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Chapter 4 St. Bernard

“There’s so many here…”

The town of St. Bernard. Located at the foothills of the Alps, at the Lutetian end of the only highway connecting the Kingdom to the Reignia Empire. With the recent opening of the railway, it was expected that there would be new developments. What Teruya saw was a brand new railway yard with numerous associated service lines where freight and passenger carriages were parked.

“It may take some time before we are able to resume our journey from here, sir.”

“Is that so?”

“It is. The track onwards winds up a mountain slope with many steep inclines. It could take a long time for us to depart if there are many other trains waiting.”

“I would like to see that,” responded Teruya with excitement.

Not without a reason either. All mountain railways had their own unique beauty to them, just like the Hakone Tozan lines1 or the Yokokawa-Karuizawa line2. They were all truly marvellous to look at.

“I wonder if there will be no problems this time.”

“Huh?”

“Huh?”

Those ominous words made Teruya froze for a moment. But, for better or worse, the whistle on their engine sounded right then, letting him know that they were on the way.

“It seems the luck is with us and we shall be departing soon. Let us board the train at once.”

“O-okay.”

Teruya boarded the carriage right after Sebastian, deciding to pretend he had heard nothing disturbing just now.

The train made its way through the mountains very carefully. The incline wasn’t as steep as Teruya had been led to expect, at least compared to the mountain railway he had traveled on before. Perhaps it was simply due to the locomotive being just not good enough to overcome steeper slopes.

In Japan, the limit was a thirty-five per-mille3, meaning the elevation of the track could at most increase by thirty-five over one thousand meters of distance. Usually it was kept below twenty-five. However, the value for this track was even lower and it seemed like a much longer distance was used to calculate the per-mille value.

Tunnels didn’t seem to be used much, maybe because they were technically difficult to build. Which explained why the track was laid along its winding and curving present path along the mountain’s surface.

This had its upsides, however.

According to train-otakus, trains that traveled through the mountains made for a very picturesque experience. If Teruya had his camera, he certainly would’ve loved to take a photo of this scenery.

“Damn it, I wish I could charge my camera’s batteries.”

The old ones had just run out of juice after he had taken a bunch of photos on his way to and while at the museum. He would have to devise a way to recharge what he had.

“Well… Can’t be helped,” he added.

With the camera not being an option, Teruya took out a sketchbook and started sketching instead. Quite skillfully, in fact. His ability to draw had developed in unison with his love for railways, he got better at the former by sketching train imitation blueprints.

“Ah, not enough time.”

He produced rough sketches one after another in quick succession, as if taking snapshots of the view outside, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

“Time, stop please,” he said in frustration. And as soon as he did, the train came to a sudden halt.

“What happened?”

The unexpected stoppage was surprising.

“It is very likely that a train ahead of us was involved in an accident.”

“A what?”

Teruya opened the carriage door and headed for the crash site. The stoppage was caused by a freight car that came to standstill as a result of an accident on a curve ahead.

“A flange climb derailment4?”

The curve was sharp, the car clearly overloaded. The resulting lateral force was too much for the wheels, and the front pair went off the rail.

“And the axle has broken too…”

That was most likely a result of the impact involved in the accident. When Teruya looked under the car, he saw that the shaft was cleanly snapped into two.

“…The material used seems to be too fragile.”

At any rate, repairing this vehicle would take time. Removing it completely would be a better option, but how long could that take? Fortunately, the people stuck in here due to the accident gathered around the broken wagon and started transferring its cargo into another. Then, through a group effort, the emptied wagon was lifted up and dropped to the bottom of the mountain cliff.

Teruya exclaimed to himself as the wagon rolled to the bottom of the mountain cliff, crashed onto a rocky bed of a dry river, and fell apart.

“With this, the track is finally open, sir. We should be departing soon.”

“A ruthless solution, that,” replied Teruya.

“Nothing out of ordinary. The Imperial law states that carriages blockading a highway should be promptly removed.

“…Ah, so that’s how it is.”

Apart from that one accident, there were no other major problems on the way, and they arrived at the Empire’s gateway town, Martini.

“We’ve arrived, haven’t we?”

“We have. This is the Imperial Station of Martini, the gateway to Reignia.”

A huge railway yard lay ahead of them.

“Does the railway end here?”

“Not at all, sir, it carries on all the way to the coast. From there, further tracks extend to the Imperial capital itself.”

“I understand everything perfectly now. Let’s return home.”

“So soon?”

“I wanted to pry into things some more, but I have other matters to investigate as well. So I need to return.”

“That is impossible.”

“Why?”

“There are no departures scheduled for today. Only the trains leaving in the direction of the Empire can run today.”

“And there is a rule about that as well, I guess?”

“Indeed. The Alps are so steep that a way station cannot be built midway, thus the trains also operate every other day here.”

“…I understand. I hoped a train would be leaving before noon.”

“Let us make our way back here after spending the night in town.”

Footnotes

A scenic mountain rail line in Japan that traverses the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakone_Tozan_Line

A railroad line in Japan that traverses that traverses the mountainous region of Gunma all the way to Nagano.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yokokawa_Station
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karuizawa_Station

It simply means parts per thousand.
In railroads, it is used to express the angle of incline of tracks, which the formula is (elevation/distance)*1000.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Per_mille
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_(slope)#Nomenclature

Was already explained by the chapter, but just to reiterate, the flange climb derailment happens when the lateral force acting on the carriage is greater than its weight and wheel profile can compensate for.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derailment#Flange_climbing

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