Thursday, November 29, 2012

Transportation: Trains

All Aboard! Today we'll be talking about trains. This is the main train station in Beijing, China.
(Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

Hello! You may not know it, but two things I really like are trains and maps (yes, I know, I'm strange). So when I found this picture yesterday, I thought was cool:

Picture by Annie Mole, via Flickr. Click on picture for details.

Obviously, this isn't a real map, but it is interesting and fun to look at. It also inspired me to talk a little bit about transportation. Today we'll look at travel related to trains and identify possibly new and useful vocabulary. Then in a few days, we'll look at vocabulary related to subways, metros, and trams.

This train is on the island of Langeoog, in the North Sea off the coast of Germany. It's a very nice train but a very small system: there are only two stations! (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)


Trains are large vehicles that move passengers and cargo. A train normally has two parts: an engine, and multiple cars. Generally the word train refers to the engine and all of the cars, but it can also refer to the entire system. Trains move over rails (the two long metal pieces) and tracks (the metal, plus the structure that supports it), so for that reason train systems are also called railways or railroads.

These are some (old) train tracks in Colorado. "Tracks" refers to the whole structure, and "rails" refers to the two pieces of metal that the train's wheels sit on. (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

There aren't really many trains in Costa Rica, unfortunately. There is a commuter train system connecting San José and Heredia, but that's about all. I think that in the Limón province you can sometimes see freight (cargo) trains, but they're not common in the rest of the country. Passenger trains are also uncommon in most of the US, except in the northeast. However, there are lots of freight trains in the whole country. 

A passenger train in Switzerland. (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)
A freight/cargo train in Colorado, probably carrying oil or gas.
(Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

If you want to see lots of nice, new trains, one of the best places to go is Europe. Most countries have their own well-developed rail systems, and those systems connect to other countries. You can find long-distance trains, as well as railways that serve individual cities or regions. Additionally you can see smaller rail systems like subways and streetcars. It's also possible to call those individual vehicles "trains."

So what do you do when you want to travel by train? When you want to catch a train or ride (on) a train, you generally have to go to a train station. There you can buy your ticket and find your train. If it's a large station, you need to figure out what track or platform your train will be leaving from. When you find the correct platform, you can board or get on the train, and then the fun begins.

Passengers in the Main Train Station in Berlin, Germany wait to board their trains. (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

Well, sometimes. But normally trains are more relaxing than driving, since you can sit back and read, listen to music, sleep, or talk with other people. That's why trains are nice for long-distance transportation. Some even have dining cars or, for very long distances, sleeping/sleeper cars. Those cars have beds and are basically like moving hotel rooms --but of course hotel rooms usually are bigger, nicer, and have less ugly curtains!

In September my wife Angela and I took a trip to China. This is Angela in our sleeper car on the train between Hangzhou and Beijing. The beds were very comfortable --but ugly! (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

Finally, when you get/arrive to your destination, you get off the train. From there, you can find other types of transportation to get to your final destination. If you're in a big city, one option might be a subway or metro. We'll talk about vocabulary related to those systems in a few days.

So, let's review today's vocabulary:

1. train
2. engine
3. car
4. rail
5. track(s)
6. railway/railroad
7. commuter
8. passenger
9. freight
10. by train
11. station
12. catch a train
13. ride a train
14. track
15. platform
16. board a train
17. dining car
18. sleeper car
19. subway
20. metro

Can you define or explain each of these words? Try to do it, just for practice!

We'll be back in a few days to look at more transportation vocabulary but in the meantime, happy travels! Thanks for reading!

Angela took this picture of me in front of the "Maglev" (magnetic levitation) train in Shanghai. The track is very short, and only connects the city to the airport, but it's very fast: it can go up to 430 km/h! You can see a shaky video here. I guess it's technically not a railway, though, since the train doesn't really run on rails. Instead, it uses magnets to "float" above the tracks. It's a pretty cool train! (Picture by Angela Jimenez Mora)

1 comment:

  1. Travelling via train is the adventurous thing to do. However, for such a trip, one should plan before time and must reserve tickets to avoid any hassle.

    Sara William
    Click to know about auto transporters


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