Experience Asia on the Eastern and Oriental Express

Travel through Asia on the Eastern and Oriental Express.Featuring tours in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Laos, the Eastern and Oriental Express takes you through rainforests, imposing mountains, rubber plantations, frangipani fields, mango orchards, and even rice fields. Along the way, you can visit old temples, traditional villages, elephant camps, or boutiques where you can shop for local arts and crafts.

The trains of the Eastern and Oriental Express were originally built in Japan in 1972 for the New Zealand Railways. It ran between Auckland and Wellington as the Silver Star until 1979, when 24 of its 31 cars were sold to Orient-Express Hotels.

The cars were totally rebuilt and transformed into a luxury train boasting, justifiably, of having the amenities of a 5-star luxury hotel. The train is fully air-conditioned, except for the large observation car at its tail-end. It has two Presidential sleeping compartments, four staterooms in each carriage, and Pullman compartments.

The Pullman compartments include a sofa and fold-out table which you can use by day. At night, these are converted into an upper and lower berth. You need not worry about the conversion. A steward will do it for you while you are enjoying dinner at one of the two dining cars. There is a small en suite bathroom with toilet where you can wash and shower. Electrical sockets are provided for charging your gadgets.

Staterooms are twice the size of a Pullman. In addition to the amenities of the smaller compartment, there is also an armchair and freestanding chair by day. Another difference is that the sofas convert into two lower berths, thus eliminating the need for a ladder.

The Presidential compartments are similar to the Staterooms in design and furnishings. However, it is bigger and has additional chairs and table.

For dinner, you can choose between two dining cars where you can expect the same kind of dinner you get from 5-star hotel restaurants. Dinner is usually included in the fare, though you will have to pay for wine. In addition to the dining cars, two bar cars are also available, one of which is the open-air observation deck.

The Advantages of Traveling by Train

When it is better to travel by train.
In a fast-paced world, many people prefer to travel by plane whenever possible. There are, however, instances when getting to your destination quickly is not the only thing on your mind. And in such cases, riding the train may be the better option.

Cost of Airfare

Almost invariably flying is more expensive than traveling by train. Often the former can cost twice as much as the latter. Also, many passenger train services offer discounts to children of certain ages, students, senior citizens, military personnel, and AAA members, among others.

Unstable Prices of Airfares

Understandably, airlines price their fares higher on peak seasons, but such fluctuations are often very unpredictable and very disparate. Prices can vary daily, and, at times, a one-way ticket can be more expensive than a round-trip. In contrast, train fares, although there may be slight increases during peak seasons, are much more constant, even if you buy at the last minute.

Baggage Fees

Airlines typically charge fees for checked-in luggage, and there are even a few who also charge carry-on bags. Amtrak, on the other hand, allows you to bring along two 50-pound carry-on bags and two checked-in bags, also up to 50 pounds each, free.


You need not check in at least two hours before your scheduled trip when taking a train. You can arrive 30 minutes before boarding and walk straight to the boarding platform. In case your cab was caught in traffic going to the train station, you need not wait a day for the next flight. Just wait for the next train, which could be due in thirty minutes except when going someplace not frequently traveled.

Security Checks

Owing to terrorist threats, security checks are required when boarding airplanes or trains. Airline passengers, however, usually go through a more thorough check. Security staff can pat you down, ask you to remove your shoes, and require you to unpack your luggage.

Long Taxi Rides

Airports are typically located in city suburbs where they do not pose much danger to population centers. This means you will need to take a long cab ride going to and from them. Train stations, on the other hand, are often located right in the middle of the city. Your cab fare will not be as expensive.

Scenic Sights and Old World Charm

Travelling by train allows you to enjoy the sights along the way. It is also gives you time to sit back, relax, and take a break from the hustle and bustle of a fast-paced world.

Travel around Europe with a Eurail Pass

Explore Europe on a train with a Eurail Pass. Traveling in Europe from one beautiful city to another (or from one country to another) by train is considered by many to be the best way to experience the continent. You may get to you destination faster but you will miss all those dramatic and stunning sights along the way should you opt to travel by plane.

The Eurail Group G.I.E offers a way to travel by train across the continent without burning a hole in your pocket. The company is based in the Netherlands and it is owned by a consortium of rail carriers and shipping companies in Europe.
Eurail (also called Eurorail) offers passes and tickets for use on trains traveling on European railroads. Its main products are the Eurail and InterRail passes. Eurail is designed for non-European tourists, while InterRail is for European travelers. The passes allow passengers to travel either by train or ship at fixed prices per day, or to travel on a certain number of days within a given period.
You can choose from the four types of Eurail passes that are available. The four are designed to meet the different travel plans of tourists. These are: Global Pass, Select Pass, Regional Pass, and One Country Pass.
The Global Pass allows you to visit up to 24 countries within a given number of days. You can opt for 10 or 15 traveling days within two months; or an everyday travel for 15, 21, 30, 60, or 90 days.
If you choose to limit you European vacation to three, four, or five countries, the Select Pass is for you. Passes are limited to a 20-day duration but you can choose 5, 6, 8, or 10 days of traveling, except when visiting five countries when you can have 15 days of traveling.
Regional Passes are for tourists who only want to visit two countries that border on each other. The passes are valid for two months, but the number of times you can use them varies from one route to another.
The One Country Pass is available for most European countries and it remains valid for one month. Like the Select Pass, the number of times you can board the trains varies with each country.
Eurail passes are generally considered to be one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest, ticket to see Europe. In addition to this, discounts are given to persons below 26 years old and to senior citizens.

The World’s Longest High-Speed Rail Line

Beijing to Guangzhou by train in eight hours.China is a vast country with over a billion people. Many of them travel from one end of the country to the other for the same reasons Americans do –to search for jobs, for business travels, for leisure, or to visit relatives and friends. To accommodate these travelers, China introduced high-speed rail service in 2003. In 2004, it inaugurated the world’s first commercial maglev train in Shanghai. Today, it also has the world’s longest network of high-speed railway capable of 200 kilometers per hour at 8,358 kilometers of routes.

In 25 December 2012, China achieved another milestone. It opened the world’s longest high-speed rail line with a distance of 2,298 kilometers traveling from Beijing in the north to Guangzhou in the south. The line can handle trains speeding up to 300 kilometers per hour. At this speed, the train can reach its destination in only eight hours. Older trains running on a parallel line need 21 hours to make the distance.

Faster travel times are not the only benefits brought about by the line. The effects of the global financial crisis of 2009 were mitigated by lavish government spending on its construction. The same thing happened during the sharp economic downturn in the summer of 2012. Work on the project employed over 100,000 workers, thus easing pressures on the unemployment rate.

With more people switching to the trains running on the high-speed rail, more old trains and rails could now be used to transport goods instead of people. This means that reliance on trucks that run on expensive imported diesel and which are more polluting is now minimized.

A downside of the Beijing-Guangzhou high speed rail is that it can be expensive. A second class seat costs $139, one way. A bunk on the old trains can be had for $68, while a narrow seat goes for $40.

The Rise of America’s First Trains

The pioneers of the train industry in America.At beginning of the 19th century, most Americans lived along the Atlantic coast. There were, however, an increasing number who wanted to travel west, following the footsteps of the hardy pioneers who crossed the Allegheny Mountains into a land teeming with huge rivers, like the Ohio, Mississippi, and the Missouri, along with their tributaries. Up north, there are the great lakes. With all these water bodies, it was natural that the new pioneers would look to them for their travels.

The problem with the rivers, however, was that they are oriented in a north-south direction, while the pioneers were traveling from east to west. Although steamboats were already in use as early as 1807, and an extensive network of canals was constructed to expand their reach, it was obvious that the waterways could not link the settlers’ communities that were sprouting all over the vast lands of America. Men of vision began looking to the land as the answer.

Soon after Ebenezer Zane hacked a trail through the forests of Ohio, turnpike roads began to appear. They were, however, bumpy and dusty dirt roads with rough surfaces that turned into mud during the rains miring traveling wagons and coaches. Roads, at least at the time, therefore, were also not the answer to transport problems.

In 1812, an army colonel named John Stevens concluded that the best solution lay in steam railways. At that time, Stevens claimed at the New York legislature that he could build a steam-power railway at a cost less than the building of a canal connecting the Hudson with Erie Lake, and yet would be more effective. The proposal was turned down as impractical and thus the Erie Canal was built.

Notwithstanding this loss, Stevens gained a lot of supporters who, when a canal linking Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, were able to compel the planners to adopt a combination railway and canal. With the revised scheme, travel between the two Pennsylvania cities involved a boat sailing along the canal part of the way, and being hauled on wheeled trucks running over railway tracks. The trucks were pulled by a stationary engine and a long cable on steep inclines, while locomotives or horses were used on the plains. Although chartered in 1823, the Philadelphia to Pittsburgh line was completed only in 1832

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was chartered in 1827 and in 1830, it was able to lay its first 12 miles of tracks. Tom Thumb locomotive appeared later in the same year, completing a 13-mile journey from Baltimore to Ellicott’s Mills, Maryland.

Riding the Bernina Express across the Alps

Enjoying the scenic Alps aboard the Bernina Express.Perhaps one of the best reasons to travel to Switzerland is the Alps. The mountains are undoubtedly a spectacular sight. You can ski down their slopes, climb to their summits, admire them from a distance, or ride the Bernina Express across them.

The Bernina Express is a train consisting of panorama cars with huge windows curving at the roof providing you with a clear and wide vista of the snow-covered mountains and verdant valleys along its route. It runs daily from Chur or Davos in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy, making the trip in an average of four hours. The express is operated by the Rhaetian Railway Company.

You won’t feel tired sitting for four hours. The stunning view with the reclining seats, generous legroom, and footrests prevent that. There are even pop-up tables where you can rest the food and drink available from the train’s food trolley and mini bar. With its luxurious appointments, the train is a favorite among tourists.

A multi-lingual narrator who knows the name of virtually every mountain and valley along the route eliminates the need to browse through your guidebook or tablet looking for place names. This leaves you free to look out of the windows.

The Bernina Express runs the Albula and Bernina Lines, which were jointly declared as a World Heritage Site in 2008. Albula starts in Chur, Graubunden; follows the Rhine, Posterior Rhine, and Albula River; crosses the Landwasser Viaduct into Filisur, after which it passes through its first spiral tunnel; goes on to the Albula Tunnel; and on to the end of the line at St. Moritz.

The Bernina Line starts where the Albula ends. From St. Moritz, it proceeds to Pontresina; on to Morteratsch station, where you can see the Piz Bernina, the highest point of the Eastern Alps; crosses the 2,253-meter high summit of Ospizio Bernina; negotiates many hairpin turns before it reaches Cavaglia; passes the Italian border town of Campocologno before reaching its destination of Tirano.

Blue is a Railroader’s Red

When blue means stop.All people transporters have a duty to ensure that their passengers reach their destination on time, and, perhaps more important, safely. For this reason, it is important that their equipment must be regularly inspected and serviced to keep them in proper working condition.

In the performance of their jobs, train workers are often exposed to dangerous situations. They need to go under the cars, in between them, or at their tops, during which any movement can have disastrous consequences. In order to protect them, a system of signals has been devised to inform other people of their situation. This is called the blue flag protection.

Although blue flags were initially used, they have since been replaced with 12″ x 18″ metal signs painted in blue, or, where it is dark, blue lights, which can be either flashing or steady. Blue metal signs usually have the word “stop” painted in white. Perhaps out of habit, however, they are still referred to as “blue flags”. The term is also used figuratively to refer to switches or derailment locks under the sole control of designated employees.

When a car needs to be worked on, a blue flag is prominently displayed in front of it, or, sometimes, on it. This means that the rolling stock should neither be moved nor coupled to another stock. To keep it visible when placed on a car, the flag is put at right angles to the track with its full size protruding out of the edge of the car.

If a locomotive needs protection, two blue flags are used, which are both placed at right angles to the track. One extends outward, beyond the locomotive, while the other goes inward. For added safety, a blue flag can also be installed in the control stand of the cab.

A blue flag standing in between the rails indicates that no rolling stock should come nearer than 150 feet. If, however, it is in an area with a designated speed limit of 10 mph, the distance is reduced to 50 feet.

If a stretch of track needs to be closed, a derailer or switch held in place by a blue flag lock is used. A blue flag or signal is typically attached to it.

To assure the safety of both men and equipment, violations of the blue flag protection are dealt with seriously. They can lead to suspension or even dismissal.

The Rocky Mountaineer Train of Canada

Exploring Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer trains.Founded by the Armstrong Group in 1990, the Rocky Mountaineer is a tour company offering western Canadian tour packages on trains running through British Columbia and Alberta. It operates out of Vancouver, British Columbia and, since its opening, has served over a million passengers, making it the busiest passenger train service operated by the private sector.

The Rocky Mountaineer has received numerous awards that attest to its excellence. For the years 2005, 2006, and 2007, it was awarded at the World Travel Awards as the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train”. Since 2005, it has been included in The Society of International Railway Travelers’ list of the “World’s Top 25 Trains”. Even the National Geographic Magazine recognized it as one of the “World’s Best Journeys” in 2007. And in 2009, The Society of American Travel Writers rated it as one of the world’s top train rides.

Offering 45 vacation packages in four principal rail routes, you have plenty of options to explore the beautiful wilderness of the Canadian west passing through the Canadian Rockies, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can take in the sites while riding in a luxurious train with excellent service.

The routes are the First Passage, which starts in Vancouver, passes through Kamloops, and on to either Banff or Calgary in Alberta over the Canadian Pacific Railway; Journey through the Clouds from Vancouver through Kamloops to Jasper, Alberta over the Canadian National Railway; Rainforest to Gold Rush, which runs from North Vancouver through Whistler, Quesnel, and Prince George to Jasper; and the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb from North Vancouver to Whistler.

In addition to these routes, Rocky Mountaineer also has a coast-to-coast package that can take you from the Pacific to the Atlantic, or vice versa, on a 16-day/15-night rail journey. This includes overnight stays in Vancouver, Kamloops, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax.

Maglev Trains and How They Work

How do maglev trains work.Travel has become an important part of modern life. Sometimes our work requires us to travel to far away destinations, or we want to visit loved ones who have moved to the other end of the country, or perhaps we just want to take a vacation someplace far away. Often, the preferred mode of transport is an airplane because of its speed. Maglev trains, however, may soon give the airlines a run for their money.

The term “maglev” is a portmanteau of magnetic levitation. This term is used to indicate that the train, instead of running on wheels that are in direct contact with the tracks, are actually floating or levitating with the aid of magnets over them, which, to distinguish them from the old steel tracks, are called guideways. In addition to levitating the train, the magnets also propel the train forward.

Anybody familiar with how magnets work knows that like poles repel while unlike poles attract. It is this basic principle that serves as the basis of magnetic levitation. Magnets are installed in the undercarriage of the train as well as in the guideways. In order to guarantee a continuous, uninterrupted, and strong magnetic field, electromagnets are used, thus requiring a reliable power source.

Since the train is propelled forward by electromagnets, the train does not require a conventional engine that uses fossil fuels. And since it is not in direct contact with the guideway while running, friction is eliminated. This, along with the powerful magnetic forces at work, enables the train to reach extraordinary speeds. In fact, some of the trains can run up to speeds of 500 kph (310 mph). That is more than half the speed of a Boeing 777.

There are two types maglev technology currently in use. One is electromagnetic suspension (EMS), which was developed by Germany, and the other is electrodynamic suspension (EDS), which originated in Japan.

In EMS systems, horizontally-oriented C-shaped arms are fastened, with their open section at the bottom, to the undercarriage of the train. These are wrapped around a single guideway. The magnets are installed inside the arms and on the side of the guideway.

The main difference between the EMS and EDS is that latter uses super-cooled, superconducting magnets. This means that the magnet continues to operate even after power is cut, thus helping minimize energy use. Another difference is that while EMS trains levitate at only 1/3 inch, EDS allows them to rise up to 4 inches from the guideway.

The Birth of the Orient Express

An early history of the Orient Express.Founded in 1876 by the Belgian Georges Nagelmackers, The Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWS), in partnership with various national railway companies, operated luxury dining and sleeping cars traveling all over Europe from 1883 to 2009. While the railway companies provided the locomotives, tracks, and stations, CIWS supplied the dining and sleeping cars along with the staff to manage them.

The service was named Express d’Orient, and its first train traveled from Paris to Vienna in 5 June 1883. Four months later, the route was extended up to Giurgiu, Romania, passing through Munich and Vienna. At Giurgiu, a ferry took the passengers across the Danube to Ruse, Bulgaria, where they took another train to Varna, a seaside resort city on the Black Sea coast. From there, an Austrian Lloyd steamer took them to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul).

In 1885, a variation of the Paris – Constantinople route was opened. Instead of traveling from Vienna to Giurgiu, the train went through Belgrade and Nis. Here the passengers disembarked and took a carriage to Plovdiv, where they boarded another train to Constantinople.

With the completion of the tracks in 1889, the train service started its direct Paris to Constantinople route, traveling almost 70 hours. Two trains left Paris each week, on Sundays and Wednesdays. At the same time, trains for shorter destinations continued to run –daily to Vienna, and Mondays and Fridays for Bucharest.

In 1891, the name Express d’Orient was changed to Orient Express.

Although World War I interrupted the operation of the Orient Express, it resumed its services in 1918. In the following year, with the opening of the Simplon Tunnel connecting Switzerland and Italy, a new route to Constantinople was inaugurated, which was known as the Simplon Orient Express.

By the 1930s, a third “Orient Express” train service was opened –the Arlberg Orient Express. The train’s route begins in Paris, passes through Zurich and Innsbruck, picks up sleeper cars in Budapest, goes through Bucharest, and ends in Athens.

The 1930s were the heyday of the Orient Express, with three running services –the Orient Express, Simplon Orient Express, and Arlberg Orient Express. It was at this time that it acquired its reputation for luxury with the royalty and affluent businessmen patronizing it. It was also around this time, when a westbound Orient Express was stuck for five days in the snow some 130 kilometers from Constantinople, that Agatha Christie was inspired to write Murder on the Orient Express.