Uyuni-train-cemetery-08

Bolivia’s Great Train Boneyard, in 16 Photos

Trainspotters tramping through South America, take note. At the edge of Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, lies what is probably the continent’s most picturesque train cemetery.

Dozens of hollowed out rusting hulks, these days covered in graffiti, line a series of unused tracks about three kilometers south of Uyuni, a nondescript market town of about 11,000 that sits at an altitude of 3,700m (12,139 ft) on the high Andean altiplano and where three-day tours of the vast Salar either begin or end.

They’re the corroded leftovers of a once-thriving mining industry whose boom in the first half of the 20th century was short-lived by rapid mineral depletion.

The rail lines, designed by British engineers for the British-sponsored Antofagasta and Bolivia Railroad companies in the late 1880s, served as a hub for the transport of cargo to Pacific ports. Co-existence with the locals wasn’t always pretty or peaceful either. Local Aymara saw it as an intrusion into their lives and regularly sabotaged the tracks which were used almost exclusively by the mining companies.

The trains, many of them steam locomotives, date back to the early half of 1900s and have long since been stripped of any useful parts. With no fences or guards, this boneyard is in fact a scrap yard with free pickings. And a cool photo op for travelers passing through the north side of the planet’s biggest salt plain.

Train afficionados: here’s an itemized list of all the locomotive makes and models.

Sixteen images below.

 

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Ljubljana Station – LJ Pic of the Day

This is one of only two photos I took today within Ljubljana proper – this one I posted to twitter and the other to my Facebook page. Yes, I’ve finally graduated to a better mobile phone. I’ll try not to get too out of hand.

Both were taken early this morning at Ljubljana’s train station, which is still as gray and drab as it was when I moved to the Slovenian capital nearly ten years ago. Publishing it in black & white actually adds color.

Its drabness doesn’t make me like it any less. It’s a perfectly fine utilitarian remnant from the Yugoslav days. It does however help fuel my disappointment with the halfhearted manner with which rail travel is regarded in Slovenia. We’ll save that topic for another day.

 

Between Bled and Jesenice, Slovenia, 24-Sep-2012.

SLO Train – Pic du Jour

Between Bled and Jesenice, Slovenia, 24-Sep-2012.

Shooting in the rain and sticking my head where it didn’t belong. 24-Sep-2012

More shooting in the rain – playing with my GoPro on the slow train between Bled and Jesenice last September when a camping trip was rained out.

I’m leaving for my extended trip in 19 days, but the moving van will be here in 33 hours. Why I’m playing with photos when I’m surrounded by half empty boxes that need to be filled remains a mystery.

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Bohinjska Bistrica Station, 24-Sep-2012

35 Minutes at the Bohinjska Bistrica Train Station

Bohinjska Bistrica Station, 24-Sep-2012

Bohinjska Bistrica Station, 24-Sep-2012

And a quaint station it is. On this quiet, lazy and rainy fall mid-afternoon it bordered on the sublime.

These were taken in late September just before an unscheduled return from a rained out camping trip, another contribution for my Slovenian train station project. The goal? To snap a few shots from each of the country’s 272 train stations and stops. That project has been moving slower than the slowest SLO train.

Bohinjska Bistrica is where you’ll stop if you plan to visit Lake Bohinj, a much more pristine setting than the better known and more heavily-visited Lake Bled. It’s only about 20 kilometers up the road/rails and well worth it. Even if all you’ll wind up doing is shooting a timelapse in the rain.

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Somewhere between Bohinj and Bled, 24-Sep-2012

A Train, a Bus and a Stolen Bike – #frifotos

Somewhere between Bohinj and Bled, 24-Sep-2012

My bike was stolen today, the third since I moved to Ljubljana. It was locked but still snatched in broad daylight, ruining what was an otherwise excellent day. I’m leaving in 94 days so I won’t dwell on it. One less thing to store, right?

Chairs are this week’s #FriFotos theme on twitter to celebrate places we like to park our behinds. One of my favorites was my bike, but I’m not dwelling on that. So instead, I’ll go with what is probably my second favorite mode of transport, a seat on a train.  The one above was taken in late September, somewhere between Bohinjska Bistrica and Bled, Slovenia, on the way back from a would-be camping trip that was a disastrous washout. (It would be the last time my bike was on a train.) Below is a quick snap taken earlier this month on bus somewhere between Varna and Kavarna, Bulgaria. It broke down about a half hour later which made me wish I had my bike. But let’s no dwell on that.

Between Varna and Kavarna, Bulgaria, 03-Oct-2012

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Riot Center

Sometimes you just gotta love kids who climb railroad bridges with cans of spray paint. This pic even inspired a very short video which you can find below and watch when you’ve got 44 seconds to spare. That in turn – and this is the best part – led to several hours acquainting myself with the soundscapes created by Sol Rezza.

From her bio on the Free Music Archive:

Sol Rezza (born April 7th 1982, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a sound artist, sound designer and sound jockey focused on the transformation of soundscapes into strange sound narratives. Her works are developed from field recordings of her own, sound objects from nature recorded by the artist, vocal experimentation and computer generated virtual instruments used as sound modulators. Her pieces are noted for their unconventional way of working, achieving unique sound textures for each of her compositions through the layer modification of previously recorded sounds. The narrative and the constant play with the symbols of language is a fundamental point throughout his work.

I used about 40 seconds from her piece, Revolution as a Loop, from her album Spit. Check out the whole thing. Parts of it made my couch spin. And that hasn’t happened in a while. Excellent stuff.

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Trains and Stations – A Fetish in Fifteen Photos

I really wanted to take one of these home. Breclav station, Czech Republic, 24-Jun 2007

The way my mother tells the story, I was smuggled into France as a six-month old, wrapped in swaddling clothes and hidden among a small pile of blankets in a crowded sleeper car. Whether the tale is an embellishment I can’t say, but I do know that that episode instilled in me an early love for train travel. Nothing remotely resembling passenger trains existed in the US midwest while I was there, so my fetish for trains didn’t finally and fully blossom until I moved back to Europe 38 years later.

When I need to go somewhere, for business or pleasure or both, I insist on going by train whenever practical. Even when a 13-hour train trip could be covered in about five by car (going to Sarajevo from Ljubljana, for instance). I also take lots of pictures from and of those trains and stations.

I spent a bit of time further organizing my flickr stream tonight and rediscovered most of these 15 train-related pics, many of which I haven’t looked at in years, and decided to breathe a bit of life into them here. They’re not necessarily my 15 favorites, but were selected instead to represent a variety. And I do like them all. If you’re interested in checking out more, there are 134 in my flickr Trains and Stations set at the moment. Most of them are Creative Commons non-commercial licensed, so feel free to use them if you’d like as indicated in the descriptions. Enjoy!

Wien Südbahnhof. 14-June-2008

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Lyon Part-Dieu station, Lyon, France, 03-Sep-2008

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Monaco-Monte Carlo station, at center of the photo. Entirely underground. Monte Carlo, 24-Nov 2007

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Piraeus Station, Piraeus, Greece, 13-Nov-2008

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Sarajevo, 1 July 2011

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Ataturk at the Istanbul Gar, or train station, the final stop on the now defunct Orient Express. Istanbul, 13-Mar-2012

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Zidani Most train station, Zidani Most, Slovenia, 17-Apr-2009

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Milano Centrale station, Milan, 03-July-08

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Cute stranger’s napping feet, on the EC 102 from Wien Sudbahnhof. Somewhere in Moravia, Czech Republic, 24-June-2007

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Central station, Thessaloniki, Greece, 14-Sep-2009

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Camera Shy bootleg CD vendor, Central Station, Valencia, Spain, 10-Mar-2008

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On the RER from Charles de Gaulle towards the Gare de Nord, Paris, 07-Jul-2007

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Kitzbuhel, Austria, 10-Feb-2009

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Milano Centrale, 11-Dec-2006

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These snaps are this week’s contribution for Travel Photo Thursday (#TPThursday on twitter) hosted by Nancie on her website, Budget Travelers Sandbox. When you have few minutes to browse, check out Nancie’s photos and those of others who take part. You’ll see some great photos and visit some wonderful places.

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Stealth mobile street shooting – lesson two (LJ pic of the Day)

I was inspired enough by my first lesson in stealth mobile street shooting last weekend to wander out for more these past few days. At top is a gentleman patiently waiting for something in the train station’s ticket office on Wednesday afternoon. I’ve been in that position myself on occasion and have found that a book helps.

While on the topic of trains, I wanted to pass along a few newsy links of interest from Slovenia Rail, but since the English language section of their site’s news section hasn’t been updated for more than two years, I won’t bother. I hope the guy in the picture isn’t waiting for it to be updated.

Ljubljana New Train Station, Revisited – LJ Pic of the Day

One of the most read/searched for posts on Piran Café is this one, published just a few weeks shy of three years ago, about plans for Ljubljana’s new main train station. The post read in part, as follows:

The two phase project, with a total price tag that ranges from 220 to 300 million euros, includes a new bus station, shopping and entertainment center set for completion by the end of 2009. The train station, a new high rise business center, luxury apartments and four-star hotel, is to be completed by the end of 2010.

Here’s an update snapped at lunchtime today. Nice shades of green in that greenspace, no?

Wandering Earl wanders into Slovenia

I just came across a blog by traveler Wandering Earl, who set off on a three-month trip to Asia in 1999. He’s still on the road 4,294 days later.

He arrived in Ljubljana a few days ago via rail from Vienna, so check out his blog and say ‘Hi’, ok?

His is a lifestyle many fantasize about, but very few have the wherewithal, resourcefulness or guts to actually take the plunge. His website and blog are worth spending some time with if you’re looking for experience-tested ideas on how to sustain yourself on the road long-term.

Best of luck, Earl, and I hope you enjoy your stay in this little corner of the planet. It’s a pretty nice one, too.

slo train 006, a photo by pirano on Flickr.