I love trains. I’m a big fan of public transport when it is planned, financed and executed well. A huge fan, actually. I’ve commuted to work in and visited places in the world where the trains were so clean you could probably curl up and sleep on the floor/carpet. Building good public transport networks and systems is a real art. When I see one that works– excellent connectivity, optimised networks and arrival times, clean and safe stations and trains, diligent capacity projections and planning– I get a delicious sort of tingle in my spine. To me, it is one of the most telling indicators of a government that has got its shit together and reflects a deep pride in its city.
Trains, in particular, seem to have chugged their way into a happy part of my soul and stayed there. I love train journeys: the scenery flashing by, the sense of having cast off anchor from the departure point but not yet saddled with the newness and responsibilities of the destination, the anticipation of arrival. Everything seems to relax on a train. I have had some interesting conversations in the bistro/restaurant cart of inter-city and international trains; people drinking beer around cocktail tables bolted to the floor, serenely wallowing in that in-between feeling of having nothing to do but pass time. I have seen some of the most beautiful winter landscapes and seascapes and riverscapes from the windows of trains.
I think the romance of trains must have come from a lifetime of reading travel narratives (the Orient Express and Trans-Siberian stand out for some reason), and a childhood dizzy with Enid Blyton’s boarding schools (just like in Harry Potter, one starts and ends with a long train journey).
Most of all, I think that trains travel at the precise speed of the soul. I’m grateful for trains!