FolkestoneJack's Tracks

NVBS 1254

Posted in Amsterdam, Netherlands by folkestonejack on March 23, 2011

My evening stroll tonight took me through Amsterdam Centraal around sunset, with the thought that there might be a sunset shot worth taking. Instead of this, my eye was drawn to an unusual looking locomotive that didn’t fit the usual mix of NS units or electric locomotives. On closer inspection this turned out to be a vintage 1950s electric locomotive – NVBS 1254 – though I hasten to add that I only understood what I was seeing with the assistance of wikipedia’s helpful entry on NS class 1200!

NVBS 1254 had clearly dragged the stock for the 19:01 Amsterdam-Moscow night sleeper into Amsterdam Centraal and then been uncoupled.

NVBS 1254 (ir. J.HOEKWATER) at Amsterdam Centraal

NVBS 1254 (ir. J.HOEKWATER) at Amsterdam Centraal on the night of 23rd March 2011 with the stock for the Amsterdam-Moscow night sleeper

Once the night sleeper was safely on its way NVBS 1254 duly departed light engine in the same direction. It was worth seeing, even though – for once – it really was coincidence that I was in the right place at the right time!

NVBS 1254 departs Amsterdam Centraal light engine

NVBS 1254 departs Amsterdam Centraal light engine on 23rd March 2011

Aside from this spectacle, I have enjoyed the variety of locomotives and units on Dutch railways although I guess as a tourist I’m bound to find the ordinary exotic! If I had to pick a favourite, I think the dramatic styling of the koploper units would win me over every time.

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Day trip to Utrecht

Posted in Netherlands, Utrecht by folkestonejack on March 23, 2011

Arrived at Schipol last night for a short break in Amsterdam.

On the first full day of the trip I headed out to Utrecht for the day, mainly to visit the Dutch national railway museum but also to explore the historic city centre. It was an easy journey to make – just 27 minutes by train from Amsterdam Centraal to Utrecht Centraal, followed by a shuttle train to Utrecht Maliebaan.

It was a somewhat uninspiring journey travelling through a corridor of fog that obscured any kind of view, apart from the occasional ghostly row of trees, but the return journey later in the day revealed what had been hidden – a terrific view of ships sailing along the Oostkanaal.

A morning spent in the railway museum was good fun. It was interesting to see how the museum has delivered an interactive experience through four themed ‘worlds’ to explain the history of railways in the Netherlands that would keep the smallest of visitors engaged (and still amuse bigger visitors). It is a pity that the ‘steel monsters’ from the 1920s/30s are only accessible through what is ostensibly a ghost train ride, but I’d have to concede that it probably works for the casual visitor. The fact that it was so memorable probably speaks volumes for the approach they have taken, whether or not you agree with it.

War Department Austerity 2-10-0 No. 73755 Longmoor is one of the more surprising exhibits at Utrecht Railway Museum.

War Department Austerity 2-10-0 No. 73755 Longmoor is one of the more surprising exhibits at Utrecht Railway Museum.

The restoration of Utrecht Maliebaan station was even more impressive. It was a pleasure to wander from room to room getting an impression of what it might have looked like in the 19th century, although I imagine a royal waiting room wouldn’t be a feature of most stations!

After leaving the railway museum behind I headed into the historic town centre to explore. The cathedral is particularly fascinating as it was split into two parts after a hurricane in 1674 caused the nave to collapse. Today, you can check out the cathedral and visit the tower on a guided tour – though all the tours were sold out on the day I visited so I had to settle for admiring the exterior.

I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the centre of Utrecht though I’d have to admit that I wouldn’t have been there were it not for the railway museum. It’s certainly a city with alot to offer, even a UFO

A tale of three airports

Posted in Beijing, China, Harbin, Netherlands, Schiphol by folkestonejack on January 9, 2011

My morning began with an early morning trek up to London City airport to start my long journey to Jixi. This should have involved three flights and one overnight train…

Step 1: Cityjet LCY-AMS

Arrived on schedule at Amsterdam Schiphol airport armed with a saturday newspaper and found myself a comfy spot to rest and have a good cover-to-cover read. I had a good number of hours to kill but it was actually quite relaxing after a fairly intense week at work… it has to be said that if you have to spend time at an airport then Schiphol is not a bad place to be! I was surprised how quickly the time passed, assisted occasionally by distractions such as the air side outpost of the Rijksmuseum.

Step 2: KLM Asia AMS-PEK

My flight KL897 departed on schedule (around 17:40) with KLM Asia Boeing 747-400 Combi ‘City of Freetown’ and I settled down for the nine hours or so that the flight would take (assisted by some favourable tailwinds). It landed a good half an hour early in Beijing – around 9.15am. I didn’t need to hurtle through the whole arrival process as my next flight was some hours away…

Step 3: China Southern PEK-HRB

It all started to unravel with the third leg of the trip as the 17:20 China Southern flight remained stubbornly on the ground with engineers crawling around one of the engines. It didn’t look especially good as time ticked by and no word came back on the unspecified mechanical problems. Usually I am fairly jumpy about this sort of thing but I have latterly come to realise that you can’t do much in this situation and instead buried myself ever deeper in a good book (The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón).

I was quite convinced the flight would be cancelled and was already steeling myself for that moment when suddenly a shout went up and everyone was boarded in a hurry. The flight eventually took off at 19:25 instead of the scheduled 17:20 – landing at 20:55. Time was now working against me.

I hurried up the air bridge at Harbin (which resembled the inside of an fridge that had been awaiting defrosting for years), collected my luggage and headed over to the driver who was there to get me to the train station. It was a hopeless mission… despite the best efforts of my driver the distance from the railway station was simply too far to reach in time for me to make the 10pm hard sleeper to Jixi.

The driver turned off at the nearest hotel on the road between the airport and the station then helped me to get checked in (with a fair degree of confusion all round). And that’s the story so far…