Although airplane travel is the front runner in travel of today and it is faster, much of the world below is lost in its travel. Trains at their high point were luxurious and were often compared to five-star hotels; royalty, government officials and celebrities boarded them for their allure and luxury. We picked the best train lines on this special Around the World edition. These train lines once captured the attention of international and national travelers of the past. Travel with us as we take you on a tour of the great trains of today that bring back the history and the spirit of luxury from the past. The Bernina Express [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/rhb5425-resized.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/rhb5429-resized.jpg|"] When passing through the Swiss Alps, tourists have the grand opportunity to see some of the most beautiful terrain that mother earth has to offer. What better way to explore this historical area than by train? The Bernina Express is one of the best ways to explore the Swiss and Italian Alps. Running daily from Chur, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy. The Bernina Express has been serving locals and tourists since the early 1900s. The train crosses over 55 tunnels, 196 bridges and the slopes at a 7% gradient. The train ride is somewhat of a spectacle in itself. During the two and half hour journey, passengers pass through a breathtaking landscape of glaciers and stone fields to other parts of the journey, which have a beautiful countryside with wonderful vistas of alpine crossings, gorges, beautiful bridges, and dramatic tunnels. In 2008, parts of the Bernina Express were deemed a World Heritage line by UNESCO. The part of the journey which was deemed so is between Thusis and Tirano. This was a milestone in its history and now the train goes at a slow pace of 20 miles per hour giving tourists the opportunity to soak in the beauty around them from the panoramic windows. The Bernina Express is also known as one of the most spectacular ways to cross the Alps. The train zigzags through the mountains into a spectacle that only those who ride it can experience. The high point of the excursion is the beautiful view of the many glaciers on the highest mountain in Graubünden, which is just outside of Chur. Passengers looking to add to their journey can also enjoy the new Bernina Express bus which takes passengers to Tirano through the vineyards of Veltlin, to Lake Como, and onto Lugano. Blue Train - South Africa [gallery size="medium" columns="2" ids="https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Table_Mountain_at_sunset-resized-1.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Table_Mountain_in_background-resized.jpg|"] The Blue Train was first built in the late 19th Century as part of the Great African Railway. The railway was supposed to go to Cairo, but ended up only going from Cape Town to the amazing view of Victoria Falls. At first, the train was used for delivering workers to the diamond and gold mines and transporting the diamonds and ore. Later, the rich class convinced the train owners to start carrying passengers, thus the Blue Train was born. The train boomed in the 1920s with its fresh coat of royal blue and cream paint, the source of its name. It was considered “a palace on wheels” where kings and presidents enjoyed its allure and accommodations. The train lasted until it went out of service during World War II, but it was bought and refurbished in the 1970s and later, in the 1990s, was back to its glory days of being a legend. Today, the train is considered a moving five star hotel where passengers can not only enjoy the beauties of the African sub-continent, but enjoy them in style. The train cars are aligned with the finest of bed linen and with marble tile and gold fittings in the bathrooms, which make passengers feel as if they were traveling royalty. The train was also updated from a steam engine to an electrical and diesel engine to make the ride smoother. The train travels two routes in South Africa: from Cape Town to Pretoria and from Pretoria to Durban. The 27 hour, 994 mile ride between Cape Town and Pretoria takes passengers through some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire world. The train stops in Kimberley and Majiesfontien for short excursions along the way where passengers can step back in time to the diamond rush and the old colonial days of the country. The Pretoria Durban route takes passengers to the Zimbali Lodge where guests can rest and relax by playing golf or being pampered at the local health spa. Coast Starlight On the Pacific Coast of the United States lies some of the most beautiful cities and scenery on earth. Passengers who ride Amtrak’s Coast Starlight can enjoy this amazing journey from Seattle to Los Angeles’s Union Station any day of the week. Service started for Amtrak on the Pacific Coast on May 1, 1971 and ran a single route between Los Angeles and Seattle three times a week, but it had no name. Later that year, the name Coast Daylight was given to Southern Pacific Railroad trains running between Oakland and Los Angeles and the Coast Starlight was given to the Amtrak route between Seattle and San Diego run. The two were later combined to be the Coast Starlight and they have run an everyday service ever since. The journey on the Coast Starlight has been regarded as being one of the best train routes in the world. The route connects all the biggest cities on the West Coast between Los Angeles and Seattle. The train passes through Portland, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Barbara. On the journey, passengers travel through lush wooded areas with snow capped mountains—mainly through the Cascade Mountain Range and Mount Shasta Pass —and through long stretches of fertile valleys and the beautiful Pacific Coast. The Coast Starlight offers passengers many great amenities for the 35 hour journey which covers more than 1,300 miles. In the dining cars of the train, passengers can enjoy a first class meal while their kids can enjoy the Arcade Room equipped with a great selection of arcade games for all ages. The sleeping car passengers are also well provided for by the Coast Starlight which offers a “living room on wheels.” The “living room on wheels” provides a place for sleeping car passengers to relax and enjoy the company of other passengers. The car is also equipped with a movie theater on the lower level. Eastern & Oriental Express The train, inaugurated in September 1993, made its first journey by connecting Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with Bangkok. It was the first time that one could make the 1,262 mile journey without transferring. The Eastern & Oriental Express offers a journey through some of the most beautiful places in the world. The adventure takes passengers through a vast landscape of tropical rainforest and a diverse world of rice paddies and amazing cultures. The cars are also full of culture in themselves. The interiors are lined with veneers of wooden marquetry with Eastern Asian designs. The dinner cars are decorated with Chinese and Thai lacquer and are also decorated with Thai wall carvings and engraved mirrors. The actual cars of the train have been running since 1972 in New Zealand, but were actually built in Japan. The cars were later bought and returned to Asia. They were also later refurbished by the same people who restored the British Pullman and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express trains. The insides of the trains are designed to bring passengers back to the Colonial era with rattan chairs, linen suits and tea dances. The observation cars were also changed with larger windows allowing passengers to better see the beautiful landscapes. They were also designed having one-third of the car uncovered allowing passengers to enjoy not only the sight, but the sounds of the area. The Eastern & Oriental Express offers some of the best adventures in the World. The journeys are part of what is called the” Chronicles of South-East Asia” and offer a wide variety of trips. Passengers can explore the “Epic Thailand” with a seven day journey through the country. Other journeys include “Fables of the Hills,” where the train journeys into the beautiful area of Kuala Lumpur and the Cameron Highlands. The train also offers shorter four day journeys into one of Southeast Asia’s best national parks, Khao Yai, on the beautiful “Tales of Laos.” El Chepe Deep in the mountains of North Mexico, in the Sierra Tarahumara, lies a train journey full of beauty, culture, and history. El Chepe, which got its name from its reporting mark CHP or Ferrocarril Chihuahua-Pacifico, has been running and connecting the city of Chihuahua with the Pacific Ocean since 1961. The train takes passengers from the coastal city of Los Mochis to the city of Chihuahua, which lies at 8,000 feet. The 408 mile journey takes passengers through the beautiful landscape of the Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon). The railroad opens this beautiful area, which has been inhabited by Tarahumara Indians for the past 400 years, to the world. The Tarahumara Indians, known as Raramuri, are known for their ability to run long distances and for being shy. Some 50,000 of them live in cave dwellings similar to their ancestors’ dwellings located all along the Copper Canyon. El Chepe was first started in the early 1920s; but due to financial difficulties, construction was not completed until 1961. Every day since, the train has taken travelers into the amazing landscape, which is four times larger than the Colorado Canyon in the United States. The journey travels over 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels. It is also considered as one of the most important routes in the world and as one of the best examples of Mexican engineering. The journey has also been called “the most dramatic train ride in the Western hemisphere.” The train is also used as a transportation hub and draws thousands of tourists each year. In 1998, Ferrocarril Mexicano, owner of El Chepe, conducted a rehabilitation process of the express and economic class cars of the train. The renovation to the cars has now made the amazing journey through the Sierra Madre a comfortable one for passengers. The Glacier Express The Glacier Express got its humble beginnings in the early 1920s when the world discovered the beauty and charm of the Swiss Alps. Small villages, such as Zermatt and St. Moritz, were turning into resort towns and more and more people wanted to visit them. Because of such high demand throughout the first 50 years and through lots of construction, the Glacier Express was able to run in both the summer and winter months. The Glacier Express takes passengers on a beautiful excursion through the amazing Swiss Alps on a seven and a half hour journey. The train travels between St. Moritz at 1,775 meters and Zermatt at 1,504 meters. The train is run jointly with the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn and the Rhaetian Railway. The Glacier Express, known as the slowest express train in the world, passes over 291 bridges, through 91 tunnels and maneuvers its way through three passes. The highest pass it goes through is the treacherous Oberalp Pass where the train goes to one of the journeys highest points of 2,033 meters. The other passes it goes through are the Albula and Furka. Passengers can enjoy the great views of the Alps from both the second and first class cars of the train. The cars have comfortable seats and the panorama windows allow for great views of the endless scenery that passengers can enjoy throughout the journey. The best part of the journey is the spectacular Rhone-Glacier, which has only been accessible to riders since 1982 when the Furka base tunnel was completed. After the train journeys through the highest part of the journey at a whopping 2,162 meters, passengers can enjoy views of the glacier. The journey is one of kind and the allure of the Swiss Alps is no better presented than through the adventurous journey on the Glacier Express. Cusco to Machu Picchu [gallery size="medium" columns="2" ids="https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Machu-Picchu3-resized.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/PeruRail-resized.jpg|"] One of the greatest treasures of the old world is centered in the mountains of Peru and can only be reached by foot or train. This great wonder is the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu. The train service of Cusco to Machu Picchu run by PeruRail is the easiest way to the ancient city takes passengers on a journey into the past running through the heart of the Inca Nation. The vast Andean Mountains surrounding Cusco are home to some of the world’s largest array of ruins of the Inca. The journey begins in a small town just outside of Cusco called Poroy. The train then descends from there into the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Inca. Passengers for the next 3 hours can experience the beauty of the journey alongside the Urubamba River and see beautiful landscapes on all sides of it. The train to Machu Picchu is divided into two classes, Vistadome and Backpacker. The Vistadome trains have large panoramic windows that align the walls and ceiling of the cars. Through the windows, passengers can enjoy the scenery of the ancient Inca world around them. Passengers in these trains enjoy comfortable seating along with complimentary snacks and drinks. Backpacker class is more of an economic way of traveling to the ruins. The cars are less of a luxury and are covered in indigenous fabrics giving the ride more of a local feel. The train cars are 1920’s style Pullman trains from England and also from the Hiram Bingham Orient Express train. These trains give riders the feel of the luxurious past and bring the great history of train engineering to the large mountains of Peru. After the journey is finished, passengers arrive at the small city of Aguas Calientes, famous for its hot springs. Here, travelers can make the two kilometer journey to the base of Machu Picchu and enjoy one of the most beautiful and well preserved cities of the Ancient world. The Rocky Mountaineer Nestled deep into the backcountry of British Columbia in Western Canada lies some of the most spectacular scenery in the world and one of the best ways to enjoy it is by rail. The Rocky Mountaineer takes passengers through an amazing journey that has been acclaimed by National Geographic as one of its “Journeys of a Lifetime” and as one of the “World’s Greatest Trips.” It was also voted by the Society of American Travel Writers as the “Best Train Experience in the World.” The Rocky Mountaineer goes on four different routes up and down British Columbia and Alberta on Canada’s west coast. It has been running for the past 20 years, serving more than one million travelers since its opening. The routes offer many different experiences. The First Passage to the West Route travels from Vancouver east to Calgary, Alberta and the Journey Through the Clouds runs from Vancouver to Jasper, Alberta. Other routes include the Rainforest to Gold Rush Route, which takes passengers through the Cariboo and Chilcotin regions of British Columbia. The other route is the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb which operates a three-hour journey from Vancouver to Whistler. The Rocky Mountaineer covers 650 miles of vast landscape and there is no better way to explore the beautiful British Columbia. The route takes passengers through some of greatest treasures Canada has to offer. The train travels through the vast areas of the Canadian Rockies, crossing over spectacles such as Hell’s Gate, the Spiral Tunnels and Mount Robson, which is the highest mountain in the area reaching a towering 12,972 feet. The two day train route also passes by beautiful lakes, waterfalls and glaciers while passing through treacherous canyons and hot deserts. The Rocky Mountaineer offers a once in a lifetime experience into the Canadian Rockies and has been deemed one of the best train rides in the world. In 2009, the Rocky Mountaineer was awarded the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” for the fourth time and is a journey for the ages. Royal Scotsman [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/TRS-EXT-SCE-13-resized.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/TRS-EXT-SCE-05-resized.jpg|"] The highlands of Scotland are what make the country famous and there is no better way to explore them than on the Royal Scotsman train. The Royal Scotsman initially started in the spring of 1985, but after the first five years passed, the owner bought ten new cars and had them restored to his specifications. Lo and behold, the Royal Scotsman was born into the allure that it bears today. In 1990, ten Pullman cars were purchased by James Park and were completely refurbished with new luxurious wood installed and changes to make the journey more pleasing. Each new car bears a name, with the most famous being the dining cars named Raven and Victory and the observation car named Snipe. The observation car was created from an old kitchen car originally built in 1960 and became the highlight of the train. The observation car is home to many sofas where passengers can relax and enjoy the beauty of the scenery. The scenery offered from the Royal Scotsman is amazing and is ever-changing with a beautiful countryside and long coastal routes. The journey also passes beautiful castles of the past and wonderful little villages and glens, home to a vast population of wildlife such as deer and eagles. The journey also goes to the heart of the Highlands, which brings to life the area of towering pine covered landscapes lined with beautiful lochs. The Royal Scotsman is surely the place to be to be able to enjoy the best parts of Scotland. The Royal Scotsman is a luxury charter train that is run by the Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. Flåm Railway Nestled in between the mountains of Norway and the world’s longest fjord, the Sognefjord, rests one of the prettiest and most treacherous train journeys on the planet. Each year, more than 500,000 people take the 20 kilometer journey on the Flåm Railway through the winding tunnels and beautiful mountain valleys at the base of Norway’s snow capped mountains. The railway, first opened in 1909 and called the Bergen Railway, lacked a rail line to Scognefjord. In 1923, construction on the Flåm Railway had begun and would take 17 years to finish. Much of the time during construction was devoted to the time consuming work of building tunnels. 120 workers, which later rose to 220 workers would work by hand on the tunnels. A total of 20 tunnels were excavated with only two being excavated by machine. During construction, workers faced other problems, such as avalanches and rocks falls. The workers avoided these dangerous areas by crossing the local river three times. However, the train does not cross the river on a bridge. Instead, the workers created a series of tunnels where the river water is diverted through the mountains so the train can cross over dry land. On August 1, 1940, the railway was opened temporarily for steam engines. Not soon after, passengers were allowed to use it, using two trains in each direction that connected at Myrdal with the trains of the Bergen Railway. In 1944, the Flåm Railway became the first electric train in Norway and the journey only took one and a quarter hour. The ride currently takes an hour to make the journey. In the first seven years of operation, it is estimated that the railway attracted 22,000 travelers. In 2007, a new record of 582,826 people rode the train, making it one of the most popular attractions in Norway. Nowadays, the train has been replaced with a new fleet, which gives tours in seven languages. The train guides passengers through deep ravines surrounded with waterfalls and snowcapped mountains into mountain farms on the steep slopes. The journey begins at the mountain station of Myrdal on the Bergen Railway and continues down to the Flåm station in the Aurlandfjord stretch of the Sogenfjord. The journey through the steep Norwegian mountains manifests some of the most skillful engineering in Norwegian history. The Ghan Australia, known for its arid climate and the amazing array of creatures from the kangaroo to the koala bear, is an explorer’s paradise. The Ghan, known as a living legend of Australia, is the premier form of travel to discover Australia. The Ghan is formerly known as the Afghan Express and was inspired by the pioneering Afghan cameleers that first went into the Red Centre of Australia in the 19th Century. The Ghan first started running in August 1929 and has made the journey between Adelaide and Alice Springs ever since. In 2004, the route was extended into Darwin, making the 1,846 mile journey complete from the north to the south of the continent. The Ghan is one of the most diverse journeys in the world. In the beginning of the trip, the train passes by day through the Adelaide Plains, which leads up to the beautiful Flinders mountain range allowing all of the beauties of the Southern part of Australia to be seen. In the central part of Australia the landscape changes from plains to red earth and beautiful blue skies. Passengers enter into the Northern Territory of Australia from the beautiful subtropical flora and the train passes through the beautiful Katherine Gorge just before hitting the tropical area of Darwin. The train also passes through the two gems of the area, the Red Centre and the Top End. Great trains can be great for either their comfort or the scenery they pass by along the journey; the Ghan has both. The Ghan offers three different types of service and classes (red, gold and platinum), truly making it affordable for all budgets. The platinum service rivals that of the best trains in the world. The service includes, “all the modern comforts, in a classic style, with a distinct Australian character.” Trans-Siberian Railway [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Bar-Car-resized.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/95733828-resized.jpg|"] Making the journey across the frozen tundra of Siberia may not sound too exciting; but for many, the Trans-Siberian Railway has been a journey they will never forget. The journey covers 10,000 kilometers from the Russian capital city of Moscow to the eastern side of the country ending in the Pacific Ocean port city of Vladivostok. The railway took 22 years to build and was finished in 1913, connecting the western side of Russia with the Pacific Ocean. The primary purpose of building the railway was to connect Europe with Asia and also connect all the small cities in Russia together with a transportation outlet. The railway has served as a major transportation route for both tourists and Russians alike and is also an export route for Siberian agriculture. For tourists traveling to Russia, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the best way to traverse Russia. The journey begins in Moscow and takes eight days to complete. Passengers on the railway get to experience the “Real Russia” when traveling through the country. The journey can be traveled year round and shows the beauty of Siberia in winter or summer. Many people ride the train just to visit the magnificent Lake Baikal, the world’s largest fresh water lake. The railway curves alongside the southern shore of the lake. The railway also follows alongside the frontier of China before arriving at its final destination. The journey can be completed in three different ways. Passengers can go eight straight days on the train with only a few stops along the way, where they can watch the trees go by at 40 miles per hour. Most travelers take the four day trip where passengers can make the trip on two four day trains. The last and probably most expensive of the trips is to take the train at night and visit each city along the way by day.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.