Let the train take the strain: 4 life affirming train journeys


In the modern world travelling by train can seem anachronistic. Slower than planes and less convenient than a car the train is too often looked down upon as something to be endured, not enjoyed.

It does not need to be this way. Here we profile 4 journeys that are far, far more impressive than the 8:04 to Waterloo and that will leave you feeling inspired.

Adelaide to Darwin, Australia

In 2004 the final stage of a century-old dream was realised when the line between Alice Springs and Darwin was completed. Travellers can now enjoy a marathon 3,000km journey across the Australian outback. The line is operated by Great Southern Rail, with trains popularly known as ‘The Ghan’ after the Afghan camel trains that pioneered the route. While life is more comfortable now than then this isn’t a journey for those looking for luxury (think kangaroo steak, rather than filet mignon!). It does however offer incredible views and, with journey times of around 50 hours, the opportunity to unwind and get to know an unseen portion of Australia.

Seattle to Los Angeles, United States

The Coast Starlight is, quite simply, the best way to enjoy the United States’ west coast. The double decker train runs between two of the country’s greatest cities, passing through the Sierra Nevada mountains and Tahoe National Forest. The journey time is some 35 hours, which seems to glide by as the landscape shifts from valleys and mountains to the Pacific shoreline. Dining is a nod to more elegant times, with the offer of fine china and linen. Other comforts – from local wines and cheeses to freshly ground coffee – are also available upon request, making this a truly relaxing experience.

Moscow to Vladivostok, Russia

The Trans-Siberian is the king of the rails, a Goliath of railway journeys that traverses a distance that can only be described as continental. Indeed, it covers around a fifth of the world’s circumference.

The line is primarily used for trade, with around a third of Russian exports moving along the line, however it still carries over 200,000 passengers a year in each direction. Prospective travellers must be warned, this is not a journey for the faint-hearted and clocks in at almost a week. However, the journey can also be broken up in stages, making it something of a holiday in itself. Cutting across a nation as large and varied as Russia, the Trans-Siberian offers not only an impressive arrays of landscape, but the chance to meet all manner of fellow travellers. Though sometimes an endurance feat, it is also massively affirming.

Davos to Tirano, Switzerland/Italy

With average speeds of just 20mph, the Bernina Express is perhaps not worthy of the name. However, with sights as stunning as those across the southern Alps. Navigating 196 bridges and 55 tunnels, the route is testament to engineering genius, but the views from the glass-roofed panorama car as it crosses the Albula Pass are something else entirely. Highlights include glaciers, frozen lakes and the beautiful, but harsh alpine tundra. Travellers may enjoy all this and modern conveniences including fine in-seat dining options.

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