This month, Discovery’s Mighty Trains returns for a second season, giving viewers another fascinating look at the adrenaline-charged world of rail travel and the powerful locomotives (and interesting people) that keep it moving.
Showcasing some of the world’s most famous, picturesque railway, each one-hour episode of Mighty Trains spotlights six larger-than-life locomotives, from India’s luxurious Maharajas’ Express to Canada’s own Rocky Mountaineer, which will appear in the show’s season premiere on Oct. 14th.
PAX caught up with Mighty Trains’ charismatic host, Teddy Wilson, to learn more about his adventures in filming the exciting new season, from whizzing through ‘spiral tunnels’ inside the Canadian Rockies to having rats crawl over his feet in a Bikaner temple!
PAX: How does it feel to launch Season 2 of Mighty Trains?
Teddy Wilson (TW): It feels amazing! I’m incredibly lucky to get to travel the world highlighting the most incredible trains on earth and showcasing the people and technology behind them. In Season 2, Discovery brings viewers around the world on six fantastic rail journeys – crossing Ecuador, India, Spain, New Zealand, Sweden, and the Canadian Rockies. Our hope is that people at home love watching the episodes as much as we loved shooting them!
PAX: Have you always been fascinated by trains?
TW: I’ve loved travel since my first trips as a kid and my number one favourite way to travel has always been by train. I still remember my first ride on the rails at age four from Ottawa to Montreal; like so many fellow train fans at that young age, I was fascinated by the huge locomotive and the massive, snaking series of cars behind it. That fascination has never gone away, which is what makes this a dream gig for me.
PAX: What are things that surprised you about the locomotives you toured?
TW: Every Mighty Trains journey we take I’m consistently surprised and amazed. In Spain we highlight the super-fast AVE103 between Madrid & Barcelona. At a cruising speed of 300 km per hour, this high-speed wonder makes the 625 km trip in about two and a half hours! It’s a thrilling ride, and I was blown away by its ability to whip across the gorgeous Spanish countryside at such incredible speeds while maintaining a smooth and safe ride. During our trip across Ecuador on the ‘Tren Crucero’ – also known as ‘The Train to the Clouds – we were pulled across the Andes Mountains by one of the most famous steam locomotives in the world, ‘The Black Monster.’ This impressive piece of railway history has been carefully overhauled and has the incredible strength needed to pull carriages over the railways of the Andes, where the altitude and lack of oxygen make it a herculean task. Seeing this locomotive up-close in all its old-school railroad glory and at work in such formidable landscapes was a big Mighty Trains highlight for me!
PAX: What makes a train “mighty?”
TW: I think the definition of ‘mighty’ can vary, but it always encapsulates something unique and mind-bogglingly cool about the trains we cover. In Season Two, we feature the mighty power of Hector Rail, a massive freight train in Sweden that hauls around 3,000 tonnes of timber every day, 365 days a year, from forests in the north of the country down to giant pulp and paper mills in the south. This season we also take viewers across both islands of New Zealand, on the Northern Explorer and Tranz Alpine routes. Those examples are just the tip of the iceberg – on every episode we uncover the engineering and people who make these trains fit squarely in the ‘mighty’ category!
PAX: Mighty Trains Season 2 features Canada’s own Rocky Mountaineer. What were some stand-out moments from that railway ride?
TW: I feel a real sense of national pride that we’re kicking off Season 2 right here in our own Canadian backyard – and I promise you that our journeys on Rocky Mountaineer do not disappoint! I was fascinated by the ‘spiral tunnels’ – a marvel of railway engineering. Trains ascend and descend the landscape via a system of tunnels that loop around inside the mountains, eliminating the need for the steeper grade that existed on the straight line. The food on this train is also some of the best I’ve ever had – gourmet quality, made all the more impressive when you see the small kitchens that chefs and staff are working in. And of course the landscapes and scenery – whether it’s getting an up-close view of the famous ‘Hells Gate’ falls, passing the imposing Robson Mountain, or through the gorgeous Kicking Horse Pass region, I now completely understand why tourists and train fans come from all over the world to ride Rocky Mountaineer.
PAX: What were your wildest, most memorable moments from filming Season 2?
TW: Tough to narrow it down! I’d say my wildest memory (literally!) was during our episode on the ‘Maharajas Express’ – an incredible journey across India from Delhi to Mumbai. Passengers are treated like Indian royalty; it’s a high-style expedition unlike any other rail journey on earth. Another wild memory was our off-board excursion to the Karni Mata Temple in Bikaner ….also known as ‘the rat temple!’ It’s a fascinating religious site dedicated to the life of a Hindu sage warrior named Karni Mata, who lived in the 15th century. Pilgrims come from all over India to worship, and it’s home to 20,000 rats! It’s believed they’re the reincarnated souls of a local family of storytellers who have been reborn by the power of the Karni Mata. It’s a holy place and a place of reverence…. but also very ‘unique’ and definitely wild (to put it mildly) to wander around a temple with rats running everywhere, including over your feet. Fascinating stuff!
PAX: What are some things people may not know about rail travel?
TW: I think the major thing that people may not know about rail travel is the sheer number of staff required to operate the trains and facilitate these incredible journeys. On Mighty Trains we take a lot of pride in highlighting some of the amazing folks working behind the scenes – from the on-board staff, to the experts at train control headquarters, to the engineers/drivers up front in the locomotives, to the maintenance workers in the rail yards and on the tracks themselves. When it comes to trains, it really does take a village – and often a pretty big village!
I feel that train travel can make you feel transported to another time, and allows you to connect to the history and landscapes of different countries in a way that planes, cars and other modes of travel simply don’t. – Teddy Wilson, host of Mighty Trains
PAX: You travel a lot for this show. What are your top three packing essentials?
TW: Ear plugs!! A small flashlight!! A light but very waterproof rain jacket!! (and just packing clothing layers in general is a must-use packing strategy).
PAX: What destinations have you yet to check off your travel bucket list?
TW: I have so many places I’ve yet to explore! China, Argentina (I’d also love to trek down to the Antarctica), Hungary and Romania, Ethiopia, Portugal, Peru, Namibia and Botswana, and the list goes on, and on… Travelling is my favourite thing to do!
PAX: Word has it that Mighty Trains is already producing a third season. Can you share any hints or details on what’s to come?
TW: We’ve already been to Norway to ride the spectacular Bergen Railway, and across Italy on two phenomenal high-speed trains, and we’ll very shortly be heading down-under to shoot an episode aboard Australia’s iconic Indian Pacific Railway. After that we’ll be heading to three additional countries to shine a light on even more Mighty Trains journeys.
Mighty Trains: Season 2 airs Sundays at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT, beginning Oct. 14th on Discovery (currently on free preview from Oct. 4th to Nov. 1st). For more information, visit Discovery.ca.