Baby On Board: Babies Born In Train Stations

Last week, the hashtag #MetroBaby was trending after a Washington, D.C. woman gave birth to a baby boy on a Metro platform. Despite many humorous suggestions for the baby’s name (my favorites: Stan Clear and Doris Closing), Amir Mason was born a few weeks early and delivered safely.

Yesterday, New York got its own Metro Baby when police helped deliver a baby boy in Penn Station. On her way home from a doctor’s appointment and waiting for a Long Island Rail Road train, the mother was overcome with labor pains and taken to the police station office inside the train station. Paramedics from St. Luke’s Hospital were on hand to deliver baby Oscar, and assisting MTA Officer Melissa DeFrancsco noted, “It was awesome.”

The D.C. Metro baby got a train-themed gift basket and $100 transit card from the agency. The New York MTA is presumably still picking out a card.

Are train station babies a new trend? What station is likely to be next? I’d vote for somewhere like London‘s airy and renovated St. Pancras station, with plenty of restaurants and shops, a luxury hotel, and an easy hop to Paris by Eurostar.

World War II Bomb Closes Berlin Rail Station

Berlin commuters got an unwelcome reminder of their city’s wartime past today when a bomb from World War II was discovered near the city’s main railway station.

The Hauptbahnhof was closed for several hours as bomb disposal experts dealt with the device, the BBC reports. Flights to and from Tegel airport were diverted.

The device was a 220-pound Soviet bomb and was discovered at a building site a mile north of the train station. While this may seem to be too far away to cause concern to those using the station, German bomb disposal experts are extra careful, especially after three of their number were killed while attempting to defuse a wartime bomb in Gottingen in 2010.

The bomb has now been defused and taken away. All transport has resumed.

Berlin was hit hard in World War II. As you can see from this image taken by the British army shortly after the war, the city was pretty much leveled. Nearly half a million tons of ordnance was dumped on the city and an estimated one in eight bombs didn’t go off. While most explosive devices were cleaned up in the months after the war, they’re still being uncovered on a regular basis.

Germany isn’t the only country that has to worry about wartime ordnance. In 2001, workers found a World War II grenade near Gatwick Airport in England.

Last year the BBC published an interesting interview with a German bomb disposal expert.

[Photo courtesy No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Wilkes A (Sergeant)]

Japanese hotels offer track-side views for trainspotters

Most owners of a hotel next to a train station would curse their luck, but some Japanese entrepreneurs have turned their noisy locations into profitable ones by marketing the track-side rooms to trainspotters.

Trainspotters, who prefer to be called “railfans” much like comic book readers insist they read “graphic novels”, constitute a growing subculture in Japan. National organizations claim more than 20,000 members, there are several glossy magazines, and a lucrative industry serving the hobby, so the tourism trade was sure to pick up on the trend.

One popular destination is Shinjuku station, the busiest station in the world. The Odakyu Hotel Century Southern Tower right next to it not only caters to business travelers, but railfans with a special rate, guaranteed views, and a paperweight made of a piece of track. With an average of 3.64 million people going through the station every day, railfans are sure to see plenty of action.

While hotel owners next to Shinjuku station may have a great location, they can’t compete with the Dream House lodge in Ueda, which is made Azusa limited express train cars similar to the one pictured here.

If you can’t swing the airfare to Japan, you might want to try Ohio, which seems to be the most train-happy state in the Union.

Pickpockets in Copenhagen: Gadling blogger’s victim story. Part 2. Was it Romanians?

I can still see the pocket of my daypack gaping open right before I got that panicked, sinking feeling. It was a feeling that I couldn’t quite believe I was having. Up to that point, my trip to Denmark though Amsterdam had happened without a hitch, and I had yet to do the shopping I had planned.

The afternoon that had started out promising had the potential to turn out lousy. (see previous pickpocket post)

My experience of having my wallet lifted right out of a pocket of my daypack is not uncommon, as I have since found out. On Wednesday, the day after I returned to the U.S. with less money than I counted on having–thus way less shopping, my Danish friend emailed me with recent news about pickpockets in Denmark.

She heard on the television news that over the last three weeks, the police have arrested 61 Romanian pickpockets in Copenhagen. My friend wrote that the increase of pickpocketing is due to the Christmas season.

While I was looking for a link to an article on this particular news item, I found several others. While browsing these stories, I’ve discovered a couple of details to pass on to folks heading to Copenhagen. They can be also be applied to any major city such as Amsterdam where Whistling in the Dark’s photo was taken.

There are hot spots in Copenhagen where diligence could save you from becoming a victim. Copenhagen Central Station, Strøget, a pedestrian walking street, and a McDonald’s near the entrance of Tivoli Gardens were places people have been robbed. Other travel warning sites said to be on the lookout on any pedestrian street. Copenhagen has several.

I was in the Tiger store nearest Norreport Station when I noticed the wallet missing. Norreport has 90,000 people passing through each day, so you can imagine how many people from there must head to the walking street where Tiger is located. The store was quite crowded on the first floor, and I was jostled more than once. Because I was shopping, I wasn’t focused on my bag.

The fact that I didn’t notice my wallet gone until I went to pay for my merchandise is not an uncommon story. Read Virtual Tourist, and for details of some of the other tales of woe. There is also a warning about pickpockets in Copenhagen at Worldworx.

In my sleuthing, I also found this snippet in the Copenhagen Post from this past August. The brief blurb mentions 700 Romanian pickpockets who are currently operating in Copenhagen.

Except, if my friend is correct, subtract 61 from that number. Although, the total could have increased in the last few months, so perhaps you should add a few.. The pickpocket problem, according the article, has been exacerbated because of open borders due to the EU free movement regulations.

Reading these details does help me feel a bit better. I should have been more careful, but at least I have company.

When I traveled through Amsterdam last week at the beginning of my trip, I had pickpockets in mind. Thus, my credit card, traveler’s checks, cash, and passport were hidden away in a pouch around my neck. The pouch was under my shirt and under my jacket–a bit cumbersome but effective.

By the last day in Denmark, I had my money and my credit card back in my wallet. Stupid move. My driver’s license and passport were in another location in the main section of my day pack, along with my one remaining $20 traveler’s check.

My what could have been a lousy day was saved by the Danish police who helped me stop my VISA card with absolutely no hassle, and by my generous friend who gave me money so that the good times could continue.

Hey London, where are the trans cans?

On my way through St. Pancras international station in London this past weekend, I grabbed a smoothie at Marks and Spencer while I was waiting for my train. Tired and dehydrated from travel, I made pretty short business of the drink then proceeded to seek out a waste receptacle to drop my bottle in. Turns out though, there are none. I must have walked around in circles, in and out of the station for twenty minutes looking for a place to drop the bottle before I gave up, walked into a restaurant and dropped it off there. I was curious why a public place wouldn’t have any trash cans.

Apparently, this is for a reason. As I’m told, the British had issues with the Irish Republican Army putting bombs in the receptacles and the bins turning into shrapnel. So as a safety precaution, they were removed.

Preventative measures like this make me leery. On one hand I suppose it’s best to remove as many opportunities to place a bomb in a public place as possible, but is it really necessary to take out all the trash cans? Can’t the Brits just use thin, translucent bags like the French do?

How well can we prepare ourselves for another bombing? Will we next pad all of our buildings with foam, require everyone to wear helmets and walk in our socks? How far is too far?

At some point, we as Westerners are going to have to accept that there is some inherent risk in traveling. Be this a bee sting, malaria or a terrorist bombing we have to come to terms with the fact that going out into the world is not as safe as staying at home and in bed. Until we and our governments can accept that, we’re doomed to paranoia, inconvenience and countless tax dollars for overprotective measures.