Passage to India – The Ooty Train, Part II

Railway Coach

Railway Coach

The 1st Class coach was the oldest in the three-car set but was placed at the head of the train. The Inspector must have taken pity on me, or smelled a railfan, and assigned me the seat in the very front. I really did have the best view.

Head End

Head End

You can see the layout of the coach with the gauges for the vacuum brakes and the lights and the brake handles.  On the signs you will notice the train designations and the names Mettupalayam and Udagamandalam. The first is in the valley and the other is the official name for Ooty. View from the Train

View from the Train

The view above is only from about three thousand feet but already all of us were cold. The surroundings were impenetrable jungle. Later some light rain settled in.

The scenery is varied and as you approach Ooty the tea plantations begin to appear. Click on any image to enlarge.

The trip is long, about three-and-a-half hours, with steam on the first section and diesel on the last.  Finally you reach the unattractive town of Ooty, once a jewel and now frankly a mess. This photo of the station doesn’t reveal what is behind. More on Ooty later.

Ooty Station

Ooty Station

And now for the railfans, a selection of images:

Until later, safe travels everyone,

Grover

Posted from Chennai

Posted in Color, India, Ooty, Rack railway, Railroad, Railway | Tagged | 1 Comment

Passage to India – The Ooty Train, Part I

This is unashamedly for my railway friends, but you’re welcome to read it too.

From the hot plains of Tamil Nadu to the “hills” the Ooty train rises to over 7000′ on a spectacularly built rack railway. Properly called the Nilgiri Hills Railway, it was built by the British over a hundred years ago to allow the administrators from Madras (now called Chennai) to escape the heat by heading up into the mountains.

It is a meter gauge, rack railway.

Rack rail

The teeth between the rails are engaged by a set of matching teeth in the locomotive. Although the locomotive looks somewhat normal, it has special gears inside the frame driven by separate cylinders.

Engine Teeth

Engine Teeth

Steam Engine

Steam Engine at Mettupalayam

Rack Gear

Oooty Engine Deck 2

Engine Footplate

The railway grades are too step for regular adhesion (steel on steel) working hence a rack system is necessary. Here is part of the 8% grade.

Steep Gradient

Steep Gradient 1in 12.5

The three coaches are pushed by the locomotive and there is a guard on the front platform signaling and whistling as needed. He can also engage the emergency brakes.

Guard's Platform at the Front of the Train

Guard’s Platform at the Front of the Train

Part Two coming up. In the meantime check out this YouTube I uploaded.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJOBgwsnnzo

Safe travels everyone,

Grover

Posted from Chennai, India

Posted in India, Rack railway, Railroad, Railway | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Passage to India – Colors Part One

Since there are  so many books on India that relate to cultural differences, I’ll not go into much of that here. I’d like to comment however on the things that strike me personally as unusual or significantly different.

One surely notices the vibrant colors, everywhere. Here are a few examples shot in Mumbai, Fort Cochi and in Jew Town (yes, really, it’s on the map).

Women on Platform

Women on Platform

These women are also showing the various clothing styles from skinny jeans to saree.

Poster Saree

Posters Everywhere

The high end shops always advertise the saree in their posters.

Seat Cover

Seat Cover

Street in Jew Town

Street in Jew Town

Pink Saree

Pink Saree

I’ll have more of this later on.

The internet here in Pondicherry has been intermittent so my postings have been few. Things will be worse for a couple of days until I get back to Chennai (Madras) later in the week.

Safe travels everyone,

Grover

Posted in Color, India | Tagged | 2 Comments

Passage to India – Tuk Tuk Heaven

There are many small delights for me in this great country and one of them is riding in a ubiquitous tuk-tuk. Small and breezy, their easy availability and low cost means that a short ride is a pleasant if rather noisy experience.

Tuk Tuk Ride

Tuk Tuk Ride

I went for a morning walk in the Juhu Beach district, which is where my hotel is located, and after about two kilometers in the heat decided I’d had enough exercise and hailed a tuk-tuk for a ride to the Santa Cruz railway station a few more kilometers away. The cost for the ride was only about thirty cents. The taxi ride back by comparison was a beastly dollar. Although where in the U.S. could you ride for a few miles in a taxi for that price?

The tuk-tuk is a small two or perhaps three passenger, three-wheel contrivance power by a small two-stroke engine and driven up in front with motorcycle handlebars. In Mumbai all taxis and tuk-tuks are powered by CNG so the pollution is nearly nonexistent.

http://youtu.be/LAG7T_Wd0s0

That is not to say that there is no pollution since the main item of safety in Mumbai and elsewhere is the horn. And the horns do blow constantly; sometime I think it is a recreational activity. The brakes are another safety item in this madness of traffic where marked lanes means nothing at all. Cars, tuk-tuk, bicycles, motorcycles fit in wherever they can. “Tailgating” is a word unknown here. There was a sign on the causeway that said, “Lane Driving = Safe Driving”.

Overall, once the fear of immediate death has passed, riding in these remarkable machines is a pleasure.  I learned on the Great Interweb that someone is actually importing them to the U.S.A. which means that they will now have to comply with our safety regulations. It would certainly be fun to own one.

Safe travels everyone.

Grover

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Passage to India – The Joys of Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic

In the world of Virgin Atlantic what most would label “First Class” is called in a particularly British way “Upper Class”. The question under discussion here is whether or not it is worth it for long-haul travel.

After a crowded and cramped coach flight from Sacramento, California to Chicago, Illinois, followed by a rat-maze through O’Hare, I was ready to relax. Enter the lounge experience. Although Virgin does not have a lounge of its own at O’Hare, one is kept happy at the Air France lounge. Complimentary food and beverages as well as comfortable chairs are enjoyable, away from the noisy concourse.

On boarding the plane, I found I was the first of the first-class and after finding my seat/bed I went forward and was invited into the cockpit. That just doesn’t happen everyday. A good start, I thought to myself.

Cockpit of A300

Cockpit of A300

The seats on Virgin and some other airlines convert into almost real beds. I don’t mean just recline; they fold over and become a flat bed with pillow and duvet. I slept for several hours of the eight hour trip. Traveler’s note : one thing I will do next time is use the provided earplugs, since even up front the noise of the plane can be disturbing.

Bedtime

Bedtime

The lounge at O’Hare cannot compare to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow. It is simply beyond words. I enclose here some shots of the facility from the V.A. website. For one thing, and I believe that it may be unique to Virgin, is that one is made to feel welcome by a really polite and informed staff. There is a full bar and food service. And showers! Yes, even showers if you need to freshen up. Massages are also available. Whew! Check the link above.Clubhouse

The flight to Mumbai from London was also excellent but I found that I was asleep from the moment we were airborne until somewhere north of Baghdad. It was interesting to note that due to the current regional conflict, the route diverges northward into Turkey for more than it normally would so that at no point are you flying over Syria or Iraq.

I arrived at Mumbai’s new international terminal, completed only a few months ago, just after midnight on the third day of travel, but that is a tale for another time.

Mumbai International

Mumbai International

To answer the question, “is it worth it?” Heck yes, and I would go as far as to say if you can wangle any flight that will let you visit the Virgin Clubhouse at Heathrow, then that alone is worth it. My overall experience with Virgin Air so far is Two Thumbs Up.

I purchased discount tickets online so it wasn’t nearly as expensive as it might have been. But beware and check the reviews for some of these discount vendors though. In the end it cost me only about twice of a full fare coach ticket. There is also a Virgin Atlantic category called Economy Plus which should be fine a a short trip that is not overnight. Not just extra legroom but real, wide, reclining seats that are comfortable.

Save travels everyone – the Indian journey continues.

Grover

Cockpit of A300

Posted in Airline, India, Mumbai, Virgin Atlantic | 1 Comment

Passage To India – Packing less and enjoying more

Two weeks from today I take off to India for a two-month vacation. I was there seven years ago on a rushed, guided tour. Now I’m going to take my time and travel solo.

I am trying to do this with just one carryon based on the principles One Bag Travel so that nothing gets lost, my stuff is never out of my sight, and it’s far easier to move around. I urge you so take a look at the site underlined above and think about what you really need. One traveler noted that if you can pack for a week, you can pack for a month. I’ll purchase clothes and whatever else I might need in India.

One big effort has been to avoid taking a lot of electronics. I have whittled down that stuff to what you see here:

Less Stuff

Less Stuff

Here is what is going:

It made sense to leave all the lenses and camera bodies at home.  Actually I sold all my big Nikon cameras and gave some others to the local college, since I have been following the trend to small, mirrorless cameras, although I already have some micro four-thirds gear and love it. The images from the little Nikon point and shoot have proven to be amazing.

I’ll be updating the blog as I go along. I also hope to meet a few of the Indian photographers/bloggers I have communicated with.

More later,

Grover

Posted in India | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Travels With Beasley on the Lincoln Highway

Those who have followed my trips on the Lincoln Highway will know that my traveling companion Mr. Beasley is always along.

Last night I had a delightful time as the guest speaker at the Sierra Writers group in Nevada City and Mr. Beasley was mentioned, more than once.

Beasley in Ely

Beasley in Ely with Guidebook

Mr. Beasley is now about thirteen years old.

I found a photo of him as a youngster which I thought you might enjoy.

Beasley Pup

Beasley Pup

How they do grow up!

Safe travels, with or without your dog.

Grover

Posted in Great Basin, Nevada, The Lincoln Highway in the West | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In the Sierra Foothills – Malakoff Diggins State Park

At one time in danger of closing due to budget shenanigans at the state level, Malakoff Diggins State Park remains open although still drastically underfunded.

The view of the remains of hydraulic mining are easily viewed from the main (dirt) road into the park. It is a photographer’s delight and although not that easy to get to, it is well worth your time to visit. The park is twenty-six miles north of Nevada City, California.

Malakoff Diggins

Malakoff Diggins

“Diggins” was the term used to describe mining operations in the early days of the Gold Rush era.

Safe travels everyone,

Grover

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A New Mexico Excursion – Santurario de Chimayo

Santuario-ed1

Santurario Entrance

The Santurario de Chimayo is in northern New Mexico and is visited by thirty thousand people during Holy Week each year. Sometimes called the “Lourdes of America”, the church is on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a National Historic Landmark. The present church was completed in 1620. Claims of miraculous cures are the reason for the pilgrimages but it is the adobe that calls the photographer.

Santurario de Chimayo

Santurario de Chimayo – rear corner

The day I was there motorcycles were being blessed and I captured the front of the church in this Harley’s headlight.

Harley Church

Harley Church

If you choose to visit, you can join in the hustle and bustle of Holy Week or try for a quieter time. There will always be a few visitors, although when we were there is was nearly deserted.

Safe travels to you all,

Grover

 

Posted in Great Basin, New Mexico | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A New Mexico Excursion – Organic Forms

If you never get out of Santa Fe, as a photographer, you will still find plenty to delight the eye. Here are a couple more, rather ordinary, but nonetheless interesting shots from my workshop some years ago.

The first is a late afternoon photo of the rear of some government buildings right downtown. The camera was a Mamiya 645 and the film was Ilford HP5.

Museum P

Again in Santa Fe proper on a Nikon N90 with Ilford HP-5:

Wall-pot-PBlack and white is an ideal medium for the monochromatic earth tones in New Mexico.

Until next time, safe traveling,

Grover

 

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