Saturday, December 15, 2012

Steam Train to Křivoklát and an Advent Fair

steam train arrives in Smichov train station, Prague Czech Republic
It's impossible to capture with pictures the power of a steam engine coming into a station. There's the sense of an unstoppable force rushing forward, steam rolling ahead filling the platform, the tremendous, ear blasting whistle announcing its arrival. Trying to capture its power pulls you towards it, and Will had to tug my coat to save me from tumbling onto the tracks as the train pulled in this morning.

My first thoughts after watching our ride arrive - now I understand the 19th century much better,* and, no trip is going to top that!

Though there were no more adrenalin filled lunges towards the rails for me, we had a good time anyway. We bundled in to 1950s train cars to take a ride with friends to a medieval castle and its Advent festival. The train trip lasted two hours. Because it was cold, we could keep the windows up and avoid the coal smoke. Instead, we watched the clouds billow behind us along the valley floor. Beautiful through the glass, but we all agreed that electric trains were a considerable air-quality improvement.

steam bellows from steam train (parni lokomotiv) in Krivoklat, Czech Republic
Once in Křivoklát, we slowly slid down the icy path towards the town below the castle. All the restaurants were full of speedier train fans, so we stomped our way through the snow to the Advent fair, in the castle's courtyard, and dined on klobása and trdelnik, with hot tea to wash it down. I'll post pictures tomorrow of the fair, it's a train day today, but I decided that castles are like cathedrals - they're much more interesting when they are full of people.

We came home on a regular České dráhy train, a few hours after we arrived. Our ride home was much warmer and faster, despite the extra stops and a train change. It wasn't half as exciting, said Caroline, which might explain why nearly everyone fell asleep before we got home.

Sitting at my desk right now, I've just heard another engine blast its warning before the train tunnel beneath Vinohrady. From far away, you miss its fierceness, and only hear the lonely third wavering as it rushes into the hillside, towards its last stop of the night.

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Here's a rough schedule for next year's steam engine trips from Prague. The first train of the season leaves Branik train station on Easter weekend, Saturday March the 30th. It's heading to Křivoklát again. With any luck, we will be on it. Thank you W and M for introducing us to the steam trains of the Czech Republic!

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* Have you ever seen Monet's paintings of trains? Read The Railway Children? Monet and Nesbit were right, steam locomotives are dragons of power.

conductors watch a steam train in Beroun Czech Republic

7 comments:

marja-leena said...

Ooh, that sounds fabulous and romantic (except the fumes, of course). It's been decades since I've been on one of those.

This also reminded me of the animated film 'The Polar Express' , the children would love it and I did too. Of course there are numerous movies centered on trains...

Roderick Robinson said...

Thank goodness for Will. It's one thing to read about Anna, quite another to imitate her.

Nice to see that your steam-fed ecstasy didn't get in the way of your camera hand and that some truly beautiful pix (esp no. 2) emerged. Nice too that your party didn't include a heart-breaking pragmatist (eg, me, for instance) maintaining a threnody that present-day diesel locomotives, like boxes on wheels, unwreathed in white clouds, not given to ear-blasting sounds, are rather more powerful than these monsters from another age. However, had I been there, and had I been told to shut up and not rain on everyone's parade, I would have pointed out that steam does have one spectacular advantage over the internal combustion engine: a steam train doesn't require a gearbox. Thus when the power is fed to the wheels at standstill, and despite the huge weight of attached carriages, the drive wheels spin in fury against the rail because the system is able to apply full power at virtually zero kph. A drag race where time doesn't matter

Nice too that this clear case of seduction left the brain functioning as always. Your remark about the 19th century is well-marked and may I add a small coda. In the USA that was the time of robber barons, some of them associated with railways. But I wonder if there was an underlying, basically loving, attitude towards these smoking behemoths that managed - by a sort of intellectual diffraction - to turn those rapacious criminals into something more like rogues.

And finally, even if I had been able to write something as good, seamlessly turning enthusiasm into well-judged prose, you would have pulled effortlessly away with "and only hear the the lonely third wavering as it rushes into the hillside". A knowledge of intervals leaves everyone else breathing your dust.

PS. Yes to Monet, yes to E. Nesbit

Paola said...

Yet another thing to do to add to my Prague list!

Rouchswalwe said...

Oh, I miss train rides and stations. In Japan, the Shinkansen was a marvel of silent power, but I did miss the huffing and puffing of the dragon.

Advent! Advent! Das dritte Lichtlein brennt!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Trains are so romantic and wonderful. My fantasy vacation involves a train trip through the Canadian Rockies.

Julia said...

ML - Polar Express might just be showing up under the tree this year!

Robbie - My camera led me astray, it always wants closer and closer shots. After reading Captains Courageous many times, I think you're absolutely right about robber barons and their relationships to trains (and boats of course).

Paola - once spring arrives it seems as if the steam trains travel twice a month or so almost for the rest of the year.

RW - We were running around between multiple concerts and parties on Sunday, but stole 30 minutes to light our wreath and enjoy coffee together. A still moment in Advent is so wonderful.

GG - I'd like to take that trip too, some of my friends have been on something similar and very much loved it.

Julia said...

ML - Polar Express might just be showing up under the tree this year!

Robbie - My camera led me astray, it always wants closer and closer shots. After reading Captains Courageous many times, I think you're absolutely right about robber barons and their relationships to trains (and boats of course).

Paola - once spring arrives it seems as if the steam trains travel twice a month or so almost for the rest of the year.

RW - We were running around between multiple concerts and parties on Sunday, but stole 30 minutes to light our wreath and enjoy coffee together. A still moment in Advent is so wonderful.

GG - I'd like to take that trip too, some of my friends have been on something similar and very much loved it.