Train Cab View Videos Are My New Favorite Thing

Hobbies Leisure
Diving into a tunnel in Sarajevo. Screenshot from

It all started with a recent newsletter from The Horn Book editor Roger Sutton. “I knock off my computer work … and take to the couch to read whatever something-or-other the crew has sent in my direction… I read my book to the accompaniment of whichever train cab view video I have chosen from YouTube.”

“Huh,” I thought. “That sounds pleasant.”

Let me pause here. This is a rabbit hole. Consider yourself warned.

A train cab view video is pretty much what it sounds like. The driver points a camera out the front of the cab and then drives the train along its normal route for a couple hours. They often — note that word “often,” like maybe I’ve watched more than one by now — start with a picture of a map with a little line drawn onto it so you can see the route. Sometimes there’s a still exterior shot of the train. Almost always, the driver is completely silent. It’s just you, the thokka thokka thokka of the train wheels, the slight hum of the engine, and the scenery rushing by you. Sometimes little text blurbs give you information about where you’re at, your speed, your elevation, and points of interest along the way.

Being away from my computer isn’t part of my job like it is Sutton’s, but I’ve taken to setting a video up on my iPad next to my laptop in the afternoon and letting it run. The sound acts as white noise, and every now and then I look over to see some lovely piece of scenery from a far-flung part of the world.

There are so many little details to enjoy. A little trail appears next to a train in Sarajevo. A train in Scotland sends a flock of sheep bounding away in surprise. The snow goes from absent to everywhere as you climb towards St. Moritz. Boats chug down rivers. You dive into and out of tunnels, some rough-hewn, some smooth. Train stations appear that are nothing more than a platform lifted out of the dirt. And homes everywhere. Who lives there? What are their lives like? Have they ever ridden this train?

It’s easy enough to get started: search for “train cab view video” on YouTube and begin your new endless trail. But here are a couple of my recent favorites:

Do you have any to recommend? Let us know in the comments.

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