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Archive for train travel

An Invitation to the Palace

By Linda Tancs

A longtime papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo is a scenic, lofty little town overlooking the Alban Hills, roughly 15 miles southeast of Rome, Italy. Because Pope Francis has declined to stay at the pontifical villas there, they are now open to the public. So, too, is the Apostolic Palace, where an audio tour relates 500 years of papal history amidst paintings, relics, liturgical vestments, uniforms and other artifacts, including the sedan chair of Pope Pius IX and the BMW used by Pope John Paul II during his summer stays at Castel Gandolfo. Arrive in style via a special train running on Saturdays only that links the historic Vatican City railway station with the pontifical villas.

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A Luxury Hotel on Wheels

By Linda Tancs

If a constantly changing room with a grand view of the world’s most remarkable sites sounds appealing, then hop on board the Danube Express. Operated by Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, they offer a comprehensive off-train excursion program, a fully inclusive dining experience with quality wines and overnight stays in some of the finest five-star hotels in Europe. You can discover some of Europe’s less explored destinations amongst the magnificent cities of Prague, Budapest, Venice and Istanbul on a Grand Rail Tour. Debuting this year is a Superior Deluxe cabin, with private en-suite facilities and the ultimate in comfort. Limited to just four cabins per departure, each cabin offers comfortable daytime seating with a full-length sofa, two additional chairs and two full-size picture windows. A king-size bedroom transformation awaits you at night. Sleep tight.

From Ore to Orchards

By Linda Tancs

The area in and around Hacklebarney State Park in Chester, New Jersey, is rich in history—from ore to orchards. The park itself was a mined iron ore site in the 19th century. Nowadays, it’s a favorite place for avid anglers, hikers and picnickers. The Black River that cascades amidst the boulder remnants of this moraine provides excellent stream fishing year round. For hikers and naturalists, the park offers three rare and endangered plant species: American ginseng, leatherwood and Virginia pennywort. Over 100 bird species and wildlife such as black bears, woodchucks, deer and foxes also live in the park. Less than a mile away is a cider mill now in its seventh generation, where apple and pumpkin picking among the orchards is a popular activity this time of year.

World’s Steepest Cogwheel Railway

By Linda Tancs

A feat of engineering, the cogwheel railway system was invented by Colonel Eduard Locher-Freuler in the 1880s. It enabled gradients of up to 48 percent and made possible the construction of a railway up Switzerland’s Mount Pilatus. Eliminating the need for a tiresome ascent on foot, the system started out in 1889 as a steam coach and was later electrified in 1937. From Alpnachstad to Pilatus Kulm, the world’s steepest cogwheel railway gives visitors to Lucerne a bird’s-eye view of lush meadows carpeted with Alpine flowers, sparkling mountain streams and imposing rock faces.

Dayton’s Historic Depot

By Linda Tancs

The Dayton Depot is the oldest surviving train depot in Washington State. Originally built in 1881, it was moved to its current location at Commercial Street in 1889. Designed in the fashionable Stick/Eastlake style, it still boasts original bead board walls typical of that era. Now a museum, revolving exhibits are featured in the upstairs gallery.

London to Edinburgh

By Linda Tancs

The British Empire Exhibition of 1924 and 1925 made famous Flying Scotsman, the legendary London to Edinburgh rail service. In 1934 it was the first locomotive to clock 100 mph. The old-fashioned steam engine was retired by British Rail in 1963, only to change hands several times, including an attempt to resurrect mainline tours. But now, following a successful campaign, the “people’s engine” will once again steam proudly following a full restoration. Beginning this month a whole season of events and activities will mark the return of this locomotive legend as it readies itself for an inaugural run from London’s Kings Cross to York.

Europe’s Destination Station

By Linda Tancs

Tax-free shopping. Chauffeur service. Europe’s longest champagne bar. Musical entertainment. Public art. Is it any wonder that London’s St. Pancras is acclaimed as Europe’s destination rail station? One of the city’s greatest Victorian buildings, its iconic roof was constructed of a series of wrought iron ribs resulting in a space 100 feet high, 240 feet wide and 700 feet long. Its only rival is perhaps the presiding St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, hailed as London’s most romantic building. Its glorious Gothic Revival metalwork, gold leaf ceilings, hand-stenciled wall designs and jaw-dropping grand staircase are as dazzling as the day Queen Victoria opened the hotel in 1873. Walking tours of the station complex are available for individuals and groups.

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