Thursday, December 29, 2011

Interested in Working Steam?

Interested in working steam? Want to visit China? John Raby has a list of reasons why you should join his tour to Sichuan Province which visits the Shibanxi line that runs from 5-15 March 2012.

"1. It's the place I chose for my 60th birthday last year because it's one of the best narrow gauge steam railways (real or preserved) in the world
2. real steam ng, trains in a landscape, friendly people, good food
3. walk everywhere and anywhere
4. no cars
5. the nicest place I know in China
6. some great little locos that think they are big, working their socks off
7. passenger, coal traffic, tourist trains, additional cargoes – pigs, refrigerators, brick, bamboo (and even corpses!)
8. five tunnels to walk through (bring a torch) and 1 reversal
9. electric coal trains and steam under the wires on the bottom section
10. haircut in Bagou, stay with the doctor in Mifeng
11. hiking trails with views of the line in the hills between Sanjing and Huangcun
12.small coal mine at Huangcun with hand tramming (and 300mm and 600mm gauge)"

This is the second time that this tour has run, so you can read about the 2011 trip on John Raby's blog. Even if you cannot take the trip, I recommend reading the blog just for the pictures and perspective on life in small-town China.

The fully refundable deposit for the tour is 400 British pounds with the tour itself priced in Chinese yuan. The main tour costs 11,000 yuan for 10 nights and is to be paid in China at the start of the tour or my bank transfer to the Chinese guide, Zebedee. Minus the £400, that means ¥7,000 will need to be paid in China. All meals, transportation, and tours are included in this price. Most of the rooms will be singles, although you will need to pay a small surcharge to guarantee a single room every night. Tour arrangements assume that participants will fly into and out of Chengdu in western China. Apparently, this is easy for people coming from the UK, but may be more of challenge (and more expensive) if you are coming from the US.

Both pre and post tours are available at an additional, reasonable cost. (At current exchange rates, this entire tour costs less than $1,800.)

The deadline to book is February 1. Contact John Raby at jraby at if you are interested in more information.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tourist Monorail in Malaysia under Repair for Month

If you were thinking about traveling from Hang Tuah Station to Taman Rempah by train, you may need to wait for a month. The Sungai Melaka tourist monorail has been suspended for a month by the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) so that the operator can improve traction during rain and provide a way to get people down if the train stops running. SPAD recommends that operators buy a crane tool for that purpose. Right now the company uses a ladder.

SPAD also recommends getting a manual in a language that repair workers can read. The monorail was imported from China and the operating instructions are not currently available in either English or Bahasa which has had a tendency to delay repairs.

The suspension has not been popular with the local government. This service was inaugurated by Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam a year ago which probably means that he could be politically damaged if there continue to be problems with the service. Of course, it is probably better for him if the train gets fixed, and people come to feel that it is reliable. Two British tourists were among those stranded on Wednesday and action needs to be taken to prevent bad publicity among international visitors.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A new way to buy tickets for Vietnamese trains

A Vietnamese travel agency has created a new website, Vietnam Train Tickets, to help foreigners buy train tickets between five cities: Hanoi, Sapa, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Da Nang. You can get schedules for trains between those five cities as well as buy tickets for travel in all classes. You can also buy tickets for special cabins between Hanoi and Sapa, most of which are run by Sapa hotels.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to get to Singapore's new international railway station

Trains that go to Singapore now leave from Woodlands Train Checkpoint right next to the border with Singapore. Bus 950 goes to and from MRT Marsiling which is in walking distance. Buses 160 and 170 connect the station with Kranji MRT. Be careful about the 170 buses if you are coming from Kranji, not all the 170's go to the train station. There several other buses that stop on Woodlands Road near the station entrance most of these go to Woodlands MRT, but I don't know which side of the street send buses in that direction.

To find the station location on Google Maps, you need to enter Woodlands Crossing, Singapore which is what Google thinks the station is named. If you enter the stations actual address, Google sends you to another location in Woodlands.

There have been complaints about a lack of toilets in the new facility, so be careful about that. Are there bathrooms in the MRT stations?

And now for a video in which immigration and transport officials talk about the change. I am concerned that the transit guy does not think that they need more buses:

Hopefully, light rail will connect to the station by 2018 as planned.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Looking for Blogs That are Updated Frequently?

The National Blog Posting Month posts a list every month of blogs that are updated every day. This month the theme is "Fan". Let's hope that we get some rail fans posting.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Free Tram Rides for a Day in Hong Kong

Today is the 150th Anniversary of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce. To celebrate, they are paying the fare of anyone who takes the tram from Western District and Shau Kei Wan. Ferries between Central and Tsim Sha Tsui will also be free. 1,000 passengers will also get sets of the stamps being issued by the Hongkong Post to commemorate the chambers history.

Good on them for helping people get to work and school. June 9 is a Thursday, a work day.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Traveling by train in northern Japan (links)

Here are some links for information about how the earthquake and tsunami are impacting trains in northern Japan.

Earthquake Info in English @wiki: Transportation Status

Pictures and Discussion of the Damage

Service south and west of Tokyo has not been distrupted. Unfortunately, this catastrophe occurred in the center of northern Japan, damaging routes between Tokyo and Sendai and points north.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Here We Go Again

News in March from Southeast Asia: Kuala Lumpur again announces that they are going to have one smartcard that will work on all trains, and Jakarta restarts and then shelves their monorail project in a single week because Indonesia apparently does not invest in infrastructure.

My prediction: Kuala Lumpur will gradually add services to its smartcard system, and make an major announcement for each one. Malaysia will have full rail connectivity, including one high speed rail line, before Jakarta even starts on a public transportation system. If I am wrong, I hope that it is Indonesia that proves me wrong. Lots of Indonesian citizens would benefit from more infrastructure investments.

Here is a link with a little history of Kuala Lumpur's buses and trains: The Integrated Approach to Solving Transportation Woes and a video of Kuala Lumpur's monorail (which should have been a conventional train so it could have been expanded and connected into the rest of the rail system).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New train improves connections between Tainan and high speed rail

from Railway Gazette Int'l

Tainan has nominally had a high speed rail station for four years, but the station is on the outskirts of town. Until this month a single bus that took at least fifty minutes from downtown Tainan was the only transit connection to the station. But that changed on January 14 when the Shalun line opened, running from Zhongzhou Station on the new Shalun Station with an additional new station at Chang Jung Christian University. Shalun Station is connected to Tainan's high speed rail station by a 34m walkway. It appears that most trains will start actually start at Tainan Main Station, although some trains will start in north Tainan County.

The line is part of plans by Taiwan's Railway Administration to use its normal speed trains to improve travel within regions and within metro areas and to help people connect with the high speed train for intercity travel. It was fairly expensive to build. In the 1990's, transportation projects in Taiwan had a tendency to spend more on corruption than actual construction. Things improved immensely during the past decade, leading to the completion of the Taipei metro and other important transportation projects. Let us hope that the high cost of this line is a hold-over from the past or a result of unusual technical difficulties, not an indication of future trends.