The best seat on an ICE train is 13. Or 17. Well that’s if it’s new stock. And the train’s forwarding. And the driver’s not opaqued the glass.

Seats 13 & 17 sit behind the driver’s cab. You see the cab, the driver, and the track ahead. I took seat 13, yesterday, by good luck. The driver played host; it was wonderful.

I’ve ridden the front of Docklands driverless trains, diving down tunnels at Fenchurch Street Station. It feels like a Thunderbirds set. Of course, Thunderbird trains were monorails, whooshing through bright white bendy concrete tunnels. There was no longing stretch of monorail, no wonderful racing fantasy trains stretching. My boy me knew futuristic rail tunnels would have no bends; knew Thunderbirds track was short for budget. Real tunnels would be straight for the comfort of futuristic passengers. Until I drove that docklands train. Well, sat in the drivers seat. There it was; the unreal, bright white concrete tunnel, and it was bendy. Bendy, bendy, bloody bendy

The youthful me watched music videos, French train drivers’ cabs, sped up: the Old Grey Whistle Test; videos so good they’re copied today. And now I’ve experienced that video fantasy too. The rhythm of wire pillars whooshing silently past; old trains racing to on the other track; slowing down for stations to shake and vamoosh. Deutsche Bahn even ran my train 40 minutes late to rush into the setting sun.

Ah, but reality is useless at imitating fantasy. It so insists on detail. No fantasy train driver would keep muttering “scheiss”, und “fünfzig percent Traction”. No fantasy driver, leaving a station, would light up a fag and make a phone call. Reality has all those dusty details fantasy omits, like ordinary days.

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