USA & Canada Road Trip: Train Spotting & Railfanning

While on the road trip we did come across the occiasional railroad and here are some short videos taken on the spare of the moment.

Two short clips of the MBTA Commuter Rail going through a crossing in Framingham, Massachusetts on 19 Nov & 17 Dec 2015. I had hoped to get a good video while I was here but due to various reasons we didn’t have time to go rail fanning. Sharing this mainly for the sound of the horn which I felt was worth it.

20th Dec 2015 in Nova Scotia, somewhere on the way to Halifax.
EMD SD75I CN5688 leads with GE C44-9W CN2650 and another EMD SD75I CN5660.
Sorry about the wind noise, it was very windy and very open area.

Canadian National Intermodal Freight heading into Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on December 21st 2015.
Featuring CN GE ES44AC locomotives 2831, 2888, 2891 & 2821.

Note that due to the loud background chatter during the first part of the video I had to cut out some of the containers passing, but all the locomotives are shown. For the second part of the video I was able to get closer to the track, but unfortunatly all the locomotives had already passed at this point (I had hoped for more power mid train or at the rear but sadly not).

@1:09 2821.
@4:05 closer look trackside.

Florida to Nova Scotia by Road – Part 1: London to Orlando

Today I leave on a flight to Orlando, Florida where I will be meeting up with a friend before embarking on a road trip up the east coast of the US and up into Canada over to Nova Scotia. Actually I’m writing this after the event, as I didn’t actually have time to pack properly, let alone write the post, but nevermind that. This is the shortest notice of a trip I have done todate, with only 2 weeks between the first mention of the idea and actually going! It started out as an invitation to visit my friend’s new place in Nova Scotia, but then I had the opportunity to fly out earlier and join the trip up from Florida. The time was so short that I didn’t even have time to fix the minor issues with my new laptop, and so ended up taking my 5 year old Vaio. As I couldn’t get my new laptop to play nice, I grabbed a spare SSD (which I normally use for video recording) and dropped that into my old vaio. The newer Vaio has a different type of SSD, and its an ultrabook, so it wasn’t practical to swap out the drive, where as the older model is only 6 screws or so. As I was worried about the airport security scrutinising my laptop and the risk of it saying it was unlicensed (as it was a re-install on a new drive and I didn’t have time to sort that out) I had to quickly go buy a retail copy of windows, I ended up with Windows 10 Pro (which I didn’t really want but its all they had) and I got that finished mere hours before running out the door for my flight. My packing was the worst and most unplanned ever, and forgot several items I really should of thought about, but I can get replacements in the US later. I hope to be able to get some photos and maybe some videos while out there, including some US or Canadian trains, but will have to see what happens there. I also still need to edit and upload the layout update ‘Weekend Engineering 4’ which I filmed before leaving, that should be fun with a core 2 duo, how I wish I had my i7 ultrabook with me….

DSC_0001Time for a quick coffee before my flight, in a very nice and cute penguin cup.

Asia Tour – Back to Tokyo, Japan

Jan 10th – Back to Tokyo. Early start and hotel breakfast, then made the long trip back to Tokyo. From Hiroshima JR station I took another Hikari RailStar Superexpress 469 to Shin-Osaka, this time it was a fancy Series 700 Shinkansen, which seems to be the best and newest model, however after seeing the round 500 series which is a sort of 2 tone metallic blue, the 500 series gets the points on looks. After a short wait I then transfered to another Hikari Superexpress 413 for the final trip to Shinagawa in Tokyo. Do not underestimate how long this trip is, it felt like the whole day was spent traveling, and I didnt arive at the hotel till well after 6PM. The hotel is interesting in itself, as there appears to be 2 of them, the original Grand Prince and the New Grand Prince, both appear next to each other and linked by the land in the middle which has the hotel’s convention centre. I can only vouch for the New Grand Prince, however this part alone is huge, and could practically fit a football pitch in the lobby. Very posh, very smart, and a very luxurious hotel, and my room on the Club Floor is beautiful, but what makes it is the view of the city and the Tokyo Tower.

Asia Tour – Hiroshima, Japan

Jan 8th, First evening in Hiroshima. One thing which is quite surprising is how busy and built up the city is, clearly the last 50 years have been an incredible growth period, and it is quite amazing how it has bounced back after the A bomb. My hotel room had a magnificent view, over looking the Peace Park and the city from the 12th floor at night makes a great photo.

Took dinner in the hotel’s Italian restaurant, which was very good and again had an excellent view – this time the 15th floor. After this it was quite late, but I ventured out anyway and headed along the river towards the centre of town. The river bank opposite from the peace park was a nice walk and not many people around, will be back for photos tomorrow however. Got to an area noted as an Arcade on the map and guide, and although was quite interesting with the masses of slot machine places and a few restaurants, most seemed to be closing up for the night and only a few bars still seemed to be open but almost empty, the hundreds of taxis which were slowly roaming through the streets in a long winding line seemed to suggest everyone was heading out of there, so I also headed back. Unfortunately I had managed to not remember the correct way back, and after 30 minutes of wondering gave up and got a taxi back like everyone else.

Jan 9th – Visit to the Peace Park and Museum. The museum sites right at the start of the Peace Park, and has been expanded into a second building. I decided to go for the full tour experience and hired the audio guide, a clever flash based player where you simply press the button for the number of the sign and press play. Having over 50 separate tracks, and taking me the entire day to look round, it is quite an impressive museum and tour. They cover everything from explaining the A bomb itself, to a history of Hiroshima before and after, as well as detailed coverage of the effects of the A bomb, some which are quite disturbing, particularly the accounts of the young children who were burnt so badly that hardly any skin remained, and yet still managed to struggle to try to get home. The sad truth that they all died shortly after, either from the horrific injures or from the radiation makes it even more of a saddening story. Then there is the story of the schoolgirl who initially was a survivor with good health until in the 6th grade she became ill and developed leukaemia, all from being exposed to the radioactive ‘Black Rain’ while trying to escape the aftermath with her mother. She is quite famous for trying to make 1,000 paper cranes as tradition tells that if you can fold 1,000 paper cranes, your wish will come true. Through her determination, she did in fact make well over 1,000 by herself, unfortunately her wish was not granted and her condition worsened until her death a short time later. Her story reached world wide following, and school children still make and send in paper cranes. Some of the original she made are on exhibition at the museum.

On a another level which people may find disturbing is how a certain last remaining super-power has contemplated the use of Atomic weapons in other situations following Hiroshima. There is on display a list which shows the dates and incidents in which that country has contemplated dropping a nuclear bomb in war in other places, this list is quite shocking, and practically amounts to every conflict they have been in to date. The museum gives a very un-biased account of the events, and displays many interesting items on what countries have such weapons at present. They also play a very active role, as does the city itself, in trying to rid the world of atomic weapons, and there is a torch which they vow to keep burning until the last one has been disarmed.

Asia Tour – Kyoto, Japan

Jan 6th – First full day in Kyoto. And unfortunately the day my cold decided it was all out war, leaving me bed ridden for almost the entire first day, I didn’t even get get the hotel breakfast. I finally forced myself out for the late evening, and was so hungry when I emerged from the hotel, I had a Mc Donald’s to make up for no food that day – it was slightly better than the standard cardboard in the UK, and clearly the Japanese version actually had meat in the burgers, although was not even close to MOS Burger (a Japanese burger chain, where everything is made fresh and tastes like real food). I then decided to take the subway one stop, change lines and end up in the down town area. In reality, I went one stop, couldn’t find the line to change to, decided to walk instead, walked about 15 minutes only to emerge back at the hotel, turned around and went back in the opposite direction and got to the right area some 30 minutes later.

I then came across the one thing you can never fail to find in a far off land (except for a Chinese restaurant) the good old Irish Pub. Yes, its Kyoto, Japan, cant get much further from Ireland, yet theres an Irish Pub. I went in and got a Guinness. The Gael Gion as its called, is pretty authentic, fantastic décor and nice selection of drinks, and the Japanese bar staff spoke good Irish (well English). Currently owned by an Englishman from Liverpool who wasn’t in that night, but am told it was once owned by an Irishman some time before. This turned out to be an excellent night out, and made good friends with 3 of the regulars, one who kindly gave me a tour of the near-by area.

Most people headed home by this time, but on the way back a particular bar caught my eye as still being open, and after a beer and some chatting with the staff, I decided to stay out a bit longer. After spending about an hour chasing down a foreign compatible ATM, I ended up at the highly recommended Sam & Dave night club. Quite a nice venue and was quite enjoying the atmosphere. Shortly later a Japanese gentleman approached me, and after a couple of minutes I discovered he wanted to challenge a westerner to an arm wrestle “because westerner’s are meant to be really strong” now, me knowing a thing or 2 about Japanese strength, namely that even the smallest of Japanese seem to have amazing strength, I really wasn’t expecting to stand a chance, but I thought I might as well have a go anyway. Sure enough I lasted about 4 seconds. By the 5th second we were already bowing to each other furiously, by the 7th second he’d taken my beer. Fair enough I suppose, he did win fair and square. That little manoeuvre had me laughing to myself for the rest of the night, a very intuitive way to get a free beer if ever I saw one. About an hour later it was 4am, and I headed back via a taxi to the hotel.

Jan 7th – This was meant to be the day I visited Nara, and also I was looking at a trip to the Steam Locomotive Museum, unfortunately my cold decided it was having none of it – probably not helped by the previous late night admittedly, and lost most of the day again feeling quite ill with a cold and even a fever thrown in for good measure. Opted for dinner in the hotel with the intention of going out again that evening, however following the long meal I really wasnt up for it and ended up having an early-ish night.

Jan 8th – Got a nice early start, hotel breakfast finally, packed and headed off to the JR Kyoto station to make my way to Hiroshima. After just missing my train I got to watch several of the really high-speed Nozomi trains leave for Hiroshima, and then I got my Hikari superexpress which took me the majority of the journey to Okayama, where I then changed to a Hikari RailStar superexpress for the final section to Hiroshima. Upon arrival in Hiroshima, it was a 5 minute taxi ride to the hotel, the Sunroute Hiroshima.