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Life too exciting? Enter the calming world of full-length train journey videos

Inside the calming online subculture of extremely long, extremely uneventful rail travel videos

An almost 10-hour-long YouTube video from the driver’s cab of the train from Trondheim to Bodø in Norway. YouTube
Oliver Burkeman

First published on Wed 17 Jul 2013 15.18 EDT

As I'm reminded every time someone urges me to watch a web video longer than about 45 seconds (six minutes? are you kidding me?), the internet doesn't exactly encourage the cultivation of long attention spans. So I was thrilled to learn, via an excellent Metafilter post, about a small online subculture of resistence to the attention-frittering trend: the existence of scores of YouTube videos documenting entire train journeys, some many hours long, from the perspective of the driver in the cab. The video above is nine hours and 53 minutes long – it's available in spring, autumn and winter versions too – and while I won't claim to have watched it all, I've spent some pleasant work breaks in Brooklyn watching Scandinavian scenery go by. But perhaps you'd prefer Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig in Scotland? It's every bit as rainswept – and bleakly beautiful, especially in its latter stages – as you'd imagine:

Or Thazi to Kalaw in Burma, often verrry slowly (watch from about 2h41m for an exciting manual points change!):

Or Christchurch to Greymouth on New Zealand's South Island:

(These particular videos are from Youtube user Saalbahnhof, but the site features plenty of others.)

Not long ago, I wrote about "conscious computing" – the idea that we might use our everyday technologies to enhance rather than erode focus – and mentioned OmmWriter, a text editor that encourages calm attention by (among other things) playing the clanking sounds of old locomotives as you write. If, like me, you find long train journeys just about the best environment for getting work done, the next step is obvious: turn some of these videos into your desktop wallpaper, so you need never leave the rails.

Oh, and in case you'd rather travel by sea (also via Metafilter): a 134-hour video of the journey of the Hurtigruten passenger and freight line along Norway's northern and western coasts. Why not watch the whole thing? I guarantee it won't drag half as badly as Pirates of the Caribbean 3.