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Archive for train travel

The End of the World Train

By Linda Tancs

There’s a certain finality to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego National Park, the southernmost tip of the Andean-Patagonian forest, a place where a particular variety of red fox resides and birch forest predominates. It’s there that you’ll find the final part of the Andes. It’s also where you can catch the End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo), a historic, narrow-gauge steam railway journey between Ushuaia (commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world) and the park. The hour-long journey (one way) presents stunning vistas accented by the Pipo River, Macarena cascade, a tree cemetery and the forest. An onboard audio tour is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and the train runs year-round.

A Landmark Ride in the West

By Linda Tancs

Sixty-four miles of Rocky Mountain splendor await you on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad running between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado. A National Historic Landmark, the rails were originally constructed in 1880 as part of the Rio Grande’s narrow-gauge San Juan extension, which served the silver mining district of the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Almost lost to history when the last freight train crossed the Cumbres Pass in 1968, the historic route was bought and preserved by both states. Unlike other legacy routes, it features original coal fired, steam operated, narrow gauge locomotives and 19th century passenger cars. Scenic highlights include the Rockies, Chama Valley, Toltec Gorge, Cumbres Pass (the highest mountain pass reached by rail in the U.S.) and alpine meadows lined with wildlflowers, along with an array of wildlife like elk, deer and bears. It takes under seven hours to traverse the entire 64-mile line from Antonito to Chama or vice versa. The regular season runs this year to October 20. Buy your ticket in advance to avoid disappointment.

Australia’s Favorite Steam Train

By Linda Tancs

Easily accessible by fast electric train from Melbourne, Puffing Billy is arguably Australia’s favorite steam train. Over a century old, the train still runs on its original 15-mile track between Belgrave and Gembrook. That route takes you through the Dandenong Ranges, a set of low mountain ranges east of Melbourne, featuring Emerald Lake Park and cool climate gardens. You can book a tour through any of the major day tour operators.

The Heart of Wales

By Linda Tancs

A rural lifeline, the Heart of Wales is one of the UK’s most beautiful train journeys. As the name implies, it runs through the heartland of Wales and celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. The railway was built to transport coal and other freight from the Welsh valleys up north to the burgeoning factories of the industrial revolution. Running between Shrewsbury and Swansea, the meandering route passes through the Shropshire Hills (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and quaint spa towns, offering views of castles, meadows, forests and viaducts, to name a few. Many of the line’s 34 stations are within one mile of major A roads and are accessible via connecting rail services from stations such as London (Euston or Paddington), Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Fishguard, Aberystwyth, Pwllheli, Holyhead and Hereford.

The Toy Train

By Linda Tancs

Affectionately known as “the toy train,” India’s Darjeeling Himalayan Railway consists of 54 miles of two-foot gauge track that connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling, passing through Ghum at an altitude over 7,000 feet (the highest railway station in India). Opened in 1881, it remains one of the best examples of a hill passenger railway and has been a World Heritage Site since 1999. Catch a photo of the world famous B-Class steam locomotives at work, particularly from the adjacent public roads at Kurseong and Darjeeling.

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.

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.

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