Take the express route out of confinement with these magical virtual train rides.
While all your 2020 travel plans are on hold, virtual explorations are in full swing. From the virtual hikes to live bloom cams, there’s never been a better time to be a couchbound jet-setter.
Train trips are the epitome of adventure. It’s not just the promise of new destinations that lie ahead, but all the winding minutes that are filled with flickering slide shows of quaint towns, picturesque valleys, rocky mountainsides, or powder white snowscapes. Along with that, there’s the thrill of wandering through the procession carriages, some kitted out with antique furnishings, panoramic glass windows, and even a waiter topping up your champagne, while others filled with the chime of curious characters passing the suspended moments.
Here are the top virtual train trips to reignite your wanderlust.
1. Bernina Express, Switzerland
This is hands down one of the most spectacular journeys through the Alps. The 2-hour long virtual ride is still a front runner as you pass through the alpine paradise of St Moritz, Switzerland to the balmy Mediterranean coast of Tirano, Italy. The train trip is not only known for its jaw-dropping views but it also stands as an incredible feat of engineering, reaching up to 2253 m above sea-level and without the help of cogwheel track.
2. Nordland Line (Nordlandsbanen), Norway
You’ve got time to kill and what better way to do than with this mesmerizing journey through snowy Norwegian Arctic landscapes aboard the renowned Nordland Line (Nordlandsbanen). You can even choose your preferred season—one perk you don’t get on the real thing.
3. Belgrade–Bar Railway (Bijelo Polje), Serbia
From the Adriatic Sea to the mountainous parts of Montenegro in the Balkans, you’ll pass through 254 tunnels and over 435 bridges with sheer drops that will make you grip onto your chair (particularly at 1:50:00). This video will give you a wonderful glimpse of two countries. If you’d like to see it in the winter you can watch this video.
4. Royal Gorge Route, Colorado
In 1905, President Teddy Roosevelt described it best as “the trip that bankrupts the English language!” This virtual ride will take you on a memorable trip through the Colorado Rockies. You’ll go along the rushing Arkansas River near the Royal Gorge Bridge and through the Royal Gorge Canyon.
5. Sarajevo – Ploče Railway, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Here 163km of railway connects Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Adriatic Sea coast. This video allows you to take in the first part of the journey as glides seamlessly along the Neretva River and through the Mediterranean wilderness.
6. Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Colorado
This will make you feel like you’ve stepped straight into the Wild West. The winding route has sheer drops where you’ll have sweeping views of the Animas River below as it hugs the rocky Colorado mountains going through the tree-lined Rockwood Gorge.
7. Flåm Railway, Norway
There is no better way to take in the incredible Bergen’s fjord scenery. And the Flåm Railway is easily one of the most scenic journeys in the world. Running from the end of Aurlandsfjord up to the high mountains at Myrdal station, you’ll see waterfalls, ravines, mountain tops, and farmlands. It’s like seeing all the seasons and landscapes available in one sitting.
8. Brienz Rothorn Bahn, Switzerland
Take the only daily steam train Switzerland out into the stunning gold and yellow autumnal settings. The vintage train is over a century old and chugs along through the lush, rolling hills of Brienz and ascends into misty oblivion — which will make your heart stop for a minute—and flattens out as you reach the snow-kissed mountain peaks.
9. Badulla – Nanu Oya, Sri Lanka
Go further east to one of the country’s most famous routes. Crossing through dense forests and stone bridges you’ll be able to live out your backpacker’s dream—unfortunately, you won’t be able to take the popular shot of you hanging out the carriage.
10. Jacobite Steam Train (aka Hogwarts Express), Scotland
While this doesn’t start at Platform 9¾, it does take you on the breathtaking journey through the Scottish Highlands using a series of glamour shots and cutaways. Arguably one of the greatest train journeys in Britain, this route sweeps through Scotland’s highest mountains, the deepest lochs and curves round the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct (which you can see at 3:09). Your virtual excursion will give you a little insight into the vintage steam train’s route and the gorgeous scenery along it.
11. Glacier Express, Switzerland
This video is just a teaser of the magical adventure through a snowy wonderland between the two Swiss resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz. You can also watch the full 8-hour journey if you fancy a beautiful summer version that feels like a scene from The Sound of Music. If you’d like a taste of the world-class experiences inside the train, you can watch this video.
12. Tarumi Rail (Cherry Blossom Tunnel), Japan
The Japan national railway goes from Ogaki station to Tarumi station, the line starts in the city lined with houses, moving through pastoral landscapes, overlooking the clear blue Neogawa River. This particular video features the scenic cherry blossom tunnel. Feel what it’s like to be at the back of the train, racing backward over bridges from 2:10. If you’re desperately missing spring, you can also view the cute carriages rolling along through a beautiful blanket of yellow flowers and clouds of pink blossoms during peak bloom here.
13. Odontotos Diakofto – Kalavryta, Greece
Hop aboard the narrowest public cogwheel railway in the world. The tracks are so snuggly nestled into the clefts of Kalavryta that you’ll constantly have the urge to duck. From the seaside town of Diakopto, the train winds in parallel to the Gorge of Vouraikos river as it climbs up to a 720 m altitude through bridges and tunnels. Halfway through the journey is the Mega Spilaion (Great Cave) monastery, built 362 AD. It’s the oldest monastery in Greece.
14. Wuppertaler Schwebebahn, Germany
Glide through the hills of Wuppertal Germany in the unique suspended railway which opened in 1901. This one-of-a-kind rail system is also the oldest monorail system in the world, but it still ranks in speed and energy efficiency. As you’ll soon find out, it almost makes no noise—other than the announcements made in German— and it has incredible views over the river and city.
15. Amtrak Southwest Chief, Chicago – Los Angeles
Once upon a time in Hollywood, these tracks were used by “Train of the Stars,” the nation’s first Pullman that was almost only frequented by 1930’s celebrities. An epic 40-hour train journey (one way) takes you through some of most iconic parts of the American West. From Santa Fe Trail, Sedona’s red cliffs, pueblos and missions, the Grand Canyon, and the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains, the journey is a perfect glimpse into a more humble everyday life.
16. Alaska Railroad’s Coastal Classic, Alaska
Meander through the untouched landscapes of Alaska, starting from Anchorage to Seward follows the shoreline of the Turnagain Arm. In this brief video, the panoramic glass windows allow you to take in the striking bit of natural scenery. Enough to get you thinking about your bucket list again.
17.Tokyo Waterfront New Transit Waterfront Line (Yurikamome), Japan
If you’re craving more of a city trip, then why not venture of into the sparkling city lights of Tokyo? The city line connects Shimbashi to Toyosu, via the artificial island of Odaiba in Tokyo. If you’re struggling to sleep the silent journey through the night.
18. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Europe
If you’re here for the elegant interiors and champagne top-ups then one of the world’s most luxurious trains should do the trick. Here, you’ll travel back in time and arrive at a new destination. Immersed in art deco interiors, you’ll traverse Venice, Italy to Austria, through Germany, Lichtenstein, France and the UK.
In a documentary called Ridin’ the Rails, featuring Johnny Cash sums up why trains have been the perfect backdrop for inspiration:
“You know, there’s nothing that stirs my imagination like the sound of a steam locomotive. That lonesome whistle cuttin’ through the night, and that column of black smoke and steam throwin’ shadows across the land.”
Featured image: @woolyart