Europe expands high-speed train system with new bridge

A new bridge across the Ill river in Strasbourg is a major step forward for the European Union’s plans for a high-speed railway reaching from Paris to Bratislava, the BBC reports.

An earlier bridge had only one track and could only carry trains going a maximum of 100 kph (62mph). The new bridge has two tracks and can deal with trains going 160kph (99mph). The Paris-Bratislava line is one of a network of high-speed railways being built across the EU, but with a price tag of 63 million euros ($84 million) just for the bridge, construction is being affected by the economic crisis. Some countries have already cut back funding and delayed projects. Still, high-speed trains are becoming increasingly popular across Europe because they’re more comfortable than planes, and more convenient since they take passengers from city center to city center.

The French city of Strasbourg is close to the German border and home to the European Parliament. It’s also attractive to tourists for its medieval and Renaissance architecture.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

High-speed rail deal may mean more services between UK and Europe

The UK government has leased its High Speed One line to a Canadian consortium. The line, which cost more than £5 billion ($8.1 billion) in taxpayer money to build, will be run by Borealis Infrastructure and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension fund on a 30 year lease. They paid £2.1 billion ($3.4 billion) in the deal.

The High Speed One line is the route that Eurostar uses in its journeys from London to Paris and Brussels. The consortium plans to open the line up to more train companies in a move that will see more competition, and hopefully lower rates, on the popular route.

The line will continue to be under the ultimate authority of the UK government and subject to its regulations.

[Photo courtesy user Sunil060902 via Wikimedia Commons]

Donley’s Wild West Town – a slice of the wild west in the Midwest

Just off the highway between Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Rockford is the village of Union. Union is home to two attractions that can help bring you back to the days of the wild west; Donley’s Wild West Town, and the Illinois Railway museum.

Donley’s Wild West Town has everything you’d expect from a cheesy wild west village; gold panning, cowboy shows, a miniature railroad, horse and pony rides and a large western restaurant. You need to be in the right mindset to enjoy places like this, as it has a bit of a cheesy feeling to it. Kids will obviously love the various attractions, and as with many attractions, that is often what it is all about.

Donley’s is closed for the season, and will reopen on May 1st 2010. Admission is a pretty steep $15 per person. If you see yourself visiting more than once, you may be better off with a family season pass.

If you want to experience rail travel as it was back in the days of the wild west, then head closer to Union for the Illinois Railway museum, where you’ll find the largest collection of antique trains in the country. The museum owns 25 steam locomotives, and operates two fully restored steam locomotives. It is also home to several sheds filled with beautifully restored passenger cars. Granted, not all this material is directly from the “wild west”, but it does give you a good idea of the importance railroads played in the history of this country.

The Illinois railway museum is located at 7000 Olson Road, Union, Illinois. Admission starts at $8 for adults and $4 for children. The museum will be open on several days in December for their Happy Holiday Railway event.

Murder on the Orient Express? No, just good eating!

If you want to combine fine dining, an historic train ride, and Art Deco elegance, here’s your chance.

The Orient Express is offering a new dining service called simply “The Dinner” which gives passengers a luxury meal aboard the company’s historic British Pullman train.

The trip departs from London’s Victoria station at 7:30pm and returns at 11pm, so don’t expect to pull into Constantinople in time to see the Ottoman Empire fall. An epic rail journey this is not. But what you do get is champagne and an exquisite menu featuring dishes such as Organic Welsh Salt Marsh Lamb, Truffled Welsh Rarebit, and something called the Orange and Chocolate Tasting Plate. All this is served on selected nights in restored Art Deco carriages that make you feel like you’re back in the early twentieth century.

The dinner costs a tooth grinding $640 or more, but if you got the dosh, this sounds like a fun one.

Cheshire’s weird No Kissing sign shows up on eBay

Remember when we told you how there were signs that prohibit kissing in the Warrington Railway Station in the county of Cheshire, England?

We also mentioned that their “freaky” sign (right) “looks like Mark Trail kissing a grown-up Lisa Simpson.”

Want one?? ‘Cause now they’re on eBay.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. Now you, too, can declare a No Kissing Zone in your own home. Maybe just casually leave the sign in your parents’ bedroom. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

The best news is that your purchase will benefit the British charity Comic Relief. The signs come with an official letter of release from Virgin Trains. Bid here!