Books By C. LItka

Books By C. LItka

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Riding The Rails


Switzerland -- Lorirocks777 video

One of the great things about being old and retired is that you have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. If you can afford it. Many retired people like (or these days, dream) of traveling. Some take to the road in RVs to follow the sun. Others take grand trips abroad. The pandemic has kept most people stuck at home, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t travel.

Full disclaimer: I hate to travel. The stress of preparing and traveling outweighs its pleasures, since I have terrible memory so that I can’t relive my adventures. Plus, travel and adventure, I think, if for the youth, or books.

Switzerland -- Lorirocks77 video

Given my attitude, I’ve found the perfect way for me to travel – in the cabs of trains alongside their drivers. Virtually, of course. All around the world, train drivers, and in some cases, passengers record their journeys in real time and post these video trips on Youtube. Over the last year and a half I’ve ridden in the cabs of trains for too many hours and thousands of miles throughout Great Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Japan. In addition, I’ve taken a few train rides in Poland, Norway, Belgium, Italy, and Greece. And I have trips through Romania and Bulgaria on my list for the coming weeks.

But it’s not the same thing as visiting these countries, you’re thinking. And you’re right. But it is a far more immersive experience than looking at static tourist pictures, or even Google’s street view – though that too is a good way to travel in your easy chair. There is something about the countryside streaming past for hours at a time that makes the experience almost real – not so much different than driving a car with the windows closed, as long as you don’t gawk around too much while driving. You see both sides of the rails and what lies ahead, until it streams past. Now, some of the older videos are pretty murky, but the drivers these days record in 4K, and while you lose some fine, fast moving details (at least with my internet connection) the experience is very realistic.

England -- Don Coffey video

Over the last year and a half I’ve gotten to know what Europe looks like without ever having to leave the house. I’ve kept records of all the rail lines I’ve traveled along, and have learned a bit of geography by looking up the cities involved in each video. Given my limitations in memory, I can’t provide you with much of a travel guide, but my advice is search out train rides that take you though hills and mountains – southeast France, southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria, but there are scenic train trips through most of the countries. I would avoid flat countrysides like you find in northern Germany and Poland, the Atlantic coast of France, and the eastern and southern parts of England. Not only does flat farm fields get boring, but the rail right of ways are often lined with trees so that you’re traveling down a corridor of green with only rare glimpses of the farm fields that you are traveling through.

An added bonus of riding the rails is that you get to see how railroads work – how the signals control traffic, and how traffic is managed. Don Coffey explains how the signals work in his videos, and you can translate that knowledge to all railroads – though the signals vary from country to country. But you can google those, if you care to.

Paris -- Railtrotter video

There are many ways to kill utilize your time when retired, and while most some people may find watching the scenery go by as exciting as watching paint dry, I find exploring these railroads interesting. These winter days, I have my bike inside and set up on a rack in the house. I’ve rigged a shelf on the handlebars to hold my tablet and spend my hour pedaling each day listening to music while I riding though the countryside of my choice on the rails.

Below are links to some of the train drivers who post videos of their trips:







Czech Republic

Train trips from around the world

And there are plenty more.

Bon Voyage!


  1. What a cool way to pass the time.

    1. And there are all the little surprises -- reindeer along the track in Sweden, steam engines going by, the MacDonald signs all around Europe... Thanks for taking the time to comment.