Whistle Stops: How To Travel By Train Almost Anywhere

Fed up with the unfriendly skies?  For a happy break from frenetic and increasingly unpleasant air travel, check out the award-winning “Man in Seat 61” a sophisticated, encyclopaedic website for travel by train, track-by-track, almost anywhere on the planet. This colossal collection of routes, prices, timetables, and even ferry connections generates fodder for heart-poundingly inspirational travel.

Hang out with The Man in Seat 61 for a fun jaunt like Moscow to Beijing via Kazakhstan.  Or, for more fun, he says, “It’s easy to travel by train all the way from the UK to Belgrade in Serbia, to Skopje in Macedonia or Podgorica, then to Bar in Montenegro.”

We love his “Beginners Guide to train travel in the Ukraine.” Malta anyone? Kenya? And/or even a choo choo in Morocco?  No prob. Delve directly into the details of even more far-flung tracks in Bangladesh (Dhaka to Chittagong e.g.) or in Australia: from Perth on the west coast to Adelaide, then south to Melbourne and ferry to Tasmania!

He seems to have worked out every route and permutation on earth.  Last one: The weekly Nile steamer links Aswan inEgypt with Wadi Halfa in the Sudan, and then a weekly train will deliver you directly to Wadi Halfa with Khartoum. This page explains not only how to make the journey, but also what it’s like.

We are crazy about that Man in Seat 61 who, in real life, is one Mark Smith, an energetic Englishman and international railroad encyclopaedist who is not as mysterious as his moniker.

To know more, click (and save this site for a rainy day):   http://www.seat61.com/index.html.

Aaaall Aboard!


Rocket To The Roof: The Tibet Train

Qinghai -Tibet Railway, highest railway in the world, runs for about 1,242 miles most of which is about 13,000 feet high and surely the high way to go for travel between Lhasa, capital of Tibet (“rooftop of the world”) and Xining, the capital of the Qinghai Province of China.  This engineering miracle took half a century to complete from design through construction; and has been rocketing skyward since 2006.

Train rides through this vast and mysterious area of the world of tundra, frozen and not, distant mountain peaks, unspoiled lakes and villages, can ferry up to 4,000 people a day which means this remote area is becoming far less so. Is this good news?  Not sure.  It will certainly boost Tibet tourism and trade in this corner of the less-Far East.

Warning: altitude sickness is a serious risk for those with heart or blood pressure issues, but snorting oxygen onboard helps.

Early internet graphics:

But for a comprehensive new website in plain English offering a wide array of trips, click: http://tibettravel.org/tibet-train which is operated by CITS, a top online China-based Tibet tour operator.

Too chicken to hop aboard?  Just click here.


Choo Choo Overview

Train travel all over the world is almost limitless, and there is something mysteriously alluring with a whiff of romance (or at least foreign intrigue) in the puff of a train. Some are expensive and luxurious, like rolling, well-appointed 5-star hotels with exceptional staffs and food, but many are basic and good choices for the budget-minded. In addition to saving the cost of hotels, overnight trains deliver the thrill of waking up in a new city or even a new country.


Colossally fascinating and endlessly-intriguing, www.seat61.com is the cryptic name for the website for train travel throughout the world. Get schedules, costs, connections, and every inch of train travel in Europe including such off-the-beaten tracks as those in Macedonia, Cyprus, Andorra, and Belarus AND onward into Iran, Cambodia, and even Cuba (the Ferrocarriles de Cuba. which offers no official website and no toilet paper.)  Tap into this site and run the risk of getting lost in it!

The Good Web Guide UK says www.seat61.com “…has all the mystery of  a Le Carre epic. Who is this mysterious man who always books Seat 61 on the Eurostar and why has he set up a site devoted entirely to world rail travel? His name’s Mark Smith and he is passionate about long-distance rail travel….”

Alaska: For mesmerizing, non-stop beauty, check out the award-winning upper-deck domed window cars of the Denali Star during the 12-hour trip between Fairbanks and Anchorage. www.alaskarailroad.com

The Alps: Rocky Mountains Highs

In Switzerland, the Rhaetian Railway offers the highest rails in the Alps: the Albula and Bernina lines which are stellar examples of technical, architectural and environmental brilliance. In the northwest, the Albula pass wends through 42 tunnels and over 144 viaducts and bridges. The Bernina train “sails” through 13 tunnels and over 52 viaducts and bridges. And the gorgeous (usually snowy) area between Thusis, rich in forests, rivers, glaciers and gorges, and the tiny town of Tirano in northern Italy has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Click: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1276

P.S. Don’t forget the train trip between Switzerland’s two top ski resorts, St. Moritz and Zermatt, is simply a glorious 7-hour whiteout ride on the Glacier Express. Click: http://www.glacierexpress.ch/

From Adelaide to Alice Springs to Darwin, the Ghan crosses the spectacular transcontinental heart of Australia, north to south, in a 48-hour one-way ride with two nights on board. www.gsr.com.au

Although many trains stop running during their freezing winters, others chug along splendidly through great drifts, mounds and mountains of ice and snow.

Out west, the award-winning Rocky Mountaineer toot-toots through the Canadian Rockies on a variety of wintry routes. Phone 877-460-3200. www.winterrailvacations.com.

In Eastern Canada, look into the Agawa Canyon Snow Train which starts in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario – for a 4-hour, 114-mile rail cruise through rugged snowscapes and “diamonds of ice,” wildly colorful fall foliage as per season; chug 500 feet down over 10 miles to the floor of the billion-year old Agawa Canyon. To know more, phone 800-242-9287 or www.agawacanyontourtrain.com.

VIA Rail operates about 480 trains per week over a vast 9,000-mile network that spans and links all of Canada. This is huge. Excellent website makes it easy to navigate their fascinating network. http://www.viarail.ca/trains/en_trai_tous.html

India anyone?  The royally luxurious Deccan Odyssey departs from Mumbai and visits towns and villages all along the gorgeous coastline of the Arabian Sea for 8 days, including hottest beach spot on the subcontinent, the intensely sensual sandy city of Goa. http://www.deccan-odyssey-india.com.

…and stay tuned for more…


For over 21 years, Bill Peach Journeys has specialized in luxurious innovative tours in Australia and New Zealand. The company is well-known for their unique aircruise sightseeing (via 36-seater Dash 8’s) over the outback, to which they have now adding railcruising by private train.

Relaxed, comfortable and luxurious, and for those traveling solo — good news – - many of his trips do not levy a single supplement. This means an ideal combination of privacy and companionship, and in awesome adventurous environments. Dine under the stars,  sail in a hot air balloon, photograph wild critters, sleep in luxury, meet real human beings.

Coming this April, for instance, is his aircruise called "Isles of the Southern Straits" which floats over Tasmania, King and Kangaroo Islands.

Click on www.billpeachjourneys.com.au/.