Monday, June 22, 2009

Top 10 Demolished US Railway Stations

Great article on the Infrastructurist blog on the top 10 demolished train stations in the USA.

I particularly agree with the comment from Eric, now we should focus on an article listing the top 10 great train stations to save. He suggests Detroit and Buffalo.
I totally agree about Buffalo's Central Terminal having taken one of the last trains that stopped there on my way to college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Pannobile - Austrian Wine

One of the great things about moving to Austria has been learning about the different wines and regions here. For example, Grüner Veltliner wine ... wow, I never tasted anything like that in California.

One of the first wine events I attended wasn't actually a wine event, but rather a tasting arranged after a, well, fairly interesting transportation conference. Instead of the normal beer and wine, the organizer invited a representative of the Pannobile group of winemakers to present various different wines from the area. Cool idea. Anyway I was hooked ...

Today the Pannobile group had a tasting of their 2007 vintage. Most of the vintners focus on red wines made from local grapes Zweigelt, Blaufränkish (AKA Pinot Noir) and St Laurent, but they also make white wines from Weissburgunder (AKA Pinot Blanc) and Chardonnay. They all make a blend (Curvee) called Pannobile - each winemaker uses a different blend of grape types.

I focused on tasting the Pinot Noir (or Blaufränkish) and the Pannobile blends. Although all the wines I tasted were good, my favorites were the Judith Beck 2007 Pinot Noir and 2006 Blaufränkish Altenberg, the Heinrich Blaufränkish Alter Berg 2007, the Anita and Hans Nittnaus Blaufrankish "Kalk and Schiefer" 2007 and their single vineyard Blaufränkish 2006, the Leitner Ungerberg 2007 and Zechun 2007 (both curvees), and finally the Pittnauer Pinot Noir Reserve 2007. In my opinion they are all young, but quite enjoyable now, probably even better over time.

It's really nice to live in a place with a local wine tradition. Last spring we took a bicycle trip through parts of Burgenland (the province that includes the Pannobile region). We stopped at a couple of Heuriger ("taverns" that serve wine made by the owners with generally simple - but excellent - food).

We were even lucky enough to be in Burgenland during a "Kellergasse Fest." A Kellergasse (celler street) is a short stretch of road with numerous wine cellars dug into the side of a hill. Many towns in the wine producing parts of Austria have these streets located in the fields outside the town. It's a very unique architecture (the photos on this page are from our visit). The fest is a big party where all the vintners offer samples of their wine, there's lots of different food and musical entertainment. Great fun.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Stockholm Transport Museum

On my recent trip to Stockholm I visited the Stockholm Public Transport Museum. It's a pretty large museum in the Sophia area of the city with lots of old vehicles and exhibits. They have an English brochure and a Xeroxed description of some of the exhibits in English, but otherwise everything is in Swedish (website - Swedish).

Here's the Stockholm Transport Museum webpage in English from a good website with information on most museums in Stockholm. You can take bus 2 or 66 - which stop right outside the museum. The exact address is Tegelviksgatan 22 for Google Maps.

The English website for Stockholm's public transport operator has good information on the system and links to descriptions of Stockholm's outstanding art in the metro stations along with a downloadable metro art map.

The Stockholm Transport Museum had several cool features: a mini train for children to ride through some of the exhibits, a "pit" so you could go under a bus and look at the mechanics (watch your head), a ticket sales booth with a hat and ticket punch (on chains) that children could use to pretend to buy/sell tickets and a huge play area for children (with Brio trains, naturally).

Only one exhibit puzzled me. During World War II there must have been a fuel shortage and Stockholm seems to have experimented with alternative fuels. There was a model of a quite involved bus storage yard where trailers with cylinders were attached and detached from the buses. Nearby there were three actual trailers. I couldn't find anyone to ask about them, so they are a mystery.

In summary, very nice museum. My Stockholm Transport Museum flickr photos show the museum.

Saving money with dogfood?

Tim Harford is a great source of practical information based on economic research. Today he reports on a experiment where participants were given six "pates" ... well, two real pates, two cheap ones and two made from dogfood. Read the results in Tim's FT column Dear Economist: Should I eat cheap food to save money?.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Oh Lord, won't ya buy me a cobra tram?

Finally a new music video. Just before heading out to dinner with friends in Zurich I heard Janis Joplin's Mercedes Benz song. All I can say is that it was inspiring ... and I am not the only one, there's lots of versions on YouTube.

We went to dinner at a great little neighborhood restaurant with big windows on one of Zurich's public transport priority streets. All night long trams passed by until finally it clicked ...

Cobra trams are Zurich's new low floor streetcar. They were a bit undependable when they first arrived although seem to be doing well now. They are quite elegant: big windows, lots of room around the doors to move in and out, nice seats, clean lines and quiet. Their wheels are independent (in other words there is not a common axle between wheels on either side of the streetcar) which make them very quiet.

Unfortunately as the public transport vehicle manufacturing industry has consolidated over the last few years the major manufacturers have discontinued the "cobra" design, so Zurich's are unique. Here's a press release by the manufacturer Bombardier describing the cobra trams (PDF).