Model Railroading — Blog Post #10
ETE BayArea Newsletter March 2017
European Railway Notes
I’ve been on the Eurostar traveling from London to Paris and back through the Channel Tunnel. As a passenger you see the countryside going by but you don’t get to see what the line looks like, the turnouts, the catenary or the tunnel entrances. The only person that gets to see all of this is the engineer. I decided to go looking for videos that show the view from inside the engineers cab. I found some very short videos online but none of them showed the inside of the tunnel. Given what I’ve learned about the Channel Tunnel recently, I really wanted to see the tracks leading into both ends of the tunnel and what the inside of the tunnel looks like.
Searching online I found Eurostar Driver’s Eye View, a Blu-ray showing the engineer’s view as the Eurostar travels from Brussels Belgium to London St Pancras. I purchased this on Ebay and thought I was all set. When it arrived, I tried to play it in my Blu-ray player and nothing happened. Not good. Before I ordered this item I checked the listing carefully, there was no mention of any specific region code or the need to have a specific kind of player. I contacted the seller and was told this disk played normally in the seller’s Blu-ray player…in Australia!
What to do? I could have returned the disk, the seller offered to take it back for a full refund. This was a good option, but, I still wanted to see the video of the Channel Tunnel. I didn’t find other DVDs online, so I figured, if I wanted to see this video, I had to figure out how to get it to play. Looking online I found references to a ‘region free’ DVD/Blu-ray player. It turns out you can buy a Blu-ray player that has been modified to play discs from any region. It turns out there are six different regions for DVDs and three for Blu-ray discs.
I found a region free player I liked on Amazon. I read a lot of reviews because I was concerned about buying a piece of equipment that has been modified by a third party, but Amazon guaranteed to refund my money if I wasn’t satisfied so I order the player.
When it arrived I got it hooked up and followed the instructions to select Blu-ray Region B which includes the UK, where the Eurostar Blu-ray was made. All I had to do was press one of the buttons on the remote to select the correct region. Then I was watching the video! I was quite relieved. I also had a DVD from Germany. Several months ago I had ordered a magazine from Germany (Ebay.de) that covered my favorite class of steam locomotive, the BR 44. I plan to translate the text as best I can, and the magazine came with a DVD. I didn’t buy the magazine to get the DVD, but now that I had a region free player, I was able to enjoy this DVD as well.
Now that I was able to watch my Blu-ray of the Eurostar and my DVD of the class 44, what about the quality of these videos? The Eurostar Driver’s Eye View is excellent; I highly recommend you get this if you have any interest in the Eurostar. The video resolution and the audio quality are both very good. The narration is available in English or French. As the title promised, the view is definitely from the driver’s perspective, but there are many external views as well which makes the video much more interesting. We see, for example, the stations at each end of the trip and several views of major bridges along the way. I was very impressed by the narration as it included a lot more information than I was expecting. The various signaling systems used at different points along the trip are explained as are the various rail lines that diverge from and join the route. One specific example that I enjoyed: the channel tunnel was designed to accommodate railcars big enough to carry trucks which means the railcars are taller than normal. This means the catenary has to be higher, and the Eurostar has to adjust the pantographs for the higher wire as they approach the tunnel.
Photo by Brian Hitchcock