I love long train journeys. They are a tangible window to the past. Even on modern trains, more often than not, you’re traveling routes that stretch back to very beginning of rail travel itself. Whether you’re in the UK riding the very routes the first trains did, transporting raw ore to foundries at the outset of the Industrial Revolution, or in America, on the very same iron that connected the nation.
Along with time traveling back to the dawn of the Modern Age, the railways that crisscrossed the world back then carried us through the Victorian Era, the British Empire and straight into the 21st century. These are some of the world’s epic train journeys.
Vivek Express: India
Traversing the entire country from the northeast city of Dibrugarh to Kanyakumari at India’s southernmost tip, the Vivek Express is the longest journey by train in India. Moving along at 32 miles per hour, the 2,633 mile adventure, with its 57 stops, is scheduled to take around four days, though if you’ve ever traveled by rail in India, you know it’ll get there when it arrives.
Trans-Siberian Railway: Moscow to Vladivostok
This famous rail journey crosses most of Russia and several time zones while passing through Siberia. On the way you see Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake and the Ural Mountains. The six day passage on board the Rossiya covers 5,753 miles. The route from Moscow to Vladivostok is the longest train journey in the world.
Empire Builder: Chicago to Seattle
One of the longest and most scenic train crossings in America, the Empire Builder is Amtrak’s northernmost route. Empire Builder passes through much of the same wilderness traversed by explorers Lewis and Clark. You’ll see the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, cross the Dakota plains into Montana’s Big Sky country, then onto the Cascade Mountains. The tracks up north cut through some of the most remote wilderness in the country. Word has it the fall is the best time to make the journey. The 46 hour transit has the reputation of experiencing delays during the winter months, so plan accordingly.
Orient Express: Paris to Istanbul
Arguably the most famous train in the world, thanks to Agatha Christie, The Orient Express, which began service in 1883, is not that different now than it was back then. The private company that runs the Express, now called Belmond Ltd. acquired many of the original 1920s and 1930s era cars and restored them to their former opulence. Take the same route that ran from 1889-1914 as the Victorian Era aristocracy did. If you love historic trains, you must ride the Orient Express.
Pride of Africa: Capetown to Dar es Salaam
Any trip through Africa is going to be epic, trust me, but now hop on an elegant Victorian Era train and ride the very same rails left behind by the British Empire and there simply are no words. These are the kind of journey’s I like to read about while I’m in the middle of them. When the sun goes down, you can retire to your cabin, sit back in the chair next to the window and, like the agents of the Empire did 100 years ago, bust out the Kindle. This truly epic train journey passes through some of the most awe inspiring terrain on the planet. Over 15 days you’ll see Victoria Falls, the Great Rift Valley and all the wildlife of sub Saharan Africa. This is how you do the Dark Continent. Make it happen.