Rails and tracks wrap our world. Whether it’s cross-country massive trains or small inner-city cable cars, freight trains carrying large cargo or subways packed with urbanites, train transportation is one of the main forms of land transportation.
This has been true for nearly 200 years, ever since steam engines on rails were first introduced in England in the 1820’s. The use of the rail system grew rapidly, as this was the most effective and fastest way to transport cargo and people. The rail system, and the sturdy trains that rode them, played a major role in the industrial revolution. With rails acting as the pencil in a large and complicated “connect the dot” world, trade became fast and easy. Import and export was no longer a hassle. In Europe, countries and cities started connecting and forming bonds like never before. In the U.S., the relatively young country started expanding to the west, thanks to the use of massive railroads. Basically, all progress made in the 19th century, leading to the modern world we know today, can be linked to trains. And as technology has progressed with time, so has the use of tracks and rails.
Today, train transportation can be seen everywhere. many major cities and metropolitans around the world have an underground rail system. In New York, it is famously known as the “subway”, and it is by far the most popular form of inner-city transportation. In Paris, we know it as the “metro”, and it is extremely popular among locals and tourists alike. In London, the term is “tube”, and this underground rail is very popular as well. No matter the place or name, underground trains are an extremely effective way of transportation, thanks to its relatively low cost and traffic free rails.
Also, many cities and countries use cable cars or rails above the streets to help with public transportation. San Francisco has its famed cable cars riding up and down the hills filled with tracks. Japan, with the famous bullet train, goes high-speed above the ground with a bullet-fast train on rails above. In Switzerland, there is a very unique track with the “Chocolate Train”, touring the country’s chocolate and cheese factories.
But, in my opinion, the most interesting trains are the ones on the massive tracks. Though the trains of old have been replaced by newer models, the tracks remain. The cross-continent, border-crossing, city-connecting trails, with trains that ride them for days without stopping, those are the real interesting ones. Throughout Europe, you can travel from city to city easily thanks to the connected railways throughout the continent. In the States, you can travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific using the same railways used to build the country back in the day. The trans-Siberian railway, connecting Moscow to the Russian far east and the Sea of Japan, is the longest railway in the world. It is nearly 10 thousand kilometers long, and I’m sure that the long ride is a truly unforgettable one.
Trains, of all shapes and sizes, simply get the job done. And while they may not always be the fastest way of transportation, they are certainly the most interesting. If you ever find yourself touring a different city, or country, I implore you to ride the train. To truly experience the most genuine and authentic people the country has to offer, there is no better way than to ride the tracks. So forget about traveling by sea or by air, experience the country’s terrain and enjoy a ride along the tracks, from above, from below and even right on street level.