Tag Archives: train ride

USA 2019 – 09 The Metro and Union Station in Washington DC (2019-10-26) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 23 FEB 2021

We obviously don’t really have any true underground rapid transit metro subway here in South Africa (unless you count the 15 km long underground stretch of the Gautrain network as one), meaning then that my first interaction with the Washington Metro and its now six lines, 91 stations, and 188 km of route, really did bring out a good and proper smile from me. What can I say, I enjoy experiencing transport engineering.

Engineering aside, an added bonus is definitely that many of the older Metro stations, designed by Chicago architect Harry Weese, are an absolute visual delight to behold, a perfect example of late 20th century modern architecture with aspects of Brutalist design (thanks to the heavy use of exposed concrete and repetitive design motifs) mixed in with Washington’s de facto neoclassical architectural style through the stations’ imposing overarching coffered ceiling vaults. (Additionally, in an effort to lighten up these rather grey and stoic spaces, the metro stations themselves all tend to feature different art on the mezzanine levels above the fare machines, generally visible as you move to exit any station). It must be said that the stations have a pretty good signage system, seem to run pretty much on schedule, and pleasingly proved super easy to use – even for someone as navigationally challenged as myself!

One of the jewels of the system is the massive Washington Union Station, a major train station, transportation hub, and leisure destination all rolled into one. Opened in 1907, the incredibly busy Union Station is an intermodal facility, home to Amtrak and its rail network as well as servicing the MARC and VRE commuter rail services, the Washington Metro (which is how I ended up there), the DC Streetcar, intercity bus lines, and the local Metrobus busses. It is worth noting that it was only in 1988 that a headhouse wing was added and the original station renovated for use as a shopping mall, thus giving the station its current and very distinctive form. So, given its prime location as an intersection of so many travel options it is no wonder then that Union Station ranks as one of the United States’ busiest rail facilities and shopping destinations – with over 40 million visitors per year!

Due to Union Station’s proximity to the United States Capitol (just five blocks away), architects Daniel H. Burnham and Pierce Anderson worked hard to make this station a massive grandiose architectural triumph, incorporating an incredible array of neoclassical and Beaux-Arts style influenced elements to bring their vision to life – from the triumphal arch entrance, the 26 interior centurions looking down upon you, the six colossal exterior statues by Louis St. Gaudens (modeled on the Dacian prisoners of the Arch of Constantine), to the great vaulted spaces such as those of the Baths of Diocletian, as well as of course the inclusion of expensive materials such as marble, gold leaf, and white granite in the finishing.

Fronted by the Columbus Circle plaza and its impressive fountain, the Washington Union Station with all its architecture, commerce, and people truly is a spectacle to behold – even if done while sitting down and munching on something as mundane as a food court Johnny Rockets burger. Sigh, stupid South African Rand to the US Dollar exchange rate!

A Visit to Hartenbos via the Diaz Express from Santos Beach, Mossel Bay (2017-01-02) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 06 AUG 2017

At the start of this year, while away for a bit of a break in Gouritz, I took a drive out to Mossel Bay in order to treat the girls with a ride aboard the cute, tourist friendly Diaz Express.

In a nutshell, the Diaz Express is a fun rail experience that takes a resurrected Type 40 Mark II Wickham Inspection Trolley and then sends it along for a run on the existing Garden Route Transnet rail network, between the seaside resorts of Great Brak River and Mossel Bay.

During peak holiday season, the Diaz Express runs the shorter hop from Mossel Bay to Hartenbos, and this then was the one that the girls and I caught a ride on.

The day that we headed out was unfortunately a bit of an overcast, drizzly affair, though that said, the slightly gloomy weather was nowhere near strong enough to dampen the excitement of the girls when they first laid eyes on the cute little blue ‘train’ sitting next to its station deck outside the venerable Santos Express train lodge above Santos Beach.

The short ride was a blast (the girls LOVED it), and once deposited at the Hartenbos train station, the girls and I then strolled down to the main entertainment hub of this iconic Afrikaaner seaside holiday escape, where we mingled with the crowd, taking in the sights and sounds of a LOT of people who, despite the weather, were clearly enjoying their December break!

Unfortunately for us, the weather was just a little too gloomy to allow for some play time down on the beach, so instead we found ourselves wandering around a bit more, snacking on treats here and there, and of course, watching everyone else, seeming impervious to the weather, having a holiday ball.

(Seriously, there was parasailing of all things on the go!)

Finally, we stumbled across a funfair ride that the girls simply wouldn’t let me pass (I tried), and most importantly, one that I would let both of them ride. In other words, the highlight of the day’s outing then.

Watching the clock, we made our way back to the Hartenbos platform, just in time to catch our ride back aboard the Diaz Express. (This time around, the journey was slightly wetter but a little more noisy – thanks to our friendly conductor having a great time entertaining all the kids by pressing the hooter every time someone’s nose got touched!)

All in all, a fun outing that I’ll definitely be doing again with the girls (and probably grandparents) I imagine.

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Bonus: While grabbing some links for this post, I came across this nice little video detailing the longer and much nicer Mossel Bay to Great Brak excursion, courtesy of local South African travel writer “Travelbug” Rose Bilbrough.

Looks fantastic!

Related Link: Diaz Express | Hartenbos | Mossel Bay

Things to See in New Zealand: Taieri Gorge Limited (Dunedin Railways) Travel Attractions 16 JUN 2015

A visit to Dunedin is not complete without a trip on the Dunedin Railways (formerly Taieri Gorge Railway) Taieri Gorge Limited route – one of the world’s great train trips.

new zealand south island dunedin railways taieri gorge limited train ride 1

The Dunedin Railways (formerly the Taieri Gorge Railway and the Otago Excursion Train Trust) is an operator of a railway line and tourist trains based at Dunedin Railway Station in the South Island of New Zealand. The railway is a council-controlled trading organisation (formerly known as a local authority trading enterprise) owned jointly by the Dunedin City Council and the Otago Excursion Train Trust.

new zealand south island dunedin railways taieri gorge limited train ride 2

The Taieri Gorge Limited is New Zealand’s longest tourist railway and stretches along the former Otago Central Railway from the 4 km peg on the Taieri Branch, 18 km west of Dunedin, to Middlemarch, a distance of some 60 kilometres. Between Dunedin and the start of the line its trains operate on KiwiRail’s Main South Line via a running rights agreement.

The line travels through spectacular scenery along the banks of the Taieri River, through numerous tunnels and climbing along the Taieri Gorge to the Strath Taieri. It crosses a dozen viaducts, including the southern hemisphere’s largest wrought iron structure, and passes through ten tunnels.

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At Wingatui Railway Station, the original building and signal box from 1914 has been restored and is one of the best remaining island platform stations in New Zealand. After the line passes through the 437 metres (1,434 ft) long Salisbury Tunnel, the longest on the line, it crosses Mullocky Gully over the 197 metres (646 ft) long Wingatui Viaduct, the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand since it was built in 1887. The 47m tall viaduct’s riveted lattice structure rests on seven concrete and masonry piers.

new zealand south island dunedin railways taieri gorge limited train ride 4

Shortly after Wingatui Viaduct, the route emerges from Mullocky Gully to join Taieri Gorge, and from then on follows that gorge above Taieri River to just east of Pukerangi. On the way the line passes former stations Parera, Mount Allen, Little Mount Allen, and Christmas Creek, crossing two curved viaducts at the latter two locations. Hindon, still operating as a crossing station, is typically one of the stopping points on the trip. Just before the station, the railway tracks share a combined road-rail bridge with Hindon Road, a local backroad.

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Another popular stopping point for photo opportunities is the Deep Stream viaduct. Here the line slowly starts to climb higher and out of the gorge, passing over the Flat Stream viaduct, and “The Notches”, a section of short bridges and cuttings through several rocky outcrops, on its way to Pukerangi. Between Pukerangi and Middlemarch, the railway only once more comes close to the Taieri River, where it crosses Sutton Creek over another combined road-rail bridge.

new zealand south island dunedin railways taieri gorge limited train ride

In other words, if you love trains and beautiful, varied scenery, this is definitely something to add to your New Zealand travel list!

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Related Link: Dunedin Railways | Wikipedia

Photo Gallery: Century City Natural Goods Market (2013-10-27) Photo Gallery 29 OCT 2013

After the slightly disappointing Doilie Market at D’Aria in Durbanville, followed by the more than a little inconvenient crashing of her car coming home via the R300 on Saturday afternoon, Chantelle and I really needed things to go our way on Sunday if there was to be any hope of salvaging our work weekend – and pleasingly the Century City Natural Goods Market turned out to be a good one!

(Although it didn’t start out that way – I made the awful mistake of handing the cupcakes over to a porter to transport for me without completely thinking it through: sadly he did the transporting via a tilted two wheel trolley, which obviously squished everything up in their containers! The Pina Colada cupcakes were a complete write-off, but thankfully the rest could be saved/salvaged. I wanted to cry, shame, Chantelle did cry!)

Anyway, trade was brisk and Chantelle and I managed to sell most of our stock out over the course of the glorious summer’s day, with the market operating in the usual 09:00 to 14:00 time slot. Loads of people, a great vibe, awesome music (live band was a group of older gentleman performing under the name of Time Flies – what an awesome, awesome party vibe these guys manage to create!), entertainment for the kids (dog trick show, train rides, etc), and best of all (well for Chantelle and myself anyway) – Mom and Dad brought Jessica over for a visit!

(Jessica also had a good adventure this weekend: Saturday with Oupa and Ouma – with a sleepover – and Sunday with Granny and Grandpa!)

So all in all it was a fabulous way to spend a sunny Sunday (and not just because of the fantastic Kudu burger I had for lunch) – even if technically we were working! ;)


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Terrific Tuesday My Life 19 SEP 2007

Sometimes you have a good day, sometimes you don’t. Yesterday was certainly not one of the worst days I’ve ever had. It started off interestingly enough. I just got into the office after my leisurely 20 minute stroll up to campus which I’m now doing every day (got do something to get fit damn it!) and was surprised to find a mail in my inbox from my ex, Liz, asking whether or not I am still on MSN.

I dutifully replied, and a little while later I received a pensive hello via Messenger. Had a nice long chat with Liz, but shame, sounds like things arent going all that great for her at the moment. Chantelle also popped up, and I had a nice quick chat with her, culminating in the news that she was coming through to Bellville to visit a friend that had come down to stay at Sunbell Lodge for a short while, meaning that she would be crashing by me the evening.

Work wise, I have just about managed to finish the final polishes to the ICIS website, the first outside paid work I’ve done in a year or two. Also managed to squeeze in some programming, but was hard-pressed to finish all my work when I discovered the delightfully entertaining anime, Black Lagoon sitting on my machine (before I knew it, I had watched two episodes, and was forced to grab my right hand and force it to hit the KVM switch to return to my work machine instead of hitting for the next episode to start).

Yesterday then saw me do something I have never even contemplated doing before even though I’ve been using the train system for well over 4 years now. The ever decreasing operating train sets has lead to a situation where the train is so full that I hardly ever get an opportunity to sit anymore. As this is beginning to now frustrate me, I changed my tactic for the first time ever and purposefully rode past Salt River station and went straight through to Cape Town. There I boarded the train to Bellville at the point of departure, meaning I could actually grab a seat and enjoy a relaxed trip home. Sure it cost me an extra 10 minutes in travel time, but hey, now that I don’t have the strict karate schedule that saw me racing to get home to make it in time, this seems like a pretty good deal to me.

Seeing as my knee isnt up for jogging just yet thanks to its collapse on Saturday, I skipped gym again and instead headed down to Willowbridge Mall, for a leisurely shopping trip that involved me purchasing chocolates, flowers and cupcakes I made it a little more manly by browsing through Look & Listen though, just in case you are worried.

My master plan was to lay the flowers on Chantelles pillow, with the chocolates strategically placed in front of them with a little card bearing the cheesy inscription of You are always welcome to Le Lotter Manor. Corny I know, but sometimes one must make an effort to make your partner feel good (and extra Brownie points always prove invaluable for those times that you screw up). However, as well laid out as my intentions were, my plan was dashed when upon arrival at the flat, who should be getting out of their car, but Chantelle. *sigh* So much for the element of surprise, but at least I got my Brownie points for the thought. As they say, it is the thought that counts :)

starlite diner bellville - classic car run

She decided not to visit her friend in the end, so instead we visited over a glass of red wine, before heading out to Starlight Diner in search of their Mexican Burger which I was absolutely craving for. The delicious meal was followed up by a vicious pillow fight, in which Chantelle had to swallow her pride and admit defeat at the hands of my dual wield pillow technique.

Happy in the knowledge of my victory, I eventually settled down and went to bed, a pretty successful day behind me as far as I’m concerned.

If you are wondering as to the reason behind this rather pointless posting, it is in fact pretty simple. On arrival this morning, all UCT network connectivity was down, leaving me pretty much nothing but a standalone machine – hence me passing the time by typing this entry up in Word for later posting. See, a simple reason for the crap that I sometimes spew :)