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.

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Our Right to be Outside: Three Mules

“You spot a somewhat disheveled man with three fully loaded pack mules walking though your community. What the … ?

This strange and, to many, awe-inspiring sight has been experienced by thousands of people in small towns and large cities throughout the western United States. But who is he and what is he doing? Is he lost in the wrong century? Is he homeless? Is he on a mission?

mulesThe Mules (as he refers to himself and the animals collectively) have traveled for nearly three decades through 16 states. For the last ten years they have lived outdoors. Even though he may not talk much when one first meets him, if the time and place are right, Mule will share something that he feels we should all be thinking about.

Throughout their travels, the Mules have noticed an ever increasing urban sprawl. Open spaces where they once moved through freely, and sometimes spent the night in a secluded spot, were disappearing. More and more cars filled up the roadways, and the expanding urban infrastructure seemed to serve one purpose: accommodate more automobiles.

At the same time, space for other means of self- transportation, such as bicycling, horseback riding and simply walking, were shrinking. Those alternative means of self-travel have often been confined to designated “recreation” areas. Also, as the urban environment exploded, natural habitats have vanished, or been “preserved” in spaces a fraction of the size they once were.
Mule sums it all up: “The space needed by The Mules to travel this country freely in all four directions on the landscape is being taken over by the suburban model of automobile usage, exclusively, and leaving no space for alternative venues of moving and living. In our travels, we carry that awareness and bring it to others. We’re a working model for that awareness, one step at a time, all day, every day.””

Quoted from 3 mules, via LLoyd’s blog.

From Europe to America by Sail

from europe to america by sail tres hombresDo you want to travel between Europe and America in a sustainable way? Try a sailing boat. The 32 m long brigantine “Tres Hombres” maintains a freight service between Europe, the Atlantic islands, the Caribbean and America. Besides a cargo capacity of 35 tons, she has accommodation for 5 crew members and a maximum of 12 passengers. On board you learn the basics of square-rigged seamanship: maintenance, navigating, manoeuvring under sail, safety, cooking and much more.

The ship sails throughout the year. The website now shows the schedules for the summer of 2013, the winter of 2013-2014, and the summer of 2014. On November 17, 2013, you can sail across the Atlantic from Portugal to Brazil, which takes an estimated 45 days. The trip costs 2700 euro. On February 10, 2014, you can sail back from the Dominican Republic to London via Bermuda and the Azores. This eastbound Atlantic crossing takes 81 days and costs 4455 euro. Shorter trips are also possible. For example, on May 4, 2014, you can sail from London to Amsterdam in 5 days, which costs 375 euro.

More info at Fairtransport. (Click “Tres Hombres” in the upper right corner, then switch to English language).

Self-Trimming Wingsails

Self-trimming wingsail“Since the invention of aircraft, a similarity has been noticed between the operation of sails on boats and the function of wings of aircraft. Sails on boats provide thrust in a horizontal direction derived from moving air, and wings on aircraft provide ‘lift’ in a vertical direction to support a plane in the air, also from moving air (relative to the plane). In order to fly, wings had to have a certain degree of efficiency, and some experimenters have realised now that aircraft-type wings could be used on a boat and would be more efficient than sails.”

“Having tested wings on boats in place of sails (‘wingsails’) designers noticed another feature used on aircraft that would be useful to use in conjunction with wingsails – controlling the wingsail with another smaller surface mounted behind or in front of it (a ‘tail’). There are many examples of tails used to control the direction of bodies both in the water and in the air, and aircraft use them to adjust, to a precise degree, the lift or (angle of attack) of their wings.”

“If a tail is used attached to a boats’ wingsail, it can adjust the wing perfectly to every small change of wing direction, in this way relieving the sailor of this task, which is mostly guesswork and at best very approximate, and it can perform that job much better than any sailor can do. Such a wingsail/tail combination is referred to as a self-trimming wingsail.”

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Classic Italian Racing Bicycles

Classic italian racing bicycle

The Vintage Italian Racing Bicycle Pool on Flickr has more than 1,000 pictures. Above: De Rosa, 1973, by classic8tubes. Related: Cars, out of the way.

Micromachines: Decentralized Urban Services in South-Asia

VelochariotArchitects Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco have compiled an interesting document that focuses on small-scale technology in countries like India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. They photographed, and made technical drawings of miniature taxi’s, family run water turbines, domestic rain harvesting systems, pedal powered kitchens, home digesters, and the like.

The architects consider their work to be a toolbox, a starting point for thinking outside the conventional norms and recepies. They argue that decentralized services are more flexible, provide more autonomy, and are more efficient in space, energy and materials.

Antoni and Blasco present, in their own words, an equivalent to Neufert’s “Architect’s data“, the book for architects that records standardized dimensions for centralized systems. “Micromachins” is written in French but the visuals dominate.

“Micromachins”, Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco, 2011 [download the page to get the high resolution PDF-document]. Thanks to Yann Philippe Tastevin. Update: the architects have added a new link with colour pictures and English translation.