Magnificent 7 …. great train journeys
The allure of train journeys is undeniable. There’s something intoxicating about speeding through landscapes as life unfolds outside the window. In today’s frenzied world, rail journeys bring to mind the romance and sense of adventure of a bygone era, whether you travel on a luxury line or opt for a less expensive route
Considered the Godfather of trains, the fabled Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow to Vladivostok sits at the top of most railfans’ bucket lists. Sadly, the railway, once hailed as the “fairest jewel in the crown of the Tsars”, is, at present, a no-go for Westerners. Fortunately, there are many other rail journeys that are well worth your while
Whether notable for their dramatic views, luxurious surroundings or sheer speed, we’ve highlighted what NMTBP consider to be the Magnificent 7 of the most exciting train journeys in the world
The Canadian is renowned for being one of the world’s legendary railway journeys. Over five days it winds its way between Canada’s largest city, Toronto, and the lovely Pacific city of Vancouver. This trans-continental journey encompasses the lake-studded forests of western Ontario, the flat and seemingly endless wheat belt of the great Canadian Prairies and the breathtaking splendour of the Rocky Mountains
This is a journey for those who like to relax, socialise with their fellow passengers, read and fully appreciate the sheer size and scale of this diverse country. A variety of compact cabins are available on board with all meals included. The Canadian also has a bar and a domed observation lounge for the best views of the breathtaking scenery
The Old Patagonian Express, in southern Argentina, gives travellers the sense of being at the end of the world. Better known as ‘La Trochita’, the historic rambler travels at only 45 km/hr from the majestic city of Esquel to Ingeniero, passing through towns and villages so small they are not even a dot on the map. Peer through the small wooden windows of your cabin (circa 1920) to take in the valleys and plateaus of mystic Patagonia and the Chilean Andes.
The Blue Train is so yesterday – for REAL luxury, Rovos Rail offers old-world comfort and elegance on a number of routes in Africa. The two night trip from Pretoria to Cape Town starts at Rovos’ private station where passengers enjoy champagne and canapés while the owner Mr Rohan Vos introduces himself and explains the history and concept behind this captivating company. On-board, the beautifully restored carriages, lounges, restaurant cars and en suite cabins hark back to the 1920s and just ooze sophistication. The food served is sublime and the observation carriages, which include an open-air version at the rear of the train, provide excellent opportunities for enjoying the passing scenery.
Sweeping out of the city the train meanders across the semi-desert Karoo before reaching the beautiful Winelands, stopping at Kimberley’s Hole, where the diamond rush started, and Matjiesfontein, a town which appears frozen in time. From the opulent surroundings and fabulous hospitality on-board, to the incredible scenery in parts of the country that most people miss, this trip will leave you with many happy memories
Fancy going back to colonial days, but with all the comforts and mod cons of the 21st century? Then the Eastern and Oriental could be the vehicle for you. Part of the Orient-Express group, this luxury train travels on varying itineraries through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and on into Laos. Carriages are painted emerald green and ivory, the interior was inspired by Shanghai Express, the 1932 film starring Marlene Dietrich, and the ambience is one of cocktails on the veranda and tea dances
The Singapore to Bangkok route, one of four “Chronicles of South-East Asia” tripss, is 2,010km (1,255 miles) long.
The train leaves from Singapore’s Woodlands station, a world away from the bustle of Changi airport where most tourists from abroad arrive, at 12.15. Smartly uniformed attendants guide passengers to their small but beautifully formed compartments. Once the train has crossed the Johor Causeway linking Singapore with Malaysia, the gastronomic indulgences can begin
Life’s pleasures don’t get much better than enjoying good food, wine and conversation while pleasing landscapes glide past the window. White-flowered coffee trees and the pendulous pods of cocoa trees will be novel sights to most European passengers, rather more attractive than the ranks of rubber trees in plantations beside the railway. Villages of stilted houses reached by ladder and surrounded by vegetable gardens, date palms and banana trees break up the commercial forests
As the sun sets, heralding pre-prandial drinks, the train pauses at Kuala Lumpur’s great white station building, completed in 1910 and combining elements of Moorish, Mogul and Saracenic architecture. The lights of the twin Petronas Towers (rising to 1,483ft) stand out over the impressive skyline of Malaysia’s capital, threaded by the elevated tracks of its excellent Light Rail System
A highlight of the journey is a visit to the Kwai River bridge
Guests spend two nights on board before the train pulls in to Bangkok’s Hualamphong station, where, after the serenity the train, the crush and clamour will come as something of a shock!
The Palace on Wheels is a unique and memorable experience reminiscent of travel during the days of the Raj. Over eight days this luxurious train winds it way through Rajasthan visiting highlights such as Jaipur, also known as the ‘Pink City’, famous for its magnificent Amber Palace; Jaisalmer, the golden city in the desert, Ranthambhore National Park, one of the best places to view tigers in the wild, and Udaipur, finishing its journey at the renowned Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. A ”Khidmatgar’ or personal attendant is present in each of the luxury carriages to attend to your every need and there are two lavish restaurants serving continental and Indian specialities, with an emphasis on the cuisine of Rajasthan
The Ghan completed its first journey from Adelaide through the ruggedly beautiful Red Centre to Darwin in 2003, reviving a dream born in the colonial era. It follows the trail blazed by the early explorers and Afghan ‘cameleers’ who tirelessly supplied the Overland Telegraph stations ensuring that the remote Outback and Red Centre kept in touch with the rest of the world
The 1,850 mile two-night journey through the heart of Australia begins in Adelaide and proceeds to the Flinders Ranges before crossing the Simpson Desert and reaching Alice Springs in the Red Centre. The newest stretch of line heads across Australia’s arid heartland to Katherine, famous for its stunning gorges, before tracking through the lush tropical scenery of the Top End
A twice weekly service operates the overnight journey between Adelaide and Darwin, while Adelaide to Alice Springs runs weekly. Guests boarding in Adelaide can connect with incoming train services from both Sydney and Melbourne