It’s funny how we can be charmed by the most unlikely things, but beauty is often only in the eye of the beholder, and the allure to one person of one particular diversion may be wholly incomprehensible to others. Some are fascinated by Star Wars, others are trekkies, there are those who collect stamps, Barbie dolls or rocks and still others will have an enduring love for fast cars, birds or needlepoint. There’s no real logic to who will like what, and although you can often generalise – boys tend to like Ferraris and, so on, those rules aren’t set in stone and you can often find that people enjoy things that are entirely unexpected.
You’ll know, from the many times I’ve written on the topic, for example, that I am bit of a sucker for trains, although if you were to ask me what exactly is the appeal, I’d be hard-pressed to explain it. I’m not a trainspotter, by any stretch of the imagination, and having spent the last few years of my working life enduring more time than is strictly reasonable on, around and waiting for trains, I can categorically say that there are usually far better ways to travel, if you have the choice. The appeal seems to lie in a strange combination of the sight, smell and sound of the railway, together with the ‘romance’ of a rail journey, the engineering and the architecture, and an indefinable quality – let’s call it the ‘aura’ of the railway and the great rail journey.
Oddly, you can try to impress me by talking about steam cylinders and crankshafts, axel weights and wheel configurations, top speeds and tonnage and I’ll be bored to tears – I’ve no interest in any of that – but stick me up close to a locomotive of any description and I’ll come alive. It’s a bit weird.
Weirder still is that the fascination extends into SL. I have my own little railway inworld – the SWR – and given half a chance, I’d extend it way beyond my own small parcel if I could. You’ll often find me tweaking, tinkering or refining the various bits and pieces necessary to keep the trains running, and occasionally undertaking major engineering work to improve the system. However, my interest extends beyond just my own bit of SL, and in recent weeks I’ve been making a concerted effort to navigate Heterocetera by rail, and at the present time, I reckon I’ve completed around 80% of the SLRR network. There are other independent lines that await discovery too, some of which I’ve tackled, and others which I’ve yet to investigate.
The great attraction of exploring SL by rail, for me anyway, apart from the fact that I like trains, (did I already mention that?), is that I can rez my engine, jump aboard and fire it up, and then just chug around in a leisurely fashion guided by the rails, without having to worry about steering, crashing off the road into the sea/buildings/onlookers, or being thrown a billion miles into the ether at sim boundaries and losing my transport completely. That’s not to say that the SLRR isn’t without the occasional annoyance – sometimes the guide does unexpectedly disappear, sim boundaries do sometimes kick me out, (but at least my train messages me with a TP back to the footplate), and on one momentous occasion I ended up in a monster of a diesel locomotive which decided to suddenly and uncontrollably, haphazardly spin ferociously in a circle continuously, with no way of escaping… But, this is SL, and these things happen! That aside, it’s great to be able to just cruise along without worrying about touching the controls, allowing me to concentrate on the scenery as it passes – a far less stressful experience than trying to drive around the mainland roads.
In fact, if you’re a bit of a driving numpty like me, who would never attempt to play one of those Grand Auto Smash Pillage Thieve and Burn Rubber games, on the basis that even attempting to ride a pushbike inworld tends to inevitable result in a fatal crash into a brick wall, travelling by train ticks all the boxes in terms of comfort, controllability and lack of death or grand theft and larceny. So, if you have a hankering to explore the mainland but haven’t a clue where to start, where to go, or feel that the whole place is just too big to make any sense of, my advice is to find yourself a freebie loco, type SLRR into search, TP right in and see where you can go from there.
SL trains are reliable too. It’s not that they stick to timetable, but since you’re running the show, it’s your timetable and you can make it up as you go along; stopping wherever you fancy, thundering through stations you don’t like the look of and generally journeying however the hell you want to. It’s super-premium first class travel!
SL railways tend to be incredibly low traffic too, so you have the whole line pretty much to yourself. I’ve hardly ever come across anyone else on my travels, although there are the occasional touring trollies that I run into (literally), much as you’ll meet the pod tours on the mainland roads, but other than that, it tends to be a pretty solitary mode of travel. I only wish that the SLRR wasn’t limited to Heterocetara, because I reckon it would be awesome to have a rail network all over SL – and, of course, there are some individuals who have built their own stretches of line, along with numerous narrow-gauge and other alternatives, but all of these, like my own SWR, are limited by available space, and that’s a shame, because I think they’re a great, and undervalued, virtual way to travel.
And, whilst we’re on the subject of the SWR…
This year, for the month of December only, the Festive Express will be running on my Moonletters Town branch line. Departing from a snowy Marmalade Skies, you’ll pass through reminders of Summer at Strawberry Field, until returning to the Winter’s depths at Marmalade. It’s only a short trip, but you can always hop off at Haven Halt, located at Sakura, where you can change trains for the Nowhere Land Explorer and Cloudbase Sky Train, for a sightseeing trip around the snows of Nowhere Land and high in the clouds above, with views right across Penny Lane, (don’t forget to crank up your draw-distance!)
So, come on over for a trip, and if you see me hanging around, feel free to throw a snowball or two my way!
Runaway train never going back
Wrong way on a one way track
Seems like I should be getting somewhere
Somehow I’m neither here nor there
Soul Asylum – Runaway Train