Best Rail Journeys
FOR THE "CHOO CHOO" ENTHUSIASTS
Train travel has been romanticized in film and literature, and for a good reason. The slow traversal of the train makes for a chance to slow down and enjoy the scenery while making it from Point A to Point B. Amenities among the different lines around the world vary, some more luxurious than others. Some move people hundreds of miles, others for thousands of miles. There are rail lines that go through forests, mountains, deserts, cities… any terrain or sight that the traveler wishes to witness; there is a rail journey for them.
The Venice Simplon-Orient Express is a private luxury train service that takes travelers from London to Venice, two signature cities of culture visited by countless people every day. This luxury train is an immaculate ride in 1920’s art deco cars that runs from March to November, with suites and cars that put the traveler into the atmosphere of the original luxurious Orient Express. Its route travels from London to Paris to Venice and
additional departures between Venice to Vienna, Prague, and Budapest, and Paris to Istanbul are also available. The company that currently owns the line, Belmond, also operates luxury hotels, restaurants, and river cruises in 24 countries… offering up plenty of activities and stays along this train route.
London to Venice
Norway is known for its dramatic scenery of mountains, fjords, and valleys. The Bergensbanen, or Bergen Line, runs from Bergen to Oslo, Norway. The 231 miles of views on this line are dramatic: forests, lakes, fjords, rivers, waterfalls, and the occasional tunnel carved into a mountain. It even passes at 4,505 ft above sea level, making it the highest mainline railway in Northern Europe.
Depending on the time of year, there could be a wonderland of snow-covered landscape or green as far as the eye can see; regardless, the route is one not to miss when visiting Norway.
A 4,735-mile and 6-day journey, construction on the Trans-Mongolian Express started in 1947. This express runs along an ancient route once used by caravans in the tea trade. Crossing the serene and barren landscapes of Siberia and the Gobi Desert, this rail line splits off from the epic Trans-Siberian railway near the village of Zaudinskiy. Many villages throughout Russia, Mongolia, and China are also seen when on the path to Beijing.
Highlights include the deserts of Siberia and Gobi, glass-like lakes, and a short stop at a village with one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Russia, the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, and even crossing the Great Wall of China.
China, Mongolia, Russia
Started in 1894, this rail journey is a path through the western United States, from Louisiana in the center-south of the country to California on the west coast. It travels through the bayous and swamps of Louisiana. Then through the southern part of Texas, along the border with Mexico. After that, it’s onto New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California. The landscape, often sparse and visible for miles, changes as the train moves flat to mountainous terrain.
It travels through cities such as Tucson, San Antonio, Houston… and even smaller towns along the way. This one is perfect for seeing the United States beyond the major cities of the east and west coast, all 1,995 miles of it.
Originally opened in 1846, the Riviera Railway runs from Exeter to Paignton, England. This is an iconic route in England, crossing the River Exe, then along a stone viaduct bridge. After that, the Riviera Railway continues to run along the river where marshes and small beaches are found. There’s even a shipwreck and views of old England, as sites once used to service steam engines are seen. This one may be a short route, but it showcases a lesser-seen view of England when the traveler visits.
Japan’s Tokaido Shinkansen is the most traveled shinkansen (bullet train) in Japan. This train has run since 1964, the world’s first high-speed railway line, and travels between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka. There are three ways to travel this route: The Nozomi, making the journey in 2.5 hours; the Hikari, a 3-hour trip; or the Kodoma, a 4-hour journey that makes all stops along the way.
As it passes through the Japanese countryside and villages, the traveler will even get a view of the mighty Mt. Fuji.
The TranzAlpine rail line is 139 miles and takes 5 hours to complete. It travels from the east coast to the west coast of New Zealand’s southern island. The path of this line goes from extensive plains, then rises in elevation by gorges and valleys. The real views come when the TranzAlpine makes it to the Southern Alps.
A modern train with all the amenities, this line takes the traveler to parts of New Zealand only accessible by train.
The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest direct route in the world. Running for 5,772 miles between Moscow in the west and Vladivostok in the far east of Russia, this route takes eight days and goes through eight time zones. Most of the line does not pass through well-known cities, but smaller cities and towns. This is an opportunity to see the changing landscapes of rocky cliffs along lakes, grassy plains, snow-covered mountains and fields, and thick untouched forests.
There is also current construction to connect this railway through Mongolia, China, and North Korea — along with proposals to build a rail bridge to Japan.
The Reunification Express in Vietnam is an important part of Vietnamese history. The name of this line refers to any line traveling on the North-South Railway line between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. This was a major factor in the reunification of North and South Vietnam, connecting family and friends across what was once a stark political divide.
Cruising through fishing villages, lush jungle forests, rice paddies, beaches, and sometimes through neighborhoods, this route is the perfect way to see the sights of 1000 miles of Vietnam.