Restore the Night Trains in Europe

The French passenger association “Oui au train de nuit” (“Night trains yes!”) has compiled a report about European night trains: “Put the night trains back on track“. During the last five years, most of Europe’s night trains have disappeared, although they are popular with travelers and the only alternative to the airplane.

* The report was brought to our attention by Back on Track, a European coalition that supports cross-border rail and brings the latest news about international passenger travel in Europe. * Previously: High speed trains are killing the European railway network. * Picture taken from the back window of the night train Madrid – PortBou in 2013.

Battery Powered Rail Vehicle Claims New Efficiency Record

battery powered rail vehicle

Students from Dalarna University, Sweden, have won a competition for creating efficient rail-based transport, claiming a world record in the process. Team Eximus 1 was competing in Delsbo Electric, where teams must design and build a battery-operated railway vehicle that uses as little energy as possible. Delsbo Electric is open to college and university students. It was inspired by the Shell Eco-marathon, with the concept translated for rail-based rather than road-based travel.

Vehicles must carry between one and six passengers weighing a minimum average of 50 kg (110 lb) each. Vehicle efficiency is measured on a per person basis, meaning vehicles carrying six passengers are not at a disadvantage. The Eximus 1 carries five passengers. The vehicle is estimated to weigh about 100 kg (220 lb) and to measure about 5,500-mm (217-in) long by 1,500-mm (59-in) wide. It was powered by four 12 V, 45 Wh batteries linked together in parallel and a 500 W motor.

The team’s final efficiency score was 0.84 Wh/person-km (watt-hours for every kilometer traveled by each passenger). Delsbo Electric claims that is a new world record. “We have done research and not found any information about somebody or something traveling as efficient rail-based in the world. In fact, it seems like Eximus 1 achieved a lower energy consumption per person than the current Shell Eco Marathon record.”

See & read more at Gizmag: Silver machine rolls down the track to new efficiency record. Vehicles from other participants can be found here. Thanks to Frank Van Gieson.

Related:

Why Trains Are the Best Aid to Thought

edward hopper train dreaming

“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts that we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape…

Of all modes of transport, the train is perhaps the best aid to thought: the views have none of the potential monotony of those on a ship or plane, they move fast enough for us not to get exasperated but slowly enough to allow us to identify objects…

Every time the mind goes blank, having hit on a difficult idea, the flow of consciousness is assisted by the possibility of looking out of the window, locking onto an object and following it for a few seconds, until a new coil of thought is ready to form and can unravel without pressure.

At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have returned to ourselves — that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.”

Quoted from: The Art of Travel, Alain de Botton, 2003. Picture: Compartment C, Car 293, Edward Hopper.

Buses instead of Trains

california rail newsThe latest issue (PDF, page 4/5) of California Rail News talks about our article on high-speed trains, and adds some interesting information:

The French National Railway (SNCF) has started a fleet of buses to replace international express trains. iDBUS, a brand allied with its low-cost iDTGV now occupies the Paris-Amsterdam, Paris-Brussels, Paris-London, Lyon-Milano and Lyon-Barcelona routes, offering 9 to 45 euro trips to those who have been priced off Thalys, Eurostar and trains now selling for up to 180 euro.

About 25 percent of the traffic is former overnight train trips, and the rest daytime runs with fares only a few euros cheaper than trains. Concurrently, the international expresses that used to serve Prague from Zurich, München, Frankfurt and Stuttgart also vanished, replaced by Nürnberg-Prague buses in Deutsche Bahn colors labeled IC Bus.

California Rail News editor Richard Tolmach also sent us a news article that does not bode well for the future of high speed rail travel in France:

France’s economic conditions mean passengers aren’t willing to pay up the money for the most expensive high speed rail routes.

Recording a net loss of 180 million euros in 2013 and effectively reversing the 376 million euro profit of the previous year is down to the 1.4 billion euro writedown of the high speed long distance train network value.

SNCF said that TGV “is not sufficiently profitable to cover the carrying amount of its fleet and its renewal.”

– See more at: http://www.totalrail.org/2014/02/17/frances-high-speed-rail-network-loses-2-billion-value/#sthash.IjguUGdE.dpuf

France’s economic conditions mean passengers aren’t willing to pay up the money for the most expensive high speed rail routes. Recording a net loss of 180 million euros in 2013 and effectively reversing the 376 million euro profit of the previous year is down to the 1.4 billion euro writedown of the high speed long distance train network value. SNCF said that TGV “is not sufficiently profitable to cover the carrying amount of its fleet and its renewal”.

Previously: High Speed Trains are Killing the European Railway Network.

The Complete Guide to European Rail Maps & Atlasses

We all know road maps, but few people are aware there also exists such a thing as a rail map. Why would you need a rail map? After all, you are not steering and the train driver knows the way. However, a rail map gives you control over the route you take. In Europe, there are many ways to travel by rail from A to B. If you order a train ticket from Amsterdam to Madrid, for example, the train company will not necessarily offer you the cheapest or most interesting route.

rail map of europe

A rail map is especially interesting if you want to avoid high speed trains (which are more expensive), if you make long-distance trips, or if you just love to marvel at spectacular scenery. While an online rail map sounds more modern, nothing beats the convenience of a printed map when you are planning a trip.

[Read more…]

Handcarts on Rails

Looking for an even more efficient cargo vehicle than a Chinese wheelbarrow? Try a handcart on rails. The light railway shown on the pictures below was built during the early 20th century in Ghana, then a British Colony called Gold Coast. The human powered railway was used for conveying cocoa from the factory in Akuse to the river barges on the Valta river.

hand carts on rails

hand carts on rails 2

Source: EngRailHistory.