In March 2001 my family went on a 2-week trip to Spain and Portugal arranged by one of my former middle school English teachers.  As part of the trip, on March 10 we rode the AVE from Cordoba to Madrid.  AVE stands for Alta Velocidad Espanola (Spanish High Speed); it also is similar to the word for "bird".  The original line opened from Madrid to Seville in April 1992 using TGV Atlantique trainsets built by GEC-Alsthom for full-speed service and Talgo 200 trainsets for slower service.  Each AVE trainset has two locomotives sandwiching eight cars.  The cars include one Club al Andulus (1st class) car, two Preferente (Preferred class) cars, a club/cafe car, and four Touriste (2nd class) cars.  Currently (2006) there is an extension to Barcelona under construction.  The high-speed lines are standard-gauge instead of Spain's usual broad-gauge.  Maximum service speed is 186 MPH.  Per normal practice worldwide, most of the line is on an entirely new route, only using previously existing rights-of-way to go through major cities.

On March 11 I spent a few hours railfanning at Madrid's Atocha station, which the AVE uses.  As part of the construction of the AVE line, a brand new trainshed was built for this station behind the original one, which was then converted into a greenhouse.