For most people, taking a train is one way of traveling from one place to another. For others, the trip itself is the major attraction. They’re interested in the ride, passing scenery and sometimes activities available to passengers. Let’s take a virtual journey aboard several outstanding rail trips around the country and the world.
There’s no need to leave the United States to enjoy some inviting scenic rides. The California Zephyr between Chicago and San Francisco climbs both the Rocky and snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Adirondack train is named for the mountain range it passes, and also rolls through New York’s Hudson Valley wine country, where grapes have been grown and wine produced since 1677. Information about these and other U.S. trains is available at Amtrak.com.
Given the beauty of the soaring Alps mountains in Switzerland, it’s no surprise that there’s a choice of trains which introduce passengers to their splendor. The Bernina Express crosses the Alps between Northern and Southern Europe, and offers dramatic views of towering mountains, castles and, eventually, the sun-soaked villages of southern Italy. For more information, the website is https://www.rhb.ch/en/panoramic-trains/bernina-express.
Another shorter but equally dramatic ride through the Swiss Alps is provided by the Glacier Express. Its 8 hour, 180-mile-long trips connect two famous mountain resorts, and climb to a height of 6,670 feet above sea level.
Views outside change with the time of year, from rolling meadows in summer to a tapestry of color during the fall to the snow-blanketed winter landscape. More information is available at www.glacierexpress.ch.
The setting is equally dramatic in Canada’s towering Rocky Mountains. Rocky Mountaineer trains climb towering peaks and pass desert-like canyon terrain.
Oversize windows provide unobstructed views of the scenery. More information is available at rockymountaineer.com.
From golf drives to game drives
Travelers who prefer to combine activities with a train ride have a wide range of alternatives. A long list of choices is available to passengers on the Belmond Royal Scotsman. As it rolls through the breathtaking countryside of Scotland, they may disembark to play golf in the country where the game was invented, explore beautiful rural homes and visit Scotch whiskey distilleries that offer tours and tastings. For more information, log onto belmond.com/royal-scotsman-train.
Train experiences in Africa can include viewing animals in their natural environment. Trips aboard the Desert Express in Namibia offer game drives, cheetah and leopard viewing at a safari guest farm, and lion feeding.
Another excursion explores sand dunes up to 1,000 feet high in the vast Namib Desert, which stretches more than 1,200 miles along Africa’s Atlantic coast. For more information log on to http://www.namibweb.com/desertexpress.html.
Old and new
The Ffestiniog Railway, one of several “Great Little Trains of Wales,” is the oldest operating railroad company in the world. It was founded in 1832, and in 1863 became the first narrow gauge train service to introduce steam engines – two of which still are in use.
This group of miniature narrow-gauge steam-driven trains chugs through Wales at slow speeds, so passengers may enjoy the beauty of the passing landscape. The Ffestiniog route traverses the Aberglalsyn Pass, a deep narrow gorge which has been called the most beautiful spot in the United Kingdom, and huffs and puffs up some of the longest and steepest inclines in the country. For more information, log onto greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk.
The newest addition to the list of great rail trips will be the first luxury sleeper train in South America, which is scheduled to begin service during 2017. The Belmond Andean Explorer will travel along one of the highest rail routes in the world, through the Andes Mountains of Peru at altitudes reaching nearly 16,000 feet. Passengers will visit remote villages and view the 10,725-foot-deep Cotahuasi Canyon. More information is available at www.belmond.com/belmond-andean-explorer.
Short and long
Even a train trip of only 11 miles can offer something special. Since 1902, the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol train in Wales has been transporting passengers through some of the finest scenery in Britain. As the cars makes a series of twists and turns, views outside change from open fields to ancient woodlands to rugged mountains. For more information log onto rheidolrailway.co.uk.
In contrast with the tiny Vale of Rheidol track is the longest single-service train ride in the world. The Trans-Siberian Railway covers 5,770 miles and passes through eight time zones as it connects Russia’s east and west.
Depending upon which itinerary they select, passengers may stop at cities along the route, including the capital of Mongolia, have a private viewing of the Kremlin and take a class in cooking traditional Russian dishes.
Among companies with which people may arrange Trans-Siberian trips is Golden Eagle Luxury Trains at luxurytrainclub.com/russia.