How was your Saturday? Mine involved two strokes, hydrodynamic transmissions and an exploration of abandoned infrastructure.

I took a trip by train. Actually four of them, two in each direction. A somewhat irrational decision as it happened because in hindsight it would have been cheaper and quicker to drive. But I digress.

First up was the two stroke, one of these.

What we see is the pointy and unpowered end. Propulsion (yes, propulsion. The loco is always at the southern end and I was heading north. No, they don’t turn them around. You can’t easily swing around in something nearly 200m long.) is by a GM locomotive from Canada with a 3,200 bhp two stroke which supplies a stream of electrons. They’re rather less aerodynamic and look like this and are typically in this state of grubbiness:

Advertisement

Loco hauled rolling stock is supposed to be something of a premium item as compared to the more usual (here) stock with underfloor engines because you can’t hear the engine. It’s quieter certainly but still gave a rather non-premium bumpy ride until I realised that if you can sit in the middle of the coach you’re between rather than on the wheels and it’s a more satisfactory experience.

Leg two, on a branch line, involved one of these, built in Japan in 2000 and powered by a brace of 350 bhp Cummins diesels.

Advertisement

My pre-boarding preparations involved walking along until I identified the location of the engines (towards the middle, if you find yourself on one) and avoiding sitting above them. Still a fairly noisy experience starting off though. First gear (gears on a train? Yes! Hydrodynamic transmission) involves a loose torque converter and lots of noisy revs as you accelerate. Things quieten down as you reach maximum trundling speed and you spend quite a lot of time coasting downhill anyway. I say trundling, but it actually reached about 110 or 115 kmh which isn’t that far off the point where it could be called high speed in America...

Advertisement

One thing you notice a lot of on railway journeys is just how much of the infrastructure has been abandoned. Freight by rail has almost ceased here so you seem mysterious derelict sheds, rusty lines leading to dead ends and decaying wagons. These ones are going nowhere.

Advertisement

Steam’s gone too but you still see these. I asked the platform dispatcher what it was. “Water tower”. No further information was forthcoming.

Advertisement

Water in the tank upstairs, stores downstairs I guess. It’s been there since about 1848.

Overall though, just over an hour and a half plus time getting to the station for a journey that would take a total of about an hour and a quarter by road and would cost a bit less in fuel.