On the road to dazzle: the most unique and breathtaking rail routes in the world
While we used to rely on trains for transportation and expeditions, today they are mainly used for nostalgic journeys. The landscapes of mountains, sea, lakes and forests that the routes offer make the trip enjoyable and provide the backdrop for a truly extraordinary getaway.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most dazzling, unique and scenic rail routes. But before that, let’s take a look at the history of trains and these wonderful rail routes.
The first train was built in the 1800s and was born out of arguments between an engineer named Richard Trevithick and a mine owner. Trevithick built the first known steam locomotive to haul a load a distance at Penydarren, Wales in 1804. Although he had the Coalbrookdale Company build him an earlier locomotive in 1802, it is still unclear not if it worked. However, Trevithick was unlucky as he was unable to further develop his Pennydarren locomotive and prove that it was superior to animals, the common means of transportation at the time. Thus, the first train in the world is attributed to another Englishman, George Stephenson. On September 27, 1825, the Stephenson train was the world’s first steam locomotive to carry passengers on a public railway and was used between Darlington and Stockton in Scotland.
In the late 1800s, rapid transit and streetcars were built to transport large numbers of people in and around cities. Railways were introduced in the United States in 1831, in France in 1832, in Belgium and Germany in 1835, in Russia in 1837 and in Spain in 1848. From the 1920s, the importance and share of train market has declined with the spread of other means of transport.
In addition to this history, it is useful to keep in mind the following distinction for the train routes I am about to list: An express train is a type of passenger train that is faster than trains local as it stops at fewer stations along the way, usually going directly to major destinations, while local trains stop at most, if not all, of the stations on their route.
The Orient Express
French, German, Austrian and Ottoman officials and diplomats all participated in the first voyage of the Orient Express, which operated between Paris and Istanbul between 1883 and 1977. After the Orient Express route began, those who came to Istanbul began to stay in various hotels in the city.
From 1895, passengers coming to Istanbul began to stay at Pera Palace, which was purchased by the Vagon-Li company, which operated the train. During World War I, which lasted four years between 1914 and 1918, the Orient Express could not operate.
The Orient Express, which restarted its journeys in 1919, became known as the “Simplon Orient Express” after the opening of the Simplon Tunnel which connects Brig, Switzerland and Domodossola, Italy through the Alps in 1905. The Great Depression of 1929 led to a shortage of travelers on trains.
The Orient Express has been the subject of various novels and films. The famous British detective novelist Agatha Christie published her novel “Murder on the Orient Express” in 1934.
After World War II, the Orient Express, which faced various Cold War restrictions and gradually lost importance, made its last voyage on May 27, 1977.
Ice Cream Express
The Glacier Express is an express train in the central Swiss Alps that connects the stations of the two main mountain resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz via Andermatt. It is known as the slowest express train in the world.
The first Glacier Express was inaugurated on June 30, 1930 in Zermatt, Switzerland. Until 1982, the Glacier Express only operated in the summer, as the Furka Pass and the Oberalp Pass were snow-covered during the winter.
The express train had its moment in the spotlight thanks to a documentary film in 2006 called “The Alps”, which featured some scenes shot inside the train, and other panoramic cars were added to the fleet of passenger cars. of the Glacier Express the same year.
In 2013, the direct service to Davos was discontinued due to declining passenger numbers and unfavorable economic circumstances. In 2018, two additional summer services were introduced.
Every morning there is a service from Zermatt to Chur and a service from St. Moritz to Brig. These services then return in the afternoon.
Pride of Africa
Pride of Africa is a luxury train operated by Rovos Rail. Considered “the most luxurious train in the world”, it was created in 1989 and crosses South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania.
Since its inception, Rovos Rail has earned an international reputation as a provider of truly world-class travel experiences.
In a series of bespoke train journeys lasting from 48 hours to 15 days, Rovos Rail connects some of the continent’s greatest destinations with a variety of non-rail excursions.
The Trans-Siberian Railway is a network connecting Moscow to the far east of Russia. With a length of 9,289 kilometers (5,772 miles) from Moscow to Vladivostok, it is the longest railway in the world. It also extends to Mongolia, China and North Korea by connecting lines.
Despite the incredible scale of the project, the entire route was completed in eight and a half years.
On October 29, 1905, for the first time, passenger trains reached the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean by rail, without being transported by ferries. It was opened in 1916 with its current layout. During the Soviet period it was converted to a double line and electrified. The electrification of the whole line was completed in 1993.
It is possible to visit the Siberian plains, the blue of the magnificent Lake Baikal and the Mongolian steppes, departing from Moscow, on the Trans-Siberian Tour.
Eastern Tourist Express
The Touristic Doğu (Eastern) Express is an express train operated by Turkish Railways which consists of sleeping cars and dining cars, running daily on the Ankara-Kars route which travels 1,365 kilometers.
The express train, which started operating on May 29, 2019, makes long stops for passengers to visit Iliç, Erzincan and Erzurum region on the Ankara-Kars route and completes its journey in 31 hours and 30 minutes. On the Kars-Ankara route, the train stops for passengers to visit Divriği and Bostankaya and the journey takes 30 hours.
Podi Menike runs through the mountainous region along the main line of Sri Lankan Railways. It is a passenger train from Colombo Fort to Badulla. The route has bridges, long tunnels, slopes and high slopes.
This journey covers a distance of around 300 kilometers and is known as the most beautiful train journey in Sri Lanka, especially the section from Nanuoya to Ella. It takes about 10 hours to complete the trip.
The train offers three classes. First class coaches are very luxurious and popular with tourists. The train also includes a buffet car. Between Balana and Kadugannawa, the track clings to the side of steep cliffs, offering passengers views of Batalegala, or “Bible” Rock.
The train then continues its ascent through the tea region, linking the commercial centers of Gampola, Nawalapitiya and Hatton before reaching Nanu-OyaNuwara Eliya, always visited for its temperate climate, classic hotels and British-style gardens.
The Podi Menike continues its ascent to the summit of Pattipola, 1,897 feet above sea level, before descending past Bandarawela to Badulla Terminus. In the hinterland, passengers have views of tea gardens, mountains and valleys, cascading torrents and waterfalls.