I got to meet my childhood hero, and it's everything I dreamed it would be! Yes, by it, I mean a train, of course, given how weird and awkward I am as a human being, this shouldn't come as a surprise. It all happened when I still lived in Asia, more than half a lifetime ago. The Chinese Railways, whatever they called themselves back in the 1990s, bought (or "leased") a set of the X2 (a.k.a. X2000 or SJ 2000) from SJ for services on the KCR (Kowloon to Canton Railway) at 125 mph (the first ever regular service in China at that speed). Granted, being Chinese, they'd also conveniently and inadvertently copied its design, albeit not quite so successfully (see DJJ1).
由慕尼黑啤酒 - 自己的作品，CC BY-SA 3.0，链接 (the Chinese X2)
This time around, the X2 also brought me about my first impressions of the friendly Swedes. Judging from the sign of me taking pictures like a mad (or normal) Chinese tourist, not one, but two drivers invited me on a tour of the cab. Finally, not only did I …
Between the Internet and the LKAB presentation at the Heavy Haul Conference in Calgary some five years ago, I've become no stranger to these iron ore trains of the Arctic Circle.
It has been a while since I last laid my eyes on some AAR 100-ton trucks, although they were surrounded by otherwise unfamiliar equipment. Photos don't do the IORE justice when it comes to their incredible might. In person, they, even with just a single section, almost in a weird way, look really long.
The City of Kiruna itself feels like a deja vu. Snow and mountains in the backdrop, fatally frigid temperatures, sizable, heavy freight trains, and a passenger depot that was moved out of the city centre (although for different reasons than we are used to in our neck of the woods), to the yard at the edge of town. Fortunately, Kiruna isn't very big. It takes less than half an hour to complete a leisurely walk downtown, and there is a bus that shuttles people in between.
4 AM. Excited and foggy at the same time, I crawled out of bed. The instant coffee from the hotel would do. Dressed in clothes warmer than I usually would, in anticipation of beautiful snowy mountains, I marched towards the S-Bahn station in the empty streets of Vienna.
A slight hesitation saw to it that the suburban train left me behind. But what was to come, was better than I could have hoped for. A shiny Siemens Desiro came to a stop. As I stepped inside, I was greeted by that new train smell, still lingering in the air.
The clock had just ticked past the quarter hour mark past five, but Wien Hauptbahnhof was already a bustling place. Following the signage, I ascended onto the mainline platforms, where my Zürich bound Railjet stood. This was my first time onboard one. The interior was simple but functional, indeed, a very clean and modern design. At 5:30 sharp, the train effortlessly pulled out of the station.
Unlike most people, who traveled one station far, I was on this train fo…