The Anonymous Widower

From Novara To Aosta

I travelled between Novara and Aosta stations with a change at Ivrea.

My observations follow.

The Route

The train used the classic Milan-Novara-Turin railway, which is double track and fully-electrified, until Chivasso station.

At Chivasso, the train took the Chivasso-Ivrea-Aosta railway, which is mainly single-track and only electrified as far as Ivrea.

Until Ivrea, the route is fairly flat, but then it climbs into the mountains.

Paddy Fields

There is a lot of rice-growing around Novara and there were paddy fields alongside the line.

I’d seen paddy fields from a train before in Malaysia, but these fields lacked one feature of the Malaysian fields.

In Malaysia, many fields had a large nesting box above the field.

Apparently, paddy fields attract rats and in Malaysia venomous snakes used to go in to catrch and eat the rats.

The problem was that farmers, also got bitten by the snakes.

The boxes were built to attract birds of prey to live above the fields to control the rat population.

The birds are not some exotic species, but barn owls, which are native to much of the world. I’ve even seen them in the Galapagos Islands.

Ivrea Station

Ivrea station with its three platforms, acts as an interchange station between trains from Aosta, Chivasso, Novara and Turin.

The line to Aosta is not electrified, so diesel trains have to be used on the climb into the mountains.

Use Of Bi-Mode Trains To Aosta

This article in the Railway Gazette is entitled Electro-Diesel Flirt Unveiled.

This is the first two paragraphs.

The first electro-diesel version of the Flirt multiple-unit family was unveiled at Stadler’s Bussnang plant in Switzerland on June 15, two years after the Valle d’Aosta region awarded a €43m contract for the supply of five units and the provision of five years of maintenance.

The Flirt3 units are scheduled to enter service on the Aosta – Torino route in May 2018. Bimode operation will remove the need for passengers to change trains at Ivrea to reach Torino Porta Susa station, where diesel operation is not permitted.

Using the trains from between Turin and Aosta is a classic use of bi-mode trains.

  • Between Turin and Ivrea, electric power will be used.
  • Between Ivrea and Aosta, diesel power will be used.

It’s a bit different to the application of a UK-version of these Stadler Flirts, in the flat lands of East Anglia.

Currently the service between Turin Porta Nuova and Aosta stations are generally hourly and take the following times.

  • Aosta to Turin Porta Nuova – Two hours seven minutes with an eight m,minute change at Ivrea.
  • Turin Porta Nuova to Aosta – Two hours twenty-three minutes with a sixteen minute change at Ivrea.

Adding in the turnround at both ends and there is a five-hour round trip.

Using the bi-modes, there is an obvious saving in that passengers won’t need to change trains at Ivrea.

But will the new trains have a faster performance on both sections of the route?

Certainly, the five trains ordered could run the service with a five hour round trip.

The real improvement would come with a four hour round trip, but I think that would be a challenging ask.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Serial Cooking – Basmati Rice For One

My basic cooking lessons at home from my mother  didn’t include cooking basmati rice. Rice was for making puddings, not as a substitute for potatoes.

So when I found this method of cooking basmati rice in this recipe from Lindsey Bareham, I had to try it. As it worked I’m posting it.

It may of course be a standard method, but it worked well and isn’t much more difficult than putting a packet in the microwave.

But it’s a bit more impressive, even if it is slower.

The great thing about this way of cooking rice, is that it takes twenty minutes from of virtually hands off cooking, from when the water boils, so is easy to slot into other cooking, talking with guests or drinking.

It is also very easy to scale up for a particular number of people.


June 4, 2015 Posted by | Food | , , | 2 Comments

Accurately Measuring Rice

I had half a chilli con carne last night for supper last night and I needed to cook some rice. My rice method needs 65 ml. of long grain rice for each person, together with 130 ml. of water

I have a standard Pyrex measure, but I generally measure things by weight using a letter balance. It is easy to convert water from ml. to grams, by just changing the units as the specific gravity of of water is unity. So I searched the Internet to find out what is the value of the specific gravity of long grain rice.  I couldn’t find anything, so in the end I measured it using my letter balance. Surprisingly the specific gravity is nearly unity.

So I then weighed 65 grams of rice on the scale, after zeroing it to account for the tumbler and then carefully added 130 grams of water.

Accurately Measuring Rice

Accurately Measuring Rice

The rice certainly tasted as good as packet rice in the microwave.

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Food | | 2 Comments

Cooking White Long-Grain Rice

I’ve always struggled with this until yesterday, when I tried this method  from the BBC.

The method detailed on the page, which also links to some interesting recipes.

Many cooks favour the absorption method for cooking white long-grain rice. For this, measure the rice by volume in a measuring jug – not by weight – allowing about 65ml/2½fl oz per person if you’re cooking the rice as a side dish. Stir in about double the amount of liquid (such as water or stock) and simmer in a covered saucepan for about 15 minutes. Do not try to stir the rice while it is boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and place a clean tea towel under the lid – this will help absorb the steam and keep the grains separate. Set aside for five minutes. Fluff up the rice with a fork before serving.

My only problem was that I didn’t cook enough rice for four.

May 17, 2011 Posted by | Food | , , | 6 Comments

Cooking Rice Korean Style

I cooked one of my chili con carnes for myself ,my son  and one of his friends today. As the friend is Korean, he cooked the rice and it was delicious.  He cooked it from scratch and interestingly, the method he used was very similar to the one Waitrose put on their packet of organic long grain rice. He did wash the rice more thoroughly in a sieve than I would and I think he used more rice and a bit more water.  But who cares? It worked!

So next time you want to cook rice, have a go and cook it properly, rather than using a microwave.

As the rice was so good, next time he comes, I’ll video a master in action! Would this be a first of a Korean cooking rice on an AGA?

Whilst on the subject of chili con carne, check out Wikipedia. There are some interesting and controversial ideas there.  To me chili always has kidney beans, but that is not allowed by some. There is this statement.

Chili Appreciation Society International specified in 1999 that, among other things, cooks are forbidden to include beans, marinate any meats, or discharge firearms in the preparation of chili for official competition.

I’m certainly with them on firearms.

I also found that the chili was a good mouth freshener in the same way as  the Waitrose Tiffin

July 31, 2010 Posted by | Food | , , , | 1 Comment