Thursday, October 31, 2013

8 of the Most Scenic Train Routes

In this day and age, the act of traveling is really considered more of a means than an end. However, something is lost when we look at it this way; after all, the world is full of beautiful scenery that goes wholly unnoticed when you're flying above it at 10,000 or more feet. While trains might not be the fastest or most comfortable ways to travel across the country, they're the perfect way of really getting to see some of the most beautiful scenery the globe has to offer.

Although our fast paced, "no-time-for-frills" culture encourages us to pass these things over in favor of more "productive" pursuits, there are nonetheless some incredible train journeys where the experience itself will make your destination seem irrelevant. With that being said, here are eight of the most scenic train journeys you could possibly take.

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Rocky Mountaineer

This scenic train route which takes you from Vancouver to Calgary is a growing tourist tradition. This service carried only 10,000 passengers in 1990 and now carries over 100,000 per year. Through the first passage to the West, Vancouver, you will see Castle Mountain, the continental divide, Stony Creek Bridge and the station at Lake Louise. Of note, you'll also see canyons, mountains, and glacial lakes. If you choose to take the special Gold Leaf Service, you will experience all of these magnificient views through a glass dome as a cover of the train. This all around view will include reclining chairs, a restaurant and complementary drinks. Well worth the extra fair.

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The Ghan

The Ghan has been traveling through Australia for over 80 years. This line brings you from Adelaide through Red Centre, and up to the Top End, then finishes in Darwin, which is the capital of the Northern Territory. For three days and two nights you will experience astonishing views. During the trip there is a stop in the town of Alice Springs where you can take the day to enjoy history and take in the natural beauty.

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The Bernina Express

This ride will take you from St. Mortiz in Switzerland to Tirano, Italy in 2 and a half hours. The scary thing about this ride is that the whole path was built without rack rails or cables. You will enjoy the view over 196 timeless bridges and 55 tunnels. The carriage is open-air, so it's perfect for a quick Spring ride.

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Conway Scenic Railroad

This scenic route makes use of what used to be the Maine Central Railroad's Mountain Division Line. The tracks were laid in 1870. You'll see steep ravines, brooks and streams, lush forests, mountains, and more. It's a five hour ride to Crawford Station. The Notch Train is a vintage cart which offers a wonderful scenic view from a domed coach. The most popular season for this route is during early foliage season, especially for the dining excursions.

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Alaska Railroad

This train trip, which lasts a staggering six days, shows you Alaska's most scenic sights. It runs through both Denali and Kenai Fjords National Parks. You'll see the mountains, forest, and coastline, as well as Mount McKinley, which is Alaska's tallest mountain. There are multiple stops along the way so passengers can take part of various activities, such as rafting among icebergs, hiking in Denali, or cruising through Kenai Fjords with the whales.

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Glacier Express

This eight hour ride runs only one way - from Zermatt to St. Moritz, which is 180 miles away. You'll go through 91 tunnels and over more than 250 bridges. The entire time, you'll be at an altitude of over 5,000 feet. This train is not necessarily an “express” route; it is one of the slowest express trains in the world therefore allowing you to take in the unbelievable views you pass through. There's also a pretty amazing dining car, where you can enjoy Swiss cheese, wine, and other desserts.

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The California Zephyr

This route allows you to see almost half of the country. It travels about 2,500 miles and lasts a little over two days. You'll ride from Chicago to Emeryville, California. You'll see the Colorado River, the desert in Nevada, and pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The California Zephyr is operated by Amtrak and stands as their longest and most scenic route.

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The Southwest Chief

Running a similar route is the Southwest Chief, which stretches from Los Angeles to Chicago. It clocks in at 40 hours, which is a little less than the California Zephyr, and travels 2,256 miles. You'll travel through the Mojave Desert in Arizona, through New Mexico, then up through Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and, finally, Illinois.

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There are many different scenic train routes to take in all sorts of countries, and these are just a few notable ones. Have you been on any amazing train rides lately?

Author Bio: Joseph Stark Jr. is a freelance writer by day, focusing on technology and web design. Right now Joseph is interested in emerging technologies and tech laws while using wirelessinternet.net . He currently resides in Santiago, Chile flexing his entrepreneurial muscles.

7 comments:

  1. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad in CO is one of the prettiest rides I have ever been on.

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  2. The ride from Shimla to Kalka is cool, some really long tunnels. Beautiful views, even in the winter.

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  3. Here's more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalka%E2%80%93Shimla_Railway

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  4. The agawa canyon train up in northern Ontario leaving Sault Ste. Marie is not to be missed during mid to late September when the leaves are changing. They offer hotel packages too. It's a 4 hr train north and you can hike up the canyon. It's spectacular. This article is amazing! Thank you :)

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  5. Try the Shanghai- Lhasa railway. The first stretch is through endless farms and villages of central China, then the train begins to climb...and climb. There are miles and miles of views of paddy fields terraced up the sides of crazy slopes; at times the train crawls along a shelf cut into the side of a mountain, where cattle can be seen on the opposite side, grazing next to a 500 foot drop to a roaring river; then the line does a complete loop over itself to gain height. Meanwhile the air in your sleeper cabin (hard or soft) is getting thinner. You push your complimentary oxygen tube into a socket over your bed and now you can breath freely again. For an hour or so you are skirting the shores of a great lake, with fishing boats. By then it is going dark and for the next 6 hours or so you try to sleep as your body adjusts to the altitude. You are over the highest point of the pass and start to feel some relief as the train progresses down the long, broad valley that descends to Lhasa. By the time it pulls into the station, the drop in altitude (you are now at only 3,600 metres, compared with over 5,000 metres at the top of the pass) has made you feel quite comfortable again, compared with the air travellers who have a much shorter time to adjust.

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  6. I've taken both the California Zephyr and the Southwest Chief more than once each. Another great Amtrak route is the Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles. Last time I rode it, we saw whales spouting in the Pacific near Vandenburg Air Force Base.

    For a long ride, do book accommodations as sleeping in coach is for youngsters. The dining cars are pretty decent and you'll meet many interesting people.

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  7. The train route along the River Rhine in Germany from Frankfurt am Main to Bonn deserves to be in the list. It is beautiful and charming.

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