A landmark moment in railway history, October 1883 saw the launch of the original Orient Express. Leaving from Paris, it steamed through the Alps, Budapest, Bucharest, and finally Constantinople. Packed with luxuries, word spread of exquisite food, excellent wine, and impeccable service. This legendary train continued to transport kings, celebrities, and characters between great European cities. The train eventually fell into decline and ceased service. Then in 1977, rail enthusiast James B. Sherwood bought two of the train’s carriages at a Sotheby’s auction in Monte Carlo. Over the next few years he spent $16 million locating, purchasing and restoring 35 vintage carriages.
In May 1982 the original Orient Express legend was reborn when the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express made its maiden run from London to Venice. Today, the gleaming carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express luxury train continue to transport passengers across Europe in exquisite surroundings on one of the most celebrated and romantic journeys in the world. The world of the Orient-Express is now truly international and passengers can enjoy a similar luxury experience on board the British Pullman and Northen Belle day trains around the United Kingdom, The Royal Scotsman luxury train in the Scottish Highlands, Eastern & Oriental Express luxury train in South East Asia and the Road To Mandalay Cruise in Burma (Myanmar).
Eastern & Oriental Express
This sister train to Europe’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express offers an equally exciting on-board experience. The golden age of travel lives on aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express luxury train. Winding through some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic landscapes, it voyages through Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, and on into Laos. Mountains, forests, fascinating towns and golden temples create a rich tapestry of life along the way.
The Eastern & Oriental Express offers three grades of beautifully appointed compartments: Pullman Cabins, State Cabins and Presidential Suites. The interior walls are cherry wood and elm burr paneled, adorned with decorative marquetry and intricate inlays. Each cabin is fully air-conditioned with an en suite shower, washbasin and WC and features large picture windows for an excellent view of the passing scenery. Facilities include 24-hour steward service, international electric sockets (220 volts) and 110 volt adapter for razors, a personal safe and hairdryer.
Chefs on board the Eastern & Oriental Express are internationally renowned for their ability to create a tantalizing variety of Eastern and European dishes, using the finest fresh seasonal ingredients. Service equals the world’s gourmet finest restaurants. Lunch and dinner are served in the two Restaurant Cars, each lavishly decorated with rosewood and elm paneling.
Since its establishment in 1989, Rovos Rail has earned an international reputation for its truly world class travel experiences. Step aboard the wood paneled coaches – classics remodeled and refurbished to mint condition – and enjoy fine cuisine in five-star luxury as some of the most varied scenery imaginable unfolds beyond the windows. Recapture the romance and atmosphere of a bygone era, when privileged travelers experienced the magic and mystery of Africa in a relaxed and elegant fashion. The trains – which may be hauled by steam, diesel or electric locomotives at various stages of the journey – carry a maximum of 72 passengers in 36 superbly appointed suites. Pride of place in the Rovos stable goes to the historic and newly rebuilt Capital Park Station and locomotive yard, which is the heart and new headquarters of this private railway company.
Conceived by Tsar Alexander III, the construction of the railroad began in 1891 and proceeded simultaneously in several sections—from the west (Moscow) and from the east (Vladivostok) and across intermediate reaches by way of the Mid-Siberian Railway, the Transbaikal Railway, and other lines. Originally, in the east, the Russians secured Chinese permission to build a line directly across Manchuria (the Chinese Eastern Railway) from the Transbaikal region to Vladivostok; this trans-Manchurian line was completed in 1901. After the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05, however, Russia feared Japan’s possible takeover of Manchuria and proceeded to build a longer and more difficult alternative route, the Amur Railway, through to Vladivostok; this line was completed in 1916. The Trans-Siberian Railroad thus had two completion dates: in 1904 all the sections from Moscow to Vladivostok were linked and completed running through Manchuria; in 1916 there was finally a Trans-Siberian Railroad wholly within Russian territory. The completion of the railroad marked the turning point in the history of Siberia, opening up vast areas to exploitation, settlement, and industrialization.
The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world. It was built between 1891 and 1916 to connect Moscow with the Far-East city of Vladivostok. En route it passes through the cities of Perm, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Chita and Khabarovsk. The Trans-Mongolian goes from Moscow to Beijing, China via Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The Trans-Manchurian travels through Siberia and Chinese Manchuria to Beijing. The Trans-Siberian proper goes from Moscow to the Pacific terminus of Vladivostok.
A journey on The Royal Scotsman takes you straight to the heart of the Highlands, through landscapes of towering, pine-clad mountains reflected in mirror-still lochs. Just 36 guests travel through Scotland’s finest countryside in private cabins, with an open-deck observation carriage behind.
Life on board this luxury train is relaxed and indulgent, with gastronomic dining and the convivial atmosphere of celebrating with friends. After dinner, over a wee dram, a local clansman recounts tales that bring Scottish history alive. Along the way, guests disembark to meet local personalities, talk to experts on subjects from salmon fishing to whisky and take part in fun activities – truly a Scottish rail vacation par excellence.
Palace on Wheels
The Palace On Wheels takes guests on a splendid and enchanting royal journey through the bygone era of the erstwhile Maharajas. Though times have changed and the winds have shifted, the Palace On Wheels cruises along in royal style – the kind only luxury travelers could have perpetuated and enjoyed.
The exquisite and exclusive Palace On Wheels has luxurious cabins, wall to wall carpeting, a well stocked bar, two dining cars and a very personalized service… in fact, almost everything that could compromise of heaven on earth for seven days! The 14 coaches are named after former Rajput states matching the aesthetics and interiors of the royal past. Each saloon has a mini pantry and a lounge to ensure availability of hot and cold beverage, and refreshments and a place to relax and get together. 14 fully air-conditioned deluxe saloons, each a combination of 4 twin bedded chambers with channel music, intercom, attached toilets, running hot and cold water, shower, wall to wall carpeting and other amenities. The furniture with its inlaid motifs has been specially created for the Palace on Wheels.
The train has two lavish restaurants “The Maharaja” and “The Maharani” with a Rajasthani ambience serving palate tickling Continental, Chinese, India and Rajasthani cuisines. The Palace On Wheels also boasts of a well stocked bar offering the best spirits.
Known as the world’s ‘slowest fast train’, the historic Glacier Express runs a route that became popular in the 1920s, when the well-heeled traveller discovered the rustic charms of the Swiss Alps. The seven-and-a-half hour journey from St. Moritz to Zermatt winds across the Oberalp, through 91 tunnels, fragrant forests, Alpine meadows alongside gushing streams, all of it christened in a centuries-old culture. You travel at over 2,000 meters in altitude, and the window view changes with the season.
In the summer, you have glistening mountains; in the winter, a frosty wonderland. In spring, the landscape is carpeted in flowers, and the fall season brings its gold and orange splendor.
The theatrical, almost surreal journey from Adelaide to Darwin on The Ghan is the stuff that legends are made of. Over a span of two days, you’ll journey from the fertile countryside of Adelaide, through the endless red desert at the center of the continent, to the lush, tropical forests at the ‘Top End.’
If you aim to view all of it in style, Platinum Service is the only way to go – private cabins with double beds, a spacious suite and 24-hour room service are part of the package. Experience Australia in true Aussie style.
The 27-hour journey from Pretoria to Cape Town gives you a view of some of South Africa’s most spectacular landscapes. The highlight of the trip, however, is the stop at Matjiesfontein, in Kimberley, where an excursion will take you back to the days of the diamond rush.
A glass of sherry, ‘London’ lamp posts, and the 19th-century buildings will have you convinced you’ve stepped into a time warp, until you step back into the modern luxury of your cozy cabin. Enjoy high tea or an aperitif in one of the elegant lounges, or embark on a game of chess or backgammon. Each meal on the Blue Train is an experience, with a selection of exquisite local dishes–from Karoo lamb to Knysna oysters, and award-winning vintages from the Cape wine-lands.
The Bernina Express Line Switzerland
The spectacular Bernina line was completed in 1910 and is run by Rhaetian Railways. Beginning in Chur, St. Moritz or Davos, it passes the glaciers of Piz Bernina, making this the highest railway crossing in all of the Alps. It travels over 38 miles, climbing grades of up to 7%––without rack and pinion––to more than 7,391 feet at the Bernina Pass summit, and drops down to just 1,408 feet at Tirano, Italy. One minute, it seems, you’re above the tree line in a frozen wasteland; the next, you’re zooming to a landing, like in an airplane, into a subtropical Italian paradise.
The combination of remarkable scenery and engineering prompted the World Heritage Committee on July 7, 2008 to add this line (and its sister line, Albula) to the UNESCO World Heritage list. This makes the Rhaetian Railway one of four railways worldwide to be considered “universally outstanding” by UNESCO. (The other three are the “toy trains” of India: Darjeeling, Shimla and Nilgiri.)