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Little Trains to Faraway Places

Karl Zimmermann

Publication Year: 2010

Narrow-gauge railroading conjures images of marginal track, wooden coaches, and antique steam locomotives. Yet consider the extraordinarily glamorous and comfortable South African Blue Train and Australia's Queenslander as well as the electrified network of meter-gauge mountain railways in Switzerland that run with a precision similar to that of the country's famed timepieces. Often used to penetrate the most challenging and breathtaking terrain that larger trains are unable to reach, narrow-gauge railways offer even the most seasoned of travelers an experience to remember. Karl Zimmermann, railroad author and accomplished photographer, chronicles his journeys aboard these rarest of trains. Individual chapters weave history and travelogue, complemented by more than 100 color illustrations. The result is a spirited tribute to the world's most charismatic railways.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Railroads Past and Present


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pp. vi-vii

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pp. ix

This book has a number of godfathers, and it is my pleasure to thank them here. Part of each of the 17 chapters that follow has been in print before. Some chapters are products of a good deal of cutting and pasting, amplification, and revision, while others appear here very much as they were originally published. ...

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Introduction: The Lure of the Narrow Gauge

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pp. 1-8

The mystique of the narrow-gauge railroad is powerful, complex, and undeniable. From the Colorado Rockies to the Harz Mountains of Germany, from Switzerland to Patagonia, from Australia to South Africa, these little lines have held a special kind of magic. ...

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1. Switzerland’s Leisurely Expresses (1977)

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pp. 9-20

The valley of the upper Rhone in southeastern Switzerland had been broad, green, and fertile for the roughly 25 miles we’d traveled from the railway-junction town of Brig. Now, as our little train reached Oberwald, the mountains began to close in dramatically. Laurel and I were with Jennifer and Emily, our then-young daughters, aboard the Glacier Express on the rails of the Furka-Oberalp, ...

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2. Narrow and Northerly: The White Pass & Yukon (1978)

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pp. 21-32

To board our excursion train on the 3-foot-gauge White Pass & Yukon Route, our family didn’t have far to walk: just down a ship’s steep gangway and a few steps across a wood-planked pier. ....

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3. Magic at Morro Grande (1984)

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pp. 33-42

Morro Grande. Now that’s a name to savor. When I looked at a map of Brazil’s meter-gauge Teresa Cristina Railway, it jumped off the page, sorting itself out from the other placenames: Tubarão, Pineirinho, Içara, Jaguaruna, Capivari, Imbituba. For one thing, it had a reassuringly familiar look and sound to it—no perplexing diacritics or Portuguese inflections, odd to the ear of English speakers. ...

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4. Wales: Really Narrow (1987)

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pp. 43-56

In central Wales, a beautiful land of lush valleys and rugged, rock-ribbed seacoast, old ways lingered on. The scale of buildings and machinery remained intimate and human. Once the economy of Wales had been based largely on what could be carved from the earth, primarily coal in the south and slate further north. ...

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5. The Old Patagonian Express (1988)

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pp. 57-68

Against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, narrow ribbons of rail swung through parched hills covered with scrub vegetation. Little Mikados, some of them Baldwin products, American, some German Henschels, powered trains of wooden coaches and outsidebraced boxcars on what could have been the Colorado narrow-gauge network ...

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6. Rio Turbo, Coal Hauler (1988)

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pp. 69-80

Early morning, April 15, 1988. In deepest Patagonia, the Argentine port city of Rio Gallegos was foggy and overcast, dank with swirling mists from the nearby Atlantic. In this chill, gray murk, the haloed headlight of low-slung 2-10-2 No. 114 glowed. Above the soft hiss of steam and the whine of a turbogenerator, voices called commands in Spanish. ...

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7, Switchbacks on the Devil’s Nose (1989)

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pp. 81-94

Throaty, syncopated sounds of steam-locomotive exhaust whispered in a predawn blackness that was just softening to blue, and pinpoints of yellow light danced like fireflies. On that warm June morning in Duran, the seaport terminus of Ecuador’s narrow-gauge Guayaquil & Quito Railway, ...

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8. The Silverton (1991)

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pp. 95-104

Framed in the tall rear windows of the cinco Animas, a diminutive wooden business car of venerable heritage, Colorado’s San Juan Mountains soared skyward. Narrow-gauge rails spun off behind, weaving back and forth to follow the tumbling waters of the Animas River— the Rio de las Animas Perdidas, or River of the Lost Souls. ...

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9. Steaming Through the Harz Mountains (1994)

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pp. 105-112

When the Iron Curtain fell, Communist Bloc countries suddenly lay open to the Stateside traveler much like a late winter landscape revealed by melting snow. Predictably, many of the uncovered vistas were dispiriting, drab, littered landscapes of despair. But amid the gray detritus were some glittering gems, like the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen ...

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10. New Trains, Old Boats in Switzerland (1994)

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pp. 113-118

The French doors of my upper-floor room at Montreux’s Hotel Suisse-Majestic framed a slate gray, rain-swept Lake Geneva, also called Lac Léman. With the September dusk, the water was darkening, and a chill was in the air. Far down the lake, two clusters of lights materialized. ...

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11. Gauge Chaos Down Under (1996)

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pp. 119-130

On the footplate of No. 1049, an ex–Queensland Railway 4-6-4T, Garth Schwartz hosed off his fireman’s scoop, heated it in the firebox, then dropped in some butter, followed by four fat sausages. Soon they were brown and sizzling and fragrant. Pleased with his ingenious cab cookery, Garth invited me to lunch. ...

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12. Plowing into the Past (1997)

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pp. 131-144

The great, gray, boxy beast of a rotary snowplow poked its fiercely bladed nose from the Chama, New Mexico, engine house of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. It stood silent and cold—but not for long....

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13. Through Mallorca’s Mountains (1998)

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pp. 145-150

The railway carriage was an heirloom, more than half a century old, pantograph-topped, with a wooden exterior. A pair of prominent, bug-eyed headlights looked as if they’d been borrowed from a racy automobile of the same period. Inside, our small first-class section was comfortable as an old shoe, although the seats—12 in all—were leatherette rather than leather, compromising the simile. ...

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14. A Railway Reborn (2000)

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pp. 151-164

Along the banks of the broad, powerful Rio motagua we stood and stared at the unwelcome boulders that had slumped over the narrow-gauge rails of Ferrovías Guatemala, blocking the path of our train. No. 205, a stalwart outside-frame Mikado built in 1948 by Baldwin Locomotive Works (think Denver & Rio Grande Western’s very similar narrow-gauge power), hissed and wheezed, ...

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15. Where Narrow Gauge Is Standard (2000)

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pp. 165-182

Wandering through Rovos Rail’s impeccably manicured 25-acre Capital Park complex, just north of Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, I thought of toy trains, but in one-to-one scale. Although fullsized, the trains there were in fact somewhat diminutive, riding rails just 42 inches apart, the norm throughout southern Africa if decidedly less than what the world calls “standard.” ...

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16. Near, Yet So Distant (2001)

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pp. 183-190

Surrounded by fields of sugarcane, under a sunset sky streaked orange, the narrow-gauge rails stretched off into the distance. Along this track rattled a train of loaded sugarcane cars. At the head end, two ancient outside-frame Consolidations, built in Philadelphia by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1909 and 1920, struggled to keep the train moving. ...

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17. Railway Brigadoon (2003)

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pp. 191-204

I’ll bet Jeff is driving,” said the elderly, snaggletoothed woman who shared our snug six-seat compartment. Swaying energetically from side to side, the little wooden railway carriage in which we rode banged loudly over opposed rail joints, which sang “ka-chunk, kachunk” instead of the clickety-clack of staggered (American-style) joints. ...


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pp. 205


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pp. 207

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001498
E-ISBN-10: 0253001498
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253354471

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 125 color illus., 7 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Railroads Past and Present