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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 10 (February 1, 1928)

Notes On Our Travels

page 24

Notes On Our Travels.

We left Edinburgh at 1.15 p.m. on Monday, 12th October, 1925, and arrived at Newcastle at 3.58 p.m.—distance 124 miles. En route we stopped at Berwick, the border town between Scotland and England. The Berwick railway station stands on the site of the old castle in which Edward I., in 1292, considered the rival claims of Bruce and Baliol to the throne of Scotland. Newcastle is a very large city and the shops are particularly good. On the outskirts of the city are to be seen the various coal pits.

A Gotthard train hauled by a 128-ton engine.

A Gotthard train hauled by a 128-ton engine.

The following day (Tuesday) we journeyed from Newcastle to York —distance 84 miles. The time taken on this journey was one hour 58 minutes. The weather was dry but very cold. Our first stop was at Durham where the castle and cathedral can be seen from the train. The castle is of much historic interest from the fact that the building was begun in 1072 by King William the Conqueror.

Our next stop was at Darlinghurst which is a very important industrial centre. Darlinghurst claims the proud distinction of being the birth place of railways, as it was on the 27th Sept., 1825, that the first public railway, viz., the Stockton and Darlington, was opened for traffic.

The first passenger locomotive ever used on a railway (George Stephenson's No. 1 locomotive) stands on a pedestal at the south end of the main station.

York, which we next visited, is one of the most interesting cities in the United Kingdom. It was originally one of the Roman strongholds and to-day there are still to be seen the old Roman walls.

The York Minister is one of the finest cathedrals of Gothic architecture and the stained glass work is really marvellous. Particularly beautiful is the famous “Five Sisters Window.”

From York to London the distance is 187 miles. The time taken was three hours and 44 minutes—three stops en route. During some stages of the journey we were travelling nearly 80 miles per hour. The travelling was so smooth and comfortable that one did not notice the speed.

During my stay in London I had the privilege of visiting the chief railway stations in that city. Waterloo station (owned by the Southern Railway Company) is one of the most up-to-date stations in London. It contains 21 platforms. An enormous suburban traffic is dealt with at this station and is worked entirely by electric trains. These electric trains deal with the incoming and outgoing passenger traffic and leave again three minutes after the time of their arrival at the station.

King's Cross station (owned by the London and North Eastern Railway Company) contain 15 platforms and covers 16 acres of ground.

It was always a pleasure to visit the London railway stations and to note how expeditiously the very heavy suburban traffic was dealt with.

The underground systems in London are really marvellous. At the rush hours in the evening the trains are dealt with at intervals of about a minute.

After a short stay in London we set out on a tour through the West of England and Wales From Fishguard Harbour in Wales the Great Western Railway Company's steamers run to Rosslare in Ireland. The distance between the two ports is 54 miles and the time usually taken on the trip is 2¾ hours. On a later occasion we had the privilege of travelling by these boats and found them most comfortable.

From Fishguard we travelled to Penzance, breaking the journey en route at Bristol, Bath, Exeter and Truro. We spent a very enjoyable fortnight at Penzance. It was late in the season and the weather was very cold, though dry. Among the principal places of interest are “Land's End” and the “Lizard”—both of which are within easy motoring distance from Penzance.

En route from Penzance to London we stayed for some days at Torquay and found it a very page 25 delightful place. We left Torquay at 12.0 noon and arrived in London sharp on time at 3.45 p.m.—distance 200 miles. The only stop was at Newton Abbott where the train from Plymouth was coupled on to the train from Torquay. The run from Newton Abbott—194 miles was made without a stop and the time occupies three hours twenty-five minutes, being an average speed of nearly 57 miles per hour. The travelling was very comfortable and the running smooth.

After a few days in London we left Victoria station (Southern Railway Company) for Paris. The weather was fine and we had a smooth trip across the English Channel. The facilities for dealing with the through luggage are good. At London the luggage is loaded into large crates which are placed on special trucks and at Dover these crates are lifted bodily on to the steamer. On arrival at Calais the crates are again placed on special trucks and are conveyed to Paris on the special passenger train. A similar system applies with luggage from Paris to London. It will be noticed that the luggage is not handled from the time it leaves London till after its arrival at Paris.

I cannot attempt to give any description of Paris except to say that it is a very fine city and full of great interest. The museums, art galleries, etc., can only be described as wonderful.

Particularly interesting is the Palace of Versailles (about 12 miles from Paris). In what is known as the “Glass Gallery” the Peace Treaty was signed on 28th June, 1919. The table on which the Treaty was signed is on exhibit.

Another building of interest in Paris is the “Invalides,” originally built as a home for old and disabled soldiers. This is now used as a war museum and there is a splendid collection of war exhibits therein. In the court yard of the “Invalides” stands the railway carriage of Marshall Foch in which the Armistice was signed on the 11th November, 1918.

I had the privilege of visiting the various railway stations in Paris. One of the principal stations is the L'Est which, at the time of my visit, was undergoing very considerable alterations. When these alterations are completed there will be about 36 platform roads converging into eight roads at the end of the station. In order to carry out the alterations a large number of private houses and warehouses had to be pulled down and the position of the street altered.

From Paris we went to Berne in Switzerland. It had been snowing for two days and the trees and ground were all covered with snow. The car in which we travelled was steam heated and the journey was quite comfortable.

We spent some six weeks at Switzerland during which time we visited Montreux, Lausanne, Lenk, Interlaken, Grindelwald, Jungfraujoch, Lucerne and Lugano. The scenery in Switzerland is magnificent.

Berne, View From The Kursaal “Schanzli.”

Berne, View From The Kursaal “Schanzli.”

page 26

Jungfrau is 13,660 feet above sea level. The Jungfraujoch railway station which is the terminus of the railway is the highest railway station in the world, being 11,480 feet above sea level.

On the journey from Interlaken to Brique on the Bernese Alps railway the train passed through the Lotschberg tunnel—nine miles 140 yards in length. This is the third longest tunnel in Switzerland. The train (which took 12 minutes to go through the tunnel) was worked by an electric engine and consequently there was an entire absence of the smoke usually associated with tunnels, and the air was fresh and keen. The highest point of the tunnel is 4,080 ft., and the tunnel itself which was opened for traffic on 15th July, 1913, took nearly seven years to complete. On the latter portion of the journey, from Goppenstein to Brique (a distance of 15½ miles) there are no less than 20 tunnels having a total length of about 4¼ miles. The electric engines used on this line are very powerful and each engine is capable of hauling a weight of 310 tons on a grade of 1 in 37. The newest electric engines belonging to the Company have 4,200 h.p. and haul trains of 560 tons up a gradient of 1 in 37 at a speed of 31 miles per hour.

Lucerne and Lugano are both towns of considerable size and importance and should be included in the itinerary of any traveller.

On the journey from Lucerne to Lugano the train travels through the St. Gotthard tunnel 9¼ miles in length. The time taken to run through the tunnel was 16 minutes. From Erstfeld to Goschenen (the mouth of the tunnel) a distance of 18 miles, there is a steep rise of over 2,000 feet. The major portion of the gradient is 1 in 43. The line becomes a spiral staircase. The train whirls round the church of Wassen, showing it first above the line, next on the level, and finally below.

The Pianotondo Viaduct near Giornico, one of the new stone bridges replacing former steel structures.

The Pianotondo Viaduct near Giornico, one of the new stone bridges replacing former steel structures.

We enjoyed Switzerland very much indeed, although, being the middle of winter, we found it rather cold. The hotels are exceedingly comfortable and well managed. English is spoken in all the hotels and the managers do all in their power to render one's visit enjoyable.

The electric trains in Switzerland were a revelation to me. They run smoothly and at a uniform speed with an entire absence of jerking. The carriages are well fitted up and very comfortable.

From Lugano we crossed the border into Italy. Our first stop was at Milan and from there we went to Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, Genoa, San Remo and Alassio.

Venice with its canals is a city quite unique. The Grand Canal with the beautiful palaces on its banks and the gondolas slipping through the water, fills one with emotion, wonder and admiration.

Florence is a very beautiful city and contains many wonderful buildings and churches. The art galleries at Florence are especially fine.

Rome combines the ancient and modern in a remarkable degree. The Bascilica of St. Peter's is a magnificent building and of very great interest.

The Vatican museums and libraries, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Pinacotheca (picture gallery) are among the finest in the world.

The Flavian amphitheatre or colosseum was one of the most imposing of all the constructions of Imperial Rome. Though partly in ruins it is wonderfully well preserved.

The railway station at Rome is very conveniently situated being right in the business centre of the city. The station itself is rather small for page 27 the large business now being done. The signal and electrical equipment is right up to date. I had an opportunity of seeing a new type of first and second class sleeping cars. The first class consist of eight single berth cabins with dividing doors and four 2-berth cebins. The second class cars contain 12 2-berth compartments. Both first and second class cars were luxuriously fitted up and ample lighting was provided. Each sleeping car weighs about 55 tons. These cars are used on the train de luxe between Rome and Paris, which consists of four sleeping cars and one dining car. Only passengers holding sleeping car tickets are allowed to travel on this train.

When at Naples we visited Pompeii and Vesuvius. In travelling up the hill to Vesuvius an electric train took us on the first stage of the journey, viz., to Pugliano where we changed into the Mount Vesuvius railway train. Part of this journey was very steep the grade varying from 1 in 4 to 1 in 10. We then changed into the funicular train which took us to the top of the hill and within a very short distance from the crater. This funicular railway is exceptionally steep, the grade being 55 per cent, or 1 in 1.8. Although the grade was so steep the funicular car travelled very easily though slowly. At the time of our visit the volcano was very active and the sight was well worth travelling to see.

Genoa is a very fine seaport town and possesses a splendid harbour.

San Remo is a beautiful town and a very great winter resort for English people.

From Alassio we crossed the border town and were once more in France. Our destination was Nice where we spent a very enjoyable two weeks.

We visited Monte Carlo on several occasions also Monaco and Cannes.

The climate both in the French Riviera and the Italian Riviera is delightfully mild in the winter and a very large number of English people make prolonged stays at these places during the winter months.

From Nice we went to Marseilles, Lyons and Paris and after a short stay at these places returned to London where we arrived on 31st March, 1926.

View of Mt. Vesuvius and the Railway.

View of Mt. Vesuvius and the Railway.

When Marlborough Celebrates.

Marlborough's Anniversary Day, although spoiled by wet weather, gave the Railways Department heavy passenger traffic between Blenheim and Picton. “The morning trains brought down to the port 1,650 passengers, which must be considered highly satisfactory under the circumstances, and gives some idea of the crowd to be expected under more favourable conditions,” states the “Marlborough Press.” The Anglican picnicking parties totalled over 600, and the Methodists over 300, whilst there were also many private crowds. In addition to the number of excursionists who came to Picton by train, the motor car traffic was also heavy, and some hundreds of road visitors came through during the afternoon. The crowds of adults and children dodging the showers, appeared to enjoy the day's outing and, during the fine periods, London Quay, the Foreshore and Victoria Domain, were popular resorts. The railway staff, with Mr. C. G. McGonagle in charge, is to be commended for the manner in which it rose to the occasion and sought to minimise the discomforts to passengers that were inevitable on such a cheerless day.