the tour was all sold out prior to me even knowing about it. In the end this didn't matter as I happily settled for a few line-side photos.

Prior research

The A4 would run on the East Coast Main Line for the start of its journey and I therefore had to find out a good position in correlation with the sun. Turns out there's a great website called SunCalc which allows you to set the date/time and then browse the map to see where the sun will be. I also found a blog post by Jake Miille which gave a little more information on how to use the site.

It seems that, for the most part of the southern end of the ECML, the line runs north-south. This really isn't advantageous as the sun wont be at a good angle. I browsed around the line and had settled on either somewhere near Welwyn or a little further north at Arlesey. The viaduct just south of Welwyn North would've been amazing, but getting there on foot would've been a challenge. Also there was a lot of potential shadow around the stations, so I therefore chose Arlesey.

As I was researching, I stumbled across Trainspots. This sight has an amazing amount of detailed information. You're able to research any location in the UK to determine what travels through, when and where the best photo spots are.

The train was to leave Kings Cross at 7:51am, so the plan was to catch it there and then take a local train to Arlesey, hopefully beating the steamer.

The timetable

7:47 AM	Old Street >> Subway Northern towards Edgware [4 min (2 stops)]
	 7:51 AM	King's Cross St. Pancras
==== VIEW STEAMER ON PLATFORM ====
8:22 AM	London King's Cross >> Great Northern towards Peterborough [35 min (4 stops)]	
	 8:28 AM	Finsbury Park
	 8:47 AM	Stevenage
	 8:52 AM	Hitchin
	 8:57 AM	Arlesey
==== VIEW STEAMER PASS Arlesey Station ====

Seems there's also a site to tell you what's actually coming through a location!?

Kings Cross

Beautiful station. Had breakfast at the Savanna Cafe on the concourse as I'd gotten there too early. Tickets were purchased to Arlesey and then I entered the platforms... good to know that you can loiter without too much trouble. Great open space too... turns out there were already a lot of fans hogging the end of the closest platform.

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So... I went to the next platform along. Turns out it's longer and provided a better side-on view!

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And then they were off... I had thought the diesel that dragged them in would have been dead-attached, but it stayed behind at the end of the platform. Always good to see steam under its own power.

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The race to Arlesey

The steamer left in a hurry... I was actually concerned it'd kick my ass and I'd not see it... turns out I was wrong. I caught the next north-bound semi-express and passed the steamer just north of London.

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At Arlesey, a lot of others had the same idea. I must've looked like a regular, as quite a few people asked for information. They were all quite surprised to hear that I'd come on the commuter and beaten the train from Kings Cross.

A few high-speed expresses came through and then we all heard the unmistakable sound of a steam engine powering north.

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The lighting was as expected... could've been better, but I was very happy to see my first ever A4... the fact that it was also pulling its own train made it even better.

Staircases

The tube was a pretty cool system. Very cramped rolling stock... felt like a rollercoaster between some stations... but nonetheless practical and efficient. I am used to escalators in Melbourne and therefore became fascinated with the staircases in most tube stations.

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Back to Welwyn North

When travelling to and from Arlesey I'd seen this station out the window of the expresses. It seemed that, because of the tunnels and viaduct on either side, the line through this station is only double-track instead of the usual 2-up/2-down. This, of course, meant that all expresses (and there are a lot of them!) have to be timetabled in-between the stoppers. It also meant that the expresses would be full-tilt right on the platform. I was not disappointed...

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Freight Trains?

I'd tried to determine the best locations to find freight trains around London by scouring flickr groups for pictures. One such group, Freight Trains in London, seemed to show quite a few pictures around the Stratford area. I tried to work out by the track layout where the trains would be, but I didn't do too well. An entire afternoon of hanging at stations around Stratford and to the east of the station resulted in zero sightings. As per usual, just as I was about to head back to the hotel a freighter came. I think it was at Canonbury, but I can't be sure anymore.

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...I think I'll go back to London in summer next time...

21Nov/140

France: TGV La Poste

It's off to Europe for christmas and I intend on hunting down the odd train. The first on the research list is reminiscent of Dr Yellow from Japan: TGV La Poste. This service is an express freight EMU (not unlike the M250 of Sagawa Transport) for the French Postal Service based on the TGV series.


Source: RailPictures.net: Special TGV La Poste "Operation Pieces jaunes" Blois - Tarbes. [Author: LM]

I'm going to use this page as a thinking-out-loud scratchpad to record the information I'm able to obtain. The goal is to grab a shot of it in action down the line and then one (at least) in the depot near Gare De Lyon in Paris.

NOTE: It seems this effort will be futile... the sun won't rise until around 8am and the train is due to run only during the dark-hours. this link has the timings for 2015.

Web References

Timetables

From all of the above data, I've managed to scrape together the following timetable of the services. From the links, you can tell that this data is old... really old. I am under the impression that the service will be wound-down in 2015, but hope that one or two of the services below will be running in January.

There's a double-up on times around Macon for most of the services. It seems that the train arrives at Macon-Loché, heads in to Macon-ville and then back out on it's way via Macon-Loché once more.

TGV La Poste 6990 6991 6992 6993 6994 6995 6995 6996 6997 6998
T = Tuesday M-F M-F T-S M-F T-F T-S T-S T-S M-F SAT
Paris-gare-de-Lyon (parc postal) 0137 2006 0748 2242 1806 0330 0518 0758 1932 0604
Bifur-de-Créteil   2016     1756     0748    
Yerres (bifur de Massy)   2017     1754     0746    
Bifur-de-Chevry-Cossigny (pointe Ouest du triangle de Coubert)   2024     1748     0740    
Bifur-de-Solers (pointe sud du triangle de Coubert)   2025     1747     0739    
Moisenay/Crisenoy 0103 2028 0719 2301 1744   0535 0736 1951 0526
Montereau 0045                 0504
Sens 0029 2044     1728     0720   0446
Laroche Migennes 0012                 0439
PRS Pasilly 2354 2102 0638 2338 1710   0616 0702 2028  
P.R.S n° 18 de Toutry (viaduc A 6)   2106     1705     0657    
Le-Creusot-Montceau-Montchanin 2328 2127 0554 0010 1645   0648 0637 2057  
P.R.S n° 24 de Cluny   2138     1635     0627    
Col-de-Bois-clair         1634     0626    
Viaduc-de-la-Roche         1633     0625    
Dijon-ville           0554
0556
      0320
0322
Chagny                   0251
Macon-Loché-T.G.V         1628 << 1622
Merges with 6624 @ 1600 from Lion-Part-Dieu
  0711 0620 2111  
Macon (parc postal) 2307 2149 0527 0032 1550
1624
    0556
0616
  0214
Macon-Loché-T.G.V   2144     1528
1536
    0545
0552
  0146
0207
TGV Lyon St Exupéry (TGV)         1514   0739   2128  
Valence TGV         1446   0800   2202  
Bif Lapalud             0820   2135  
Pierrelatte         1416   0821   2224  
Avignon Fontcouverte         1352   0846   2244  
Cavaillon         1325 0901 0907 0324 2253

Plotting the path

France-TGV-La-Poste-Route

This wasn't easy... I have no idea if the map to the left is the correct path... it seems that the train travels on the highspeed direct line in some places and then diverts to the local SNCF lines in others?

From what I can tell, the train travels further south than Cavaillon. But all timetables only reference it to there.

From the YouTube link at the start of this article, you can tell that the service seems to travel all the way to Nice? Or at least past Cavaillon?

If anyone can help, I'd love to get this map correct for anyone else wanting the information.

The plan...

Based on the timings above, it's going to be really hard to see this thing in daylight, moving, whilst being based in Paris. My best bet will probably be to head down to the RER stations 'Maisons-Alfort Alfortville' or 'Le Vert de Maisons' early in the morning and hope for the best. It'll be mid-winter, so lighting will be low.

I'll post again once executed.
Update: Paris, January 2015.

4Apr/140

Ex-Japanese Rolling Stock in Manila

Manila was nothing like I'd expected... I suppose I had no idea what to expect, but after hearing of kidnappings, dangerous weather and chaotic traffic I hadn't painted the best picture. Turns out it's all crap. I mean, they've had a few blows from Mother Nature in the past, but this hasn't hampered what is a bustling and vibrant city.

Apart from shopping for cheap electronic goods, I had a goal to check out as many of their modes of transport as possible. Google helped me find the Philippine National Railways ... and this then lead me down a rabbit-warren of information. It turns out the railway has been restarted many times. It used to expand all over the country, but squatters came in each time the railways closed or suspended lines. This has now lead to difficulties reclaiming the railway and resuming the services. The result, currently, is that there are a limited number of services to catch and I chose one that worked out nicely when transferring from other modes of transport.

Another reason to check out PNR was that they utilise hand-me-downs from Japan. Quoting the PNR Wikipedia Page:

Surplus sleeper coaches from Japan Railways were recently acquired by PNR, and were delivered on November 2010. More used rolling stock from Japan Railways was recently acquired by PNR, and arrived in 2011 which included some 203-series EMU, Kiha 52 and Kogane Train (Kiha 59).

Judging by Google Maps and Wikipedia's page on Rail Transport in the Philippines I worked out a path to ride, at least, a few of the 'light rail' systems and the PNR. This meant catching the LRT from EDSA Station to Carrieda Station and then walking to Tutuban. It turns out the area from Carriedo to Tutuban is Chinatown and therefore is full of markets. From Tutuban the PNR was traversed to end up at PNR EDSA Station. This was a 45min suburban route and allowed viewing of the real Manila. A quick walk to MRT-3 Magallanes Station then allowed a trip north to Santolan Station near Greenhills shopping center for some much needed retail therapy.

LRT-1

The Manila Light Rail Transit System - Line 1 is the first of the LRTs in Manilla and runs from Baclaran to North Avenue.

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LRT-2

Walking north along Rizalo Avenue until Recto Avenue allowed the viewing of the end of LRT-2. The weather was a little temperamental and (especially at night) the high overhead railway gave the whole neighbourhood a Blade Runner feel.

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I couldn't quite work out if there were plans for expansion or if the track was simply extended to allow for a turn-back.

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PNR Tutuban Station

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PNR EDSA Station

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PNR 203-series KIHA Rollingstock

Ex Japanese Railway stock. Towed along by a General Electic 900-Class diesel (build in GE Montreal, Canada.) I love it that they've left the pantographs on the roof.

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MRT-3

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...must get back there...

12Oct/112

Spain – August/September 2011

The final country for the European leg of the world-tour was Spain. I'd previously purchased high-speed rail tickets from RENFE and was looking forward to using them.

Time in Spain was to be shared between Valencia, Barcelona and Madrid. Valencia was visited briefly; the goal there was to head out of town to 'La Tomatina'... I can only recommend that NOBODY bother doing this... ever. Barcelona then received the most time and Madrid got one night.

We landed in Barcelona from Athens and headed straight for Barcelona Sants. We had a connecting train from there to Valencia in 'Preferente Class'. This happened to be first class and was purchased very cheaply!

High-speed at Barcelona Sants Headphones in Renfe First Class Lunch on Renfe First Class

Before we knew it we were speeding south to Valencia.

Not moving yet... En-route to Valencia First class cabin on Renfe

Valencia

The rail system around Valencia was quite nice, it seems they had recently extended the high-speed there and built a new station (or were in the progress of converting an old one.) The old Valencia Nord station was also very impressive.

Valencia Station Renfe at Valencia Renfe at Valencia

As the main goal was a daytrip to La Tomatina in Bunol, there wasn't much time to check out the freight yards in the south.

Barcelona

I'd seen a lot of freight action near Tarragona from the train to Valencia and wanted to check it out. A day was spent on the rail around Barcelona and, due to a late start, I decided that Tarragona was a little too far. Instead I made it half way south through to Sitges and Cunit.

Track machine at Sitges Track machine at Sitges Track machine at Sitges
EMU at Cunit Cunit Station, Spain EMU approaching Cunit

There wasn't a freight train to be seen and hardly any high-speed stock, mainly just standard EMUs floating around. I therefore decided to go to Martorell in the north of Barcelona where, via google maps, I'd seen that freight, passenger and high-speed converged.

Fortunately I chose to stop through Garraf on the way through. This town is on the coast just above Sitges and has a beautiful old station building. There is a tunnel to the south and it all provides a great backdrop for shots.

Garraf Station EMU approaching Garraf Station EMU departing Garraf Station

Especially when a high-speed consist comes through...

High-speed passing Garraf High-speed passing Garraf High-speed passing Garraf

At Martorell I was instantly greeted by a freighter heading west.

Freight at Martorell

I then wandered from the station to the high-speed line around one kilometre north. I only had to wait 5 minutes to see a train bolt past.

High-speed near Martorell High-speed near Martorell High-speed near Martorell

I then returned to Martorell station and was greeted by a SEAT Car Carrier.

Martorell Station SEAT Car Carrier at Martorell SEAT Car Consist at Martorell
SEAT Car Carrier at Martorell FGC on SEAT Car Consist at Martorell

I'd also seen via google maps that there was a nice tunnel/castle/vineyard area one stop east of Martorell. The station was known as Castellbisbal and was easy to get to. I caught the next service east and wandered up to the road overpass of the high-speed.

High-speed line near Castellbisbal High-speed passing Castellbisbal High-speed passing Castellbisbal
High-speed passing Castellbisbal EMU passing Castellbisbal

I then wandered back to the station.

Shunter at Castellbisbal Shunter at Castellbisbal EMU at Castellbisbal
EMU approaching Castellbisbal EMU approaching Castellbisbal

When I last expected it a freight came through heading west.

Freight passing Castellbisbal Freight passing Castellbisbal

And that was it for the daytrip...

Madrid

The final trip was 'Touriste Class' to Madrid. This was on the ICE-3'looking rolling stock from Barcelona Sants to Madrid Atocha. The service was non-existent compared to First Class, but the train was great. Unfortunately the track condition along the way lead to a few rollercoaster-like experiences. At one point we even had to hold on to our drinks! I couldn't believe they were running the train at 300km/h over the rough patches.

High-speed to Madrid High-speed cabin control panel High-speed cabin

The final stop was Madrid Atocha. This was a newly rebuilt station, full of concrete. At least it was quite clean.

Madrid Station

We stayed near a station called 'Principe Pio'. It seems to have two sides, one which they have rebuilt with the other falling into disrepair.

Principe Pio Station Príncipe Pío‎ Station

And that was it... the next day saw a flight to Hong Kong. They've since stopped freight to Hung Hom and so there was no real advantage to chasing trains. I vowed to do more upon returning to Oz.

10Oct/110

Athens – August 2011

The second last stop on the list of train-hunting was Athens. Greece, as we all know, has copped a beating globally over it's recent financial issues and this shows throughout the city. Many shops are closed or damaged, leaving a very solemn feeling with anyone travelling through. This also extends to the railways; the Goverment-owned TrainOSE has been progressing the redevelopment of the main regional railway line (known as Proastiakos) but this seems to have been put on hold.

Larissis Station (aka 'Athens Central', 'Larissa Station')

This is where everything starts to get very confusing; there is no direct Wikipedia reference to this station and, depending on which site you're browsing through, everyone has a different name for it. I've come across two reasons for this: firstly most people translate the Greek language into English differently and secondly it seems that the area used to have two stations for two different destinations. Peloponnisou, the second station, was closed in 2005, but I can't determine when the new Larissis station development started. Either way, as you can see below, it hasn't finished.

As I arrived a DMU was departing the original Larissis Station. The station was quite busy as the train was approaching.

DMU departing Larissa DMU departing Larissa DMU departing Larissa DMU departing Larissa DMU departing Larissa

The yard was looking pretty dismal... the track had been skewed to allow more point installations and there was a lot of material lying around in stockpiles.

Old point at Larissa Stockpiled sleepers at Larissa Larissa Station Redevelopment
Slewed track at Larissa Larissa Station Redevelopment Old/new track at Larissa Water feeder at Larissa Larissa Yard

I then did a lap of the area to see what had become of the new development. A track machine and a rail train were stabled in the empty platforms. I don't know how long 55-213 had been parked there, but there was absolutely no evidence of work being carried out at the time.

Track Machine at Larissa 55-213 at Larissa Station 55-213 at Larissa Station

At the other end of the station you could see the tunnelling that was partially in use. It was also made obvious that there was a lot more work to do on the station.

Larissa Station Redevelopment Tunnel southbound from LarissaLarissa Station Redevelopment
Old Larissa Station (still in use) New Larissa Station platforms

Finally, the underpass to the shopping area and Metro station had some nice artwork of days gone by.

Underpass art at Larissa Underpass art at Larissa

That was it for Athens... the rest of the time in Greece was spent driving a Nissan Micra in Santorini on the wrong side of the road.
The next stop was to be spain; it was finally time to use the Renfe tickets I'd previously purchased.

7Oct/111

Istanbul – August 2011

Next on the list was Istanbul. Turkey is a huge country, but the 4 days inside its borders weren't to be enough to venture outside this amazing city.

The city of Istanbul of two sides, separated by the Bosphorus River. It turns out that the western half is known as the 'European Side', as it's phyiscally a part of the continent of Europe, and the eastern half is therefore the 'Asian Side'. Locals don't actually use the terms as above; they simply say 'opposite side' depending on the context of the conversation.

Sirkeci, the European side

Right next to the Blue Mosque is the Sirkeci Railway Station, the end of the line for the railway coming from Europe. It used to be the initial station/final destination for the Orient Express when it was still in operation. Turkey does not yet have a rail tunnel from the European to the Asian side and so travellers must transfer to a different mode of transport here to continue their journey east.

Turkey operates a varied amount of electric rolling stock, most of which can be seen at this station. At ~8:00am each morning the international train will also arrive bringing in tourists from far afield. In the end, I failed to take a shot of the actual station itself... I seemed to have been too keen on the trains this trip rather than the infrastructure.

Speaking of infrastructure... freight trains do actually have a method of getting across the Bosphorus. Turkish Railways still operate a train ferry from Sirkeci to Haydarpaşa Station. The boats seem to be able to carry around 6 wagons; unfortunately I never got to see one in transit. Note that the last shot below is from the platforms of Sirkeci station. You can see the pipe train in the background which had been taken off the ferry in the few hours that I'd been on the other side of the river.

Train ferry at Sirkeci Train ferry at Sirkeci Train ferry at Sirkeci
Train ferry at Sirkeci Train ferry at Sirkeci Sirkeci Station

Haydarpaşa, the Asian side

It was nice to finally see some infrastructure and rolling stock after a pretty quiet western side. Haydarpaşa Station is the final station on the eastern side and all services heading into Turkey and further initiate there. There are a lot of loco-hauled passenger services and that means there is a lot of consist rearranging in the yard. There is also quite a bit of freight action visible as the ferry terminates just north of the station.

Haydarpaşa Station Passenger consists at Haydarpaşa StationFreight shunting from the train ferry at Haydarpaşa Station
Shunter at Haydarpaşa Station Haydarpaşa Station Yard Freight at Haydarpaşa Station
Haydarpaşa Station Haydarpaşa Station Freight at Haydarpaşa Station Haydarpaşa Station Electric loco at Haydarpaşa Station
E43 008 at Haydarpaşa Station Double crossover at Haydarpaşa Station Shunter loitering near train wash at Haydarpaşa Station Do not enter Haydarpaşa Station
Freight yard next to Haydarpaşa Station EMUs at Haydarpaşa Station Haydarpaşa Station

And then you have the other end of the train ferry... The final shot below was taken as our ferry was back to Sirkeci; there is now a different load on the boat.

Haydarpaşa Station Haydarpaşa Station Haydarpaşa Station
Train ferry at Haydarpaşa Station Train ferry at Haydarpaşa Station Train ferry at Haydarpaşa Station

Halkali, back on the European side

I had google maps'd this location and saw a freight yard. It was the last freight yard before the line narrowed into Sirkeci station and seemed to have a lot of rolling stock. I jumped on an EMU from Sirkeci which took 40mins to get around to the yard. Once there, there was not a sound to be heard... no one was working in the area and then the call-to-prayer came over the PA system. This was the final stop for the service I was on, so I held on to my train 'token' (they used coins as tickets in Turkey) and waited to return on the same consist.

Fortunately, while I was there a rail tractor shunted a ballast rake. There was also a rail consist stabled without locomotives.

Halkali Station Rail train at Halkali Station Ballast train at Halkali Station
Tractor at Halkali Station EMU at Halkali Station

And that was it for Turkey... the next stop was Greece.