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The Ghan is back and here is what you need to know about the iconic train
This is part of a series documenting the trains I saw in Italy in late spring 2017.
We left Rome on May 31 and headed to Cinque Terre. This set of five fishing towns is becoming a popular tourist destination. To get there by train, one has to first go to La Spezia, then transfer to a local train that runs through all five towns.
Some kind of concrete tie train at the Follonica station
I amused myself by taking lots of photos out the windows. Since the train wasn't crowded, both my wife and I had window seats. Of course, I was a lot more interested in photographing the trackside equipment and structures than she was!
I'm fascinated by European diesel locomotives. The "form factor" of these locomotives is so different than current North American locomotives. In many ways, they are more reminiscent of early North American diesels.
The diesel below is a centre cab - not done now but GE certainly had centre cabs in their early diesels.
One of two paired diesel units at Follonica, Italy
A little research shows that it is an ex Czech diesel - I spotted one like it a few years ago.
I think the key difference is that European diesels are just small, because European trains are shorter and lighter than North American trains. Also, most European trains are pulled by electric locomotives, so the diesels are used more for branch lines and maintenance trains.
Cooling towers and containers
We had glimpses of a lot of Italian train stations. Some were pretty modern but some had some nice touches, like the Rosignano station below with the patterned arch above the doors.
S. Marinella train station
Naturally, wires are everywhere since most trains are electric.
We had power at our seats, which was great for keeping cell phones charged. I had a very bulky international adapter plugged in, to adapt the standard North American plugs for Italian/European plugs. It doesn't convert voltage but most DC adapters can handle 120V through 240V. Read the label!
World's bulkiest power plug adapter
The train stopped at Pisa on the way. Before the trip, my wife and I had discussed whether we should go see the famed Leaning Tower, but we decided against it. We figured that it wouldn't be a good use of our limited time to go see the tower, take a photo, then leave. I did snap a photo from the train as we crossed a river in Pisa itself, hoping to catch the tower in the photo. I didn't get it in the photo below, but I think we did catch a glimpse of the tower as we left the town.
Crossing the Arno River in Pisa, Italy
La Spezia Centrale
We arrived at La Spezia, and left our train. Looking at the handy displays, we found the platform for the train to Riomaggiore (technically, you look for the train to Levanto) and went there to wait. Of course, I spent my time photographing trains while we waited.
The Train to Cinque Terre
The train to Cinque Terre
Our train showed up, pretty much on time, and we boarded. The interior of the train was pretty spartan, but that's OK. It's a short haul train - it's only an hour run between La Spezia and Levanto. Since we were getting off at the first of the five towns - Riomaggiore - we would barely sit down before we arrived.
There's not much to share from a 7 minute ride. I remember that we went through a couple of short tunnels. The line through Cinque Terre hugs the coast and definitely goes through a lot of tunnels. The track in Riomaggiore is only exposed for a few hundred feet and goes into tunnels on both ends of the station.
Again, this isn't a travel blog, so I won't write much about the non-train stuff. The town of Riomaggiore is simply gorgeous and well worth a visit. It's small and quaint, but touristy.
We enjoyed a lovely sunset down by the water.
More to come!
This article first appeared on blog.traingeek.ca
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