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6Jan/200

Miniworld, Rotterdam – December, 2019

Just like Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg, Rotterdam has it's own version tailored to The Netherlands, located just a few hundred metres from the central exit of Rotterdam Station. And speaking of which, the station entrance is an amazing piece of architecture!

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Anyway, back to the wander... head west along the main road from the station entrance and you'll soon find Miniworld!

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Admission was less than 20 euro and totally worth it. The entrance is just after the restaurant and you'll start off at a beachside town that looked similar to Enkhuizen.

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You'll then wander around to a port. Note also that the days cycle through in beautiful colour... you can actually see it in the background of the following shot as the colour change started sweeping across the layout.

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As you're cornering around the you'll notice the control room and model-building area on the left. Check it out... the software is amazing, all digital and alerting when the trains are having issues.

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As you continue around, you'll find yourself in a more modern city, finishing with a landmark that we've already seen in real life.

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Finally, there's a back room with two older, non-functional layouts. They're actually a lovely tribute to a previous member of the organisation who had passed away. These were from the garage in the garden!

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Next, it's time to head downstairs! There's currently another layout under construction in the theme of the UK! There's a few bits and pieces running, but they're expecting it to be complete in another 2 years.

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I loved the sign outside... A whole world is waiting for you!

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29Dec/190

Vintage Trams In Amsterdam – December, 2019

Thanks to Saint Nicholas hanging around, there's a lot to see on the rails in the main center of Amsterdam. Electrische Museumtramlijn Amsterdam is located in the south of Amsterdam, but it still connected to the cities tram lines. Good news for us as this means that, at certain times of the year, they can run their vintage stock around town! Over Christmas, this happened to be from 12-5pm on the 26-30th of December.

The vintage tram's route was from the Dam itself, anti-clockwise down Rozengracht, left at Marnixstraat, straight through to Fredriksplein, north to Rembrantplein and back to the Dam. Thanks to the winter sun, there weren't too many opportunities near the Dam to take shots, but after viewing the consist, I headed west to the first corner for a photo.

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A two-car consist had already been hiding in the shadows in the Dam, waiting in the Dam for passengers to board. How can one even get a good shot of it whilst it's half in the shade? I'd thought there'd only be one set running, but it turns out that whilst one set was doing the lap, the other was paused to advertise the route and take on passengers.

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Along the way to rembrantplein, the lighting was not much better...

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But down in the plein itself, the sun was still trying to shine!

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From there, it was home time. Fortunately, we ended up in town the next day, so I tried some full nighttime shots.

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Nicely, they were running another consist... the blue and grey was a really nice combination!

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And that was about it. Great to see them running and they all happened to be full when I was watching. I'll try and check out the actual museum itself this trip; there's even a model railway shop near it!

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28Dec/190

Apeldoorn Steam Trains – December, 2019

Back to Apeldoorn, but this time to check out heritage equipment operated by the De Veluwsche Stoomtrein Maatschappij. Again, it was a very early start via Amsterdam Centraal, which coincided with the Thalys arriving from Belgium.

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A standard Intercity was taken through to Amersfoort with a small transfer over to another service through to Apeldoorn. It was quite the dreary day, so apologies that all shots hence-forth are in low-light... the temperature was exactly as it looks!

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The picture above is the northern side of the station and via this exit you can get to the town center. I had travelled there on December 26 and there was absolutely no point of doing so... there are no boxing day sales in regional towns in Holland! After a quick lap of the town (even McDonalds was shut), I ventured to the southern side and then to the east with a plan to intersect with the branch line that the steam engine runs along. From the station it's about a 15 minute walk.

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I walked from the first level-crossing down to the next along the line in search of photo opportunities. Thanks to the weather, the sun was hidden... otherwise it'd be head-on into the lens! Regardless, there wasn't much chop, apart from straight-on photos down the line, or side-on from across the canal. Instead, I wandered back to the bridge at the first crossing and lined up a 30-degree angle with the track. This also let me see the two 'white' signals down the line.. of which I hoped would indicate occupancy, or at least triggered crossings... but did neither with the up service.

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I was happily kept amused by the wildlife, watching my clock as the minutes clicked past the expected times on the schedule. Running around 15 minutes late, the steamer arrived and paused at the crossing right next to me!

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The train had stopped as the crossing next to me required manual activation. The guard quickly alighted, unlocked the control box and triggered the gates.

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The consist then rolled on through to Apeldoorn Station. I noted the steam pipes running through the entire length of the train, presumably for heating? Once it passed and the crossing cleared I light-footed it back as well. As I was running to make it to the opposite platform, the same gas/oil train rolled through as happened last time I was in Apeldoorn. In fact, that was the only freight I saw all day... which is really only one more than I saw last time I was here!

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The steamer had also already run around and was ready to roll away. After being 15 late, it still left on time! I managed to format my card before I remembered that I had a video of it on there. Whoops. After all the fun was over, I stopped for a burger at the restaurant in the station building.

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And that was a day... it was cold enough to not want to hang around!

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27Dec/190

Emmerich – December, 2019

After visiting Geldermalsen, a station near the junction with the Betuworoute in the south of the Netherlands, I decided it was better to find the very start of the line. Sure, not all freights would traverse the entire length of the line, but at least some would have to enter/exit from the German side?

The line starts at Zevenaar, an eastern bordertown in the Netherlands that sits next to the locality of Emmerich in Germany. Getting here from Amsterdam was easy enough with a few transfers along the way.

Amsterdam Centraal

Whilst waiting at Amsterdam Centraal, the usual thing happened whilst waiting for my train; a freight passed when I wasn't ready. Even funnier that it happened whilst I was discussing the fact that there's lots of freight movements in europe, just not when you want them. It was also too bloody dark to take good photos.

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From here, an Intercity was caught to Arhnem Centraal. It was still dark for the entire trip, with the sun rising at around 0830 each morning in Europe in winter. Something I'm still really not fond of!

At Arnhem I needed to change to a private railway. Thanks to the great setup of the ticket machines, this is a very easy task. Below you'll see the ticket validators for both companies sitting side by side. All one has to do is touch off NS and touch on Arriva to transfer. No need to exit the station!

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Before long the diesel was humming away and we were heading east to Zevenaar. The transfer here wasn't as easy as above as we were now crossing international borders. Of course, being all in fhe EU, there's no actual passport checkpoints... You could just walk across if you wanted to. I did need a new ticket, and this was as simple as going to the DB machine. Emmmerich-Elten wasnt a valid destination, for an unknown reason, so I chose Emmerich itself.

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I then had to turn around and bolt to the train as it had just arrived from Arhnem Centraal, ready to take everyone into the Motherland.

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There's a big bi-directional staging yard here where freights lay over before or after crossing the border. A lot of westbound freights lined up side by side whilst I was loitering, with the german drivers alighting to let another pair take the consists further on their journeys.

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From the platform, the views are therefore very side-on and, honestly, not the best. Every so often a freight would pass straight through, but most of them went into the yard. Fortunately, there was a diesel shunter that had just detached three tankers from a freight for delivery to a local factory. I'd arrived just in time to see it run around and take the tank wagons away.

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Something interesting then happened. A coal (or possibly any other commodity) train passed through... though the carriages were eerily familiar. Was this the same train that passed me in Amsterdam Centraal? It sure looked like it... but there's probably 100 trains of similar consist on the line at any point.

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A few ICE trains passed through...

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And then I was off to the next destionation.

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My initial plan had always been to get to this station as it looked, from google maps, that all trains would pass through at full speed. I caught the next train westbound to check it out.

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Unfortunately, the sun chose to come out just as I arrived, so all the westbound freights were hard to photograph. There were also no eastbound freights to be seen, so I quickly headed off into the small town for coffee and a pitstop.

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With the initial plan not proving effective, and seeing that all the westbound freights were coming through to the yard, I chose then to head east past Emmerich to Praest.

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It didn't take long for freights to pass... but I must say there weren't as many as earlier in the morning.

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This little side-platform station was beautiful. Lush foliage with tiny platforms and a level crossing to provide forewarning of impending trains. Actually, on that note, there were three level crossings in the vacinity and they all went down at the same time... At least 8 minutes prior to a train coming! I'm not exaggerating... 8 bloody minutes!

After an hour, I was ready to head back to the big smoke, but I hadnte realised the obtuse timing of the crossing gates and ended up stuck on the wrong platform right when my train passed through! Blessing in disguise though... The shunter I'd observed earlier came in the opposite direction and in perfect light.

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With the light coming from the south, I chose the southern platform where possible to take photos, but the trains all seemed to be coming from the west, meaning they were easily too close to the lens.

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Thanks to missing my train, I had another hour to kill. Pretty easy though as there were numerous freighters and ICE trains passing.

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24Dec/190

Geldermalsen – December, 2019

The goal was to get close enough to a junction with the Betuweroute, the freight-exclusive railway line, of which I can't even pronounce, that links Germany to Rotterdam. Trains either run the entire length of the railway to get to the port of Rotterdam, or they exit at one of the many off-ramps onto the standard NS railway lines. Geldermalsen is one of these locations as there's a junction with the Betuweroute just a few KM south.

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Geldermalsen is a lesser station and therefore only served by NS' Sprinter services. You can get there from either side: Utrecht or 's Hertogenbosch, another name I can't pronounce. I chose the latter.

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The main station building is quite beautiful. There's a ton of throw-backs to the previous factories, or maybe even the previous station structure; I couldn't quite tell. There was also a cute little shunter on the side, not doing much at all... I wonder if the station receives freight? I didn't hang around for long though as the connections were great to get the next northbound sprinter.

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This station is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but still well patronised and very clean and tidy. There's a really handy pedestrian bridge crossing all lines, but with caternary, it doesn't provide the best view. The station has three roads per direction, including a passing lane as the final road. Further below you'll see how the freight use it to let the express trains pass.

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The express trains didn't stop. They are scheduled with 30-minute head-ways and so there's always one heading in one direction or the other.

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It wasn't long before a southbound freight train arrived. The consist entered the far road and held back until another express passed through.

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There's actually a branch line to the north-west that heads off to Dordrecht. This is run by smaller consists that park at the far end of platform 1. There's then a crossover that allows the sprinters to use the same platform, but at a more convenient location, closer to the station building.

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Another freight train passed through northbound, but also had to wait in the third road for a northbound express.

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Culemborg

It was bloody cold, so I jumped on the next northbound sprinter; there was family to enjoy out the front o' the Rijksmuseum ... ice skating! I had a few more minutes and so I stopped at the next station north for a quick hop. Culemborg is a stanfard country station with no passing lanes. It has a great waiting room, of which I failed to take a photo.

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The expresses bolt through, but there was no time to hang for a sprinter after the one that was approaching; I jumped on and returned to Amsterdam.

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Check that last shot out! Google translate app working real-time translating whatever my phone camera was pointed at!

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20Dec/190

Amersfoort and Apeldoorn – December, 2019

It was time for another family adventure to Amsterdam, but this time for Christmas! I was just about ready for Australian summer before being shipped over into the depths of winter in The Netherlands. Lots of research had been completed: I'd found sites for photography spots, live maps of the passenger services and freight timetables. Unfortunately, the latter has been taken down in the last 4 days... can you believe it? Milliseconds before I travelled to the country, the information disappears! Despite this disappointment, I decided to trek out to the regional towns to hunt down freight.

The trip started from Amsterdam North and, thanks to the now-open Northern Metro, it was a quick 5 minutes to get there. I was then very happy to realise that my services would all be run by Koplopers (my total favourite)!

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That last shot is cute... the poor onboard information system had a disk failure and tried to boot... the weirdest part being that the display starts off upside-down!?

Amersfoort

This town is located south-east of Amsterdam and, via the intercity services, only about 40 minutes away. From the station, there's a large yard to the north-west which hosts infrastructure testing equipment, a train simulator for NS staff, and the shunting yard for the automotive branch. The automotive branch runs south-east from the station, down to a few factories that process half-completed cars from Germany. The goal was to exit the station and loiter near the start of the branch, near a level-crossing, to try and see something run through. Fortunately, as I was approaching the station, a small diesel was already at the head of a long rake of new cars, ready to be taken down the line.

But first... the station... some Koplopers... and the yard...

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That shot above was a total accident... turns out you can shoot and focus at the same time and get some pretty weird effects. The top was the only one of 5 that turned out, not that I was even trying. It was a total mistake.

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So many Koplopers, but then the yard... at the eastern end there's a stash of vintage locomotives in various liveries and owned by various companies?

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One thing I need to admit is that the lighting at this time of year in the northern hemisphere is dismal! I mean, it's beautiful for an hour or so when it's 'dusk', but that's 3pm! The sun is gone by 4!

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Wandering to the end of platform 5, I could see the car-carrier rolling towards the station. I then consulted maps and realised that it'd been shunting backwards, whilst I was arriving, to access platform 2/3, which would then let it take the branch. I was obviously in the wrong spot, at the wrong time, and therefore bolted to platform 2. Fortunately, Amersfoort is beautifully designed and there's stairs at both ends of the platform. Before-long, it rolled through...

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Quite a few Porsches on the end! An Intercity was coming in through next, bound for Berlin, and so I exited the station to get a shot of it along the line to the east.

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The NS loco-hauled services look very similar to the older SNCF locomotives in France. I wonder if they're the same manufacturer? I'll do a little research when I'm sleeping on a french train later in the month. From here, I returned to the station to check out what else was going on. Prior to actually entering, you have to cross the branch where the auto-train went...

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The line looks like it's heavy-railed, but the smaller diesel indicates otherwise... then again, they might just be saving fuel. Out the very front of the station, there's a strange clock that seems to be offsetting the current datetime for something relevant to somewhere else?

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And one can't forget an obligatory front-on shot of the station.

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From here, things got awkward. I had time and decided I'd do a round-trip to Apeldoorn and so I approached platform 2 once more. From the yard, an oil train approached without warning. Fortunately, my camera was at the ready... but after the second shot, my camera seemed to stick in half-focused mode. I turned it off and on again, but as soon as it powered up, it did a focus, as if I had my finger on the trigger, half-pressed.

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And so, the train passed... and I had a dead camera. I jumped on the east-bound service to Apeldoorn.

Apeldoorn

As we rolled away, I sat down and started pulling apart my camera. After having the lens, battery and memory card out, the camera finally snapped back into action. Funnily enough, as we were heading towards Apeldoorn, the conductor came over the PA and mentioned something sounding like an apology... this, of course, is a guess as my Dutch is non-existent. The guess was that we were dawdling thanks to the freighter taking its time in front of us. Soon enough, we were accelerating again and I saw a glimpse of a train in out the right windows. Turns out there's a passing loop near Stroe and the freighter had been put away... I'd get to see it again in Apeldoorn?

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Amazing. Another fluke... playing leap-frog with freight trains in the middle of The Netherlands. Apeldoorn is also a branch for the Arriva Zutphen line. This is run by two-car diesels which are remarkably similar, in layout, to DERMs from the Victorian railways.

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Anyway... after that mild success, I headed back to Amersfoort. I'd bought an initial return ticket from Amsterdam to Amersfoort and then another return from Amersfoort to Apeldoorn, so I had to exit the station to keep all my tickets valid. Another point, I took a loco-hauled intercity like the one above. Even though these are ICE carriages from DB, it seems that they operate as standard intercity services once in The Netherlands. Although I didn't actually get my ticket checked.

Back at Amersfoort

Whilst coming back in, I saw something interesting. Past a building, down near the auto branch, was a stuffed-and-mounted wooden EMU? The building seems to be an old station building, is a Gibson store/function-center, and the loco must be from Austria or Switzerland?

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Very nice actually, but the sun was already ready to set. Actually, the EMU reminded me of the railway line from Palma to Port De Soller.

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I then did a lap of the whole station and wandered over to the northern side of the yard. There's a building that used to be carriageworks that I thought was a bar, but turned out to just be a function center. One good thing was that it allowed access to the other side of the stored locomotives...

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Finally, on the way back into Amersfoort station, I stumbled past a beautiful piece of stained-glass art. That's totally a Koploper!

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And that was then it for the day... jetlag was kicking in and although a nice beer was had at De Wagenmeester on the southern side, including a great view of the tracks!,...

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It was home time.

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8Mar/190

Malaysia – December, 2018

Have always had a soft-spot for this country. The climate and landscape is awesome, and so are the people and food. Let's also not forget about the IT/Electronics/Junk shopping! Oh yeah, they have railways too... of quite a few kinds! For accommodation, I highly recommend the Sekeping Resorts chain of locations. I don't know if they came before or after AirBnB, but it's the same idea. Someone has developed small neighbourhood properties into temporary accommodation. The first stop was Sekeping Tenggiri, right in the mix near Bangsar and it was fantastic!

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Just bring mosquito repellant!

Bangsar

Just east of the main city is a vibrant suburb with a lot of ex-pats. There's great malls and great bars/clubs/restaurants... and also great accomodation. From the station you can also see just about all modes of transit! Bangsar Station has a great view of the airport line and the main rail line. There was a bit of trackwork being undertaken, so all trains had to come to a halt for single-line-working. No freight was seen, but works trains were around. There's also a few pedestrian overpasses down the line towards MidValley Mall which provide great views also.

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Chinatown

Always a favourite, in any country. The flea markets are amazing at 7am in the morning. Supposedly Saturday morning is the best? Get there early (i.e. 6-7am) as it gets really hot really quickly and the sellers pack up quick. Expect crowds, junk and a sensory overload. Make sure your belongings are safe in secure bags and pockets! I found a few cool PCMCIA devices and a Sony Clie... for princely amounts of around AUD$2.00. And yeah, Maccas for breakfast.

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There's also a cute little bi-directional monorail running through town. It actually starts right back at KL Sentral and takes you into the IT district.

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Kuala Lumpur Station

This is a beautiful station, but also really a relic of what the railway used to be. With all the new above-ground modes of transport, this station doesn't see much use at all. It's also not overly-well connected to the rest of the network. KL Sentral, with it's mall and multi-mode connections, is the proper transit station. Regardless, this station is still beautiful and worth a visit! Unfortuantely, platforms 3 and 4 were closed for maintenance; fortunately, there was a railset train in operation!

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The express to Butterworth came and left as I was checking out the works train.

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From the outside, you can actually get shots of the main station building through the cloudy windows... it's a bit of a shadow of its former self!

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Across the road is the main KTMB office.

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And then... the best part. You can walk the full length of the platform north and end up in Chinatown/Central Market. It was all very much under-construction, to the point where they had a second works train moving spoil around. And guess what? It was a freeeeeeekin DD51 from Japan! In perfectly AWFUL condition!

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Serendah

After an amazing 3 days in the jungle at Sekeping Serendah, it was time to get back to the big smoke. This wasn't as easy as expected... getting a taxi from the resort was impossible and the owner's car was misfiring amazingly. I'm actually surprised we made it back and forth.

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Anyway, it was down to Serendah Station where I, for some reason, expected a higher frequency of services.

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One EMU bolted through, and then people starting appearing on the platform... hopefully a stopper would come through soon. Of course, before that, a light engine bolted through... was that a blue tiger!?!

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And then a real freighter! Woo hooooo....

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And that was that... an actual service stopped through and took us quickly to a transfer station as the main line into KL was under repair.

From the Rooftop of Alila Bangsar Hotel

This was a nice surprise... the final hotel in Malaysia and a perfect location! The view from the hotel rooms was fantastic. Southbound you get to see the monorail depot and airport trains.

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And then the roof! From the roof, you get to swim in the pool (or eat dinner) and watch the trains pass by the base of the building. I probably took waaaaaay too many photos.

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The sunset is fantastic... and there's, of course, other random things to look at...

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Putrajaya and Cyberjaya

The main target was the Morrocan Mosque, but the take-away was being allowed into the derelict monorail station at the main train station! I'd seen the stubs of decrepit monorail track and had wondered how the german designers had manage to infiltrate Malaysia so well with their technology (it didn't survive in Sydney either.) Of course, this station had been shut down and truncated for quite a while and there was even a new over-ground rail system being extended down to the area.

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So those two rails above are the truncated Monorail. Here's why... the LRT is on it's way to this location.

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But then the juicy part... the actual monorail station upstairs...

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There was a cute little track machine down this end of town also.

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It was then a quick trip on the EMU back to Bangsar and then a late evening flight back to Avalon. Skybus actually runs a pretty damn good service, connecting to the Air Asia X flights!

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10Jun/180

China, 2018 – Shanghai and Guangzhou

China Southern had a great deal on return flights to Amsterdam, but the return leg included an inconveniently-timed 10-hour stopover in Guangzhou. Instead of this, I re-routed via Shanghai and decided that an overnight bullet train trip was in order. It's really the only thing that China has done over Japan, the building of high-speed beds! Well.. I lie. I wrote that last sentence prior to going and now that I'm back I'm seriously impressed with the culture, technology and overall livability of China. It was very different to when I was there 15 years ago!

Getting a Tourist Visa

So, Australia ain't on the cool-list. As an Australian, you'll have to fill out the application form and either post it to the consulate or deliver it in person to the application center. I chose the latter and, expecting that I had all the correct information, rocked up without an appointment on a Thursday lunch-time. After a 2.5hr wait, I was told that I needed print-outs of my hotel reservations. I'd totally neglected to read the requirements.

I returned to work and decided to choose some hotels later that night. Once done, I made the smart move and actually booked an appointment. DO THIS! DO NOT VISIT THE CENTER WITHOUT AN APPOINTMENT! With everything on me, I rocked up the following Monday and still had to wait for around 40 minutes. Once called up, all information was accepted and I was handed a receipt with an expected completion date. This was the following Thursday and, upon arrival, I waited in line to receive my passport with its pretty new Visa installed. AUD$109.95 later and I was set!

So, the basic idea is: Book EVERYTHING before you go and apply for a Chinese Visa. The form actually requires you to record where you are each night of your trip, so make sure you have the appropriate evidence per day.

Shanghai

This city is crazy... I stayed right in town at the Raddisson 'Tru Blu' and enjoyed it. The location was great for walking Nanjing Road to the Bund and also for getting a train to the computer area. Unfortunately the markets were really only full of new stuff. The area was pretty cool though with the overhead metro lines and grotty markets/streets. Check this link at Wikia for more information.

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I had a friend help me work out cool places to check out trains. We were advised that the station platform at Lianhua Road Station on Subway Line 1.

The line parallels the actual main railway and there are two flat concrete platforms out from the station roof that you can use as viewpoints. Either gives a clear view in one direction and not the other. I was really happy though, there was a good mix of loco-hauled and high-speed trains through in the 30 minutes we hung around.

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After this is was shopping, shopping and more shopping. Oh, and eating! Go to Da Dong for the most amazing Peking Duck.

The Overnight Bullet Train

After travelling on the Twilight Express, Kitaguni and Hokutosei... even the XPT in Australia and the Bangkok - Chiangmai Sleeper Train, it was time to ride the 'Deluxe Sleeper' from Shanghai to Guangzhou. This was going to be a 1400km coastal trip (not unlike the Twilight Express) with very convenient departure and arrival times.

This service only runs on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, so make sure to plan your trip around the timetable. It seems that there's no demand mid-week and therefore does not run. Here's a recent Friday timetable.

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The trains and stations were enormous and astonishing (that first photo above is from the mezzanine in the waiting area of Shanghai Hongqiao.) Just the sheer scale made them impressive. I must admit that the passengers were also very well behaved, when compared with normal public interactions. Everything felt a lot more like an airport than a train station. Most stations also had 16-or-more platforms with trains heading in numerous directions. Unfortunately, the waiting area was above the platforms and you only got to see the trains when you were called to board.

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The consists were clean and tidy. It was funny looking at each of the models and thinking like I'd seen them before. Some were kawasaki-styled, others siemens-styled. Either way they all (well, except the very latest with its red livery) had the same white/black/blue colour schemes. Train after train departed and arrived at Shanghai and it was amazing to watch.

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The cabins themselves were very similar to those of both Thailand and Japan. Everything was very shiny and new, but the tech wasn't overly 'premium'. The beds were already down and made, although it was already 2030.

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Each bed had a TV, reading light, control panel and ample bedding. It was all looking very comfortable, except for the couch, which was a little hard and facing backwards... but that was luck of the draw as even-numbered cabins would've had the couch facing the other way. Anyway, it was dinner time...

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The buffet car was next door and felt comfortable enough. It actually reminded me of my KTMB trip from Butterworth to KL. Nice and clean, boxes of stock piled high, very spartan outfit but functional and a simple menu. All items were 'bento' style and re-heated in the industrial-strength microwave. I chose the fish and suffered through a lot of tiny bones; still delicious!

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Back to the cabin via the cute decor... there's a temperature control next to the door to make sure you have a comfortable sleep... although the upper berth may receive the majority of the aircon. Note that cabin number one (and the other end, I think 10? or 12?) are right next to the toilet. They're airplane toilets as well... so thanks to thin walls you can feel when people flush next to you.

The trip was fantastically timed and really easy. There was only one really major fault that I believe I may still be suffering from. The pressurisation of the carriages wasn't working. You could tell as soon as we were entering a tunnel as your ears would start to pop. And I don't mean just once... I mean about 5 times on entry and twice on exit of each tunnel. Worse when there was an opposing train! Even when lying down and sleeping I was awoken to aching eardrums once or twice.

Guangzhou

We arrived into Guangzhou at 7am on a Tuesday and dumped my bags at the hotel. I ended up staying at the Royal Mediterranean Hotel in the Gang Ding area of Guangzhou... nice and close to all of the IT markets! It was too early to go shopping, so we ventured for the Canton Tower. This had an awesome observatory with a freakin' ferris wheel on the top!

Anyway... the days were mainly spent scouring through IT markets... but, of course, the effort was put in to ask the community where a good photography point would be. Turns out this one was a bit dicey. My friend was a local and declared that we could enter the area... but I was a little wary. We ended up taking Didi (Chinese Uber) and then riding the rental bikes to a rural area.

This area was known as the Xinshi Residential Area, or so I think? The maps are a little hard to work out. Either way, it was a side-road to a depot for track machines.

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So.. yeah... after checking out the wagons, we *ahem* 'navigated' a fence and were presented with a fantastic line-side opportunity. Here's the northern view...

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And then the southern view...

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From here it was train-after-train-after-train. Seeing the signals helped a lot too. And this time there was freight! No high-speed though.

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Lots of passenger consists... going to (or coming from) some very far reaching places!

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Ahhhh... diesel freight... nothing better...

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The passenger consists were actually seriously long. Turns out there was a bit of congestion too.

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And then a final freight...

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And finally... a puppy in a box...

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...he wasn't a happy camper.

China Southern

One final note.. China Southern is a fantastic airline. Three of the four legs of the trip to Amsterdam were on seemingly-brand-new Airbus A330s and the staff and food were fantastic. The leg from Amsterdam to Shanghai was actually operated by KLM, so that was also a nice surprise.

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The final surprise was having the pilot draw a ring around the word 'Guangzhou' on the map as we departed for Melbourne. Things were amiss when we started heading west... I nearly thought I was in for another European holiday. We then veered south and I assumed we were to loop back and land in Guangzhou. But then as we swung around, out to the east was the most amazing storm-cell, smashing lighting in every direction. Fortunately this was well away from us and was exactly what the pilot was trying to avoid!

1Jun/180

Germany, 2018 – Kassel and Leer

Thanks to hiring a car and touring Germany, I was able to visit some cool places like Miniatur Wunderland! Smashing the rental Jaguar XF on the autobahn was also fun... I was actually a little disappointed that the diesel didn't want to push much faster than 220km/h. The tour also took us on some back-roads as there were bridgeworks east of Bochum.

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I can't even tell you where the above photo was taken as I was too busy negotiating bumper-to-bumper traffic on tiny country roads... but a freight passed a few seconds before and I was hoping to catch another.

Kassel

The first night of the roadtrip was spent in Kassel. We hadn't booked in advance, so I chose the hotel closest to the station. This turned out to be a Best Western housed in a beautifully historical building. I assume it was actually once just the Hotel Kurfurst Wilhelm I?

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It didn't have a railway view, but the station was right next door. We also didn't get much sunlight, but I managed to snap a military train the night we arrived!?

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The next morning saw one freighter.. I got up and had breakfast as early as I could to then spend time down on the platform. The station is huge and has a tram interchange in the forecourt. The trams also take you right down into town. For some reason I didn't even take a photo of them!?

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Leer

This was a very happy and random fluke. Turns out Leer (Ostfriesl) is on the mainline between a car plant and Emden Port and so there is a constant stream of traffic. Once again, we stayed in the hotel right next to the station, known as Hotel Frisia, which seemed to be very popular with the military.

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The station itself probably has a lot of stories to tell. One of them might be that it's sick of looking at that weird yellow rocket on the round-a-bout out front.

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So, where was I? Oh yes... the trains. As mentioned, there's a lot of freight traffic involving the transportation of new automobiles to the port in Emden. This comes from both directions, with the northbound trains turning on a siding just north of the station. You also get a lot of passenger trains. There's the Westfalen Bahn and the standard Deutsche Bahn. The former runs off to regional areas and the main company runs everything from long expresses to a Norddeich Mole which actually uses Leer as a turn-around station.

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The Westfalen Bahn runs very regularly with 3-car EMUs. They're quite recent and in great condition. The colour scheme is also a nice change from the standard red of DB.

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The Norddeich Mole runs from Norddeich via Emden through Leer to Hanover. It usually pulls into the third platform to keep the mainline free for all the other ICEs and freighters.

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But then, sometimes another passenger train is on three and the Norddeich was on 2. Slightly confusing, but nobody seemed to miss their trains.

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There's also an hourly ICE through to Stuttgart. But enough with the people carriers...

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Turns out DB has their own Doctor Yellow and it, at this point in time, was diesel-powered and went for an excursion. It had actually been stored in a siding just north-west of the platforms.

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From here, we'll talk freight. There were a lot of light engine moves and the drivers were in no mood to hang around. The engines happily went track-speed when they could. There were also a few loco shuffles.

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Yeah... I know... you can hardly see there are two locos... you'll just have to trust me. Anyway, back to the actual freighters... from Platform one, if you look left (north), you'll see a branch that heads off right (east). the line heads off to Oldenburg and a lot of freight use Leer to get onto it.

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For example, the above tanker consist had to snake its way across to the southbound rails, but proceeded south. The next snake didn't.

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This train made it south of the station and into the yard. It then ran around and crossed back onto the northern line before continuing.

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Finally, the fun part: the auto-carriers...

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Both Volkswagen and Audi passed through the station... I still haven't quite worked out where their factories are. Numerous cargo companies were used to pull the services.

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Meanwhile, the station has an amazing restaurant/cafe in it. Great pastries and breads... and coffee!

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And here's a video of the view whilst I was sipping coffee.

And here's another freighter.

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Oh! And a little diesel came through with parts of a wind turbine?

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Finally... don't forget your snacks...

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It's amazing seeing this much action in one place.

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25May/180

Germany, 2018 – Miniatur Wunderland

Miniatur Wunderland is nothing short of crazy. Two levels of HO scale model railroading at its finest. It's been around for over 10 years and has nearly seen the population of Australia in visitors! We were on a road-trip in a beautiful XF Jaguar (man, the Autobahns are fun) and I made sure we detoured via this monument.

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Miniatur Wunderland is located in Hamburg in a converted warehouse. Actually, they were still converting the warehouse (or the lower levels) when we were trying to enter and had to walk around a team angle-grinding the staircase... Regardless, we made it inside and even beat the queues. As we were leaving it turns out there was a wait to get inside!

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The place is split up geographically, but all layouts are completely connected. It then turns where's-wally style with all sorts of trinkets to find. You also then get pushbuttons on the railings to activate random animations on the layout. In the last shot above, the conservatorium, which is a scale model of the actual building in Hamburg, splits open and the orchestra plays. It's pretty damn amazing!

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Day and Night are modelled... snow as well! As you traverse the layout you end up going through America and all of the Europes... The model then gets two-level and you get a chance to watch trains tackle some serious terrain.

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There's even a train elevator working automatically behind the scenes!

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Of course, a lot of people come for the airport. The planes even take off and land! Also, keep your eyes open for whacky vehicles... which also take off and land... and even play appropriate theme songs when doing so!

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The control room is also crazy. There were at least 5 full-time staff watching cameras and reports. Some were even sending rescue locos in to bump trains.

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And finally... don't forget to shop and eat.

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The cafe at the end is modelled as per the internals of a buffet carriage. All train nerds should visit this place!

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