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Highland chieftains & flying Scotsmen

Did you know
that as the gauge of Russian railways is 89 millimetres wider than the standard gauge used in the rest of Europe, the wheels of the entire Moscow Express (from Britain to Moscow via a host of other european countries) train have to be changed everytime the time crosses the Russian border?

Or that historically there was never a train called the Trans-Siberian Express?
There is now. It is a private train run by a British company that takes a leisurely 12 days to cover the 10,405 kilometres (6,503 miles) from Moscow to Vladivostok via St Petersburg.

Or that the entire Russian railway runs to Moscow time?
Even in Vladivostok, where there is a difference of seven hours, the station clocks and timetables all give the time in the capital.

Or that if Siberia were independent it would be the largest country on earth?
It comprises one third of the northern hemisphere, a twelfth of the world's land mass and could contain all of western Europe and the United States, Alaska included, without their touching the sides.

Or that the railway tracks between England and France has a "neutral" section of overhead cable where the UK power supply ends before French electricity takes over?
This means if your train is not moving fast enough through this section or has to stop for some reason just before it, then you will not have enough momentum to carry you across this 'powerless' stretch.

If you didn't then read part one of Peter Hughes's journey from Wick in the north of Scotland to Vladivostok on the Russian shore of the Sea of Japan here and part two here and wonder when Indian Railways will upgrade itself to provide clean loos and real no-smoking compartments and staff that actually bother to explain the reasons behind even 10 minute delays.

Of course, train names like "The Highland Chieftain" (described as 'a bit springy, mind'), which follows the route of "The Flying Scotsman" would be nice too.

Ah, the joys of wistful thinking !

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