BONGWHA COUNTY, S. KOREA—
South Korea's national railroad operator has initiated two new lines. They are intended to give passengers a chance to re-explore a scenic rural region whose glory faded amid the decline of the timber and coal industries.
If you are in a hurry, do not take South Korea's newest trains.
The electric four-coach O-Train, running four times daily, circles a five-hour 257-kilometer course with stops at 13 stations.
The three-coach V-Train operates three times daily on a 70-minute shuttle between two rural stations 28 kilometers apart.
On the O-Train, KORAIL attendant Baeck Da-eun explains that those accustomed to high-speed rail travel will experience a significant change of pace and style during a ride on what is known as the spine of the Korean peninsula, until now mostly accessible only by unpaved winding roads.
“When passengers board for the first time, at first they are awed by the trains' exterior design and the internal décor. But what they seem to like most is the ability to take in such beautiful scenery,” Da-eun said.
The O-train at Seoul Station, South Korea, May 9, 2013. (R. Kalden/VOA)
A colorful snack bar in the O-train, May 9, 2013. (R. Kalden/VOA)
A children's play area in a car of the O-train, May 9, 2013. (R. Kalden/VOA)
The V-train rolls shuttle between two countryside stations and has large windows to allow better views of the scenery, May 9, 2013. (R. Kalden/VOA)
A view of rural South Korea from the V-train, May 9, 2013. (R. Kalden/VOA)
A farmer steps out of his field to exchange eggs for beer from V-train passengers during a brief stop at a rural station, May 9, 2013. (R. Kalden/VOA)
To give passengers time to enjoy viewing the numerous valleys, the V-Train crawls along at an average speed of just 30 kilometers per hour, occasionally stopping at the most scenic spots.
Some passengers disembark to stretch their legs and watch a group of farmers.
Others remain on board waving to those working in the field and strike up a brief conversation.
While the V-train's leisurely pace, French-designed interior, large windows and whistle stops harken back to a different era, it also features 21st century technology.
Each of its three coaches is topped with solar panels, generating five kilowatts a day to power the lights, fans and doors.