SOME of the world’s most stunning train journeys usually involve steep inclines and amazing feats of engineering that have surpassed their functional purposes to become highly desirable tourist train travel ‘must dos’!
The routes many narrow and standard guage and rack railways take pass through some of the most stunning scenery in the world – unforgettable mountain views that can be achieved and appreciated from the ease and comfort of the train – thanks to some amazing track engineering.
Ffestiniog Travel’s recent escorted tour to Peru saw travellers journey across the Andes to Huancayo, enjoying breathtaking scenery, passing through 69 tunnels, crossing 58 bridges and encountering six switchbacks before reaching the highest railway point in the world at Galera Tunnel.
More remarkable is the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, part of the tour operator’s annual ‘Indian Hill Station’ tour, that sees a determined steam engine climb a magnificent line to more than 7,000ft, conquering zig-zags and loops to produce unbeatable views.
There are more marvellous mountain train hikes to come throughout 2019, when Ffestiniog Travel escorts guests across no fewer than 10 mountain ranges by rail. One such tour in March 2019 stays close to home in North Wales. Enthusiasts get the unique opportunity to spend 14 days exploring the ‘behind the scenes’ workings of the railway gems around Snowdonia National Park, including the Welsh Highland Railway.
The company will visit the stunning Harz Mountains in Germany no less than three times in 2019, including a dedicated ‘Harz Explorer’ tour in June when you can take the steam train to the mountain range’s highest point, the Brocken where, on a clear day, you will be rewarded with spectacular views.
A rail and river tour along the River Elbe in May 2019 also includes a steam journey up the Brocken and the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen (HSB) is one of many wonderful heritage railways visited on the Germany in full steam tour in September 2019.
The Swiss Alps is probably home to the most amazing mountain and rack railways in the world. Ffestiniog Travel’s ‘Alps & More’ tour in June 2019 includes scenic journeys through the Alps into Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Austria, riding the UNESCO Rhaetian Railway, journeying through the Semmering Pass and taking the Achensee steam rack railway and the Scheeberg rack railway to mountain peaks. The iconic ‘Glacier and Bernina Express’ trains feature in simultaneous Swiss Alps tours in September 2019, one of which, the 15-day ‘Swiss Rail Adventure’, will appeal to steam enthusiasts as it features steam train excursions on the Rhaetian Railway and the Furka Bergstrecke and Brienz Rothorn Railways.
Other mountain ‘railway highlights’ will include an epic journey on one of Europe’s steepest rail routes, the Flåm Railway in Norway, during a ‘Grand Arctic’ escorted tour in July. The railway rises 2,845ft from its starting point in the tiny village of Flåm, in the Sognefjord, delivering stunning views. There is an opportunity to cross Romania’s Carpathian mountains on the Romania’s ‘Danube Delta’ escorted tour in May 2019, which showcases the country’s remote wilderness and wildlife.
In June 2019 you can take the Pyrenees Circular as part of a ‘French Alps & Pyrenees Tours’. Ride the metre-gauge ‘Petit Train Jaune’ as it climbs up the gorge of the Rive Tȇt, vaults over the majestic Gisclard suspension bridge and the towering viaduct at Séjourné.
One of the best ways to see the stunning Scottish Highlands is by train. A rail tour of the Western Isles of Scotland in September 2019 includes a journey on the West Highland Line, once voted Britain’s most scenic train route, as it runs along the shores of Loch Lomond, over Rannoch Moor to Fort William. The tour also passes through the mountainous central Highlands by train.
North America is well known for its mountain rail journeys, including the famous ‘Rocky Mountaineer’ that traverses the magnificent Canadian Rockies. The USA’s Colorado Rockies boasts several scenic railroads, including the Rio Grande, Cumbres & Toltec, Royal Gorge and Durango & Silverton Railroads. But in June 2019, Ffestiniog Travel will visit the lesser known Appalachian mountains on a rail tour that rides some of the finest heritage railways in eastern USA. This escorted rail holiday journeys on six railways, some steam-hauled, that follows a breath-taking trail across the scenic Appalachian mountains.
So if you like railways, train travel, mountainous destinations and amazing scenic views then you are spoilt for choice.
Ensure your rail holiday has lots of ‘high points’ in 2019 – visit www.ffestiniogtravel.com to see day-to-day itineraries of all the escorted tours mentioned in this article as well as ‘Tailor Made’ holidays for those who prefer more independent travel.Enjoy more of The Railway Magazine reading every month. Click here to subscribe.