There is some inexplicable excitement in hopping aboard a train and chugging along to a place far away. One does not have to be nostalgic and there is no need to romanticize the experience. The journey may or may not be nostalgic to all, especially the youth. The journey may or may not be romantic for some. But what is absolutely irrefutable is the charm, the leisure, the sense of calmness and the pursuit of an adventure. North America is blessed to have some of the most fascinating landscapes on the planet. From freezing lakes to tropical forests, volcanic peaks to genteel streams, gigantic waterfalls to serene vineyards, there is everything that one could long for. The ideal way to explore some of these wonders is our shortlist of the best North American rail trips for 2018.
Rocky Mountaineer, Canada
Much of Canada is under a frigid spell for a substantial time of the year. That should not stop you from embarking on a train ride to explore the beautiful wild west of the country. 65 Holidays offers packages including tours and accommodation, three course meals and a wholesome itinerary that covers Journey through the Clouds: Outdoor Adventures as you travel from Vancouver to Jasper via Kamloops, guided hiking, river rafting on Bow and canoeing at Lake Louise.
The Golden State, United States
Ffestiniog Travel has a Golden State tour for a fortnight. You would take the Coast Starlight operated by Amtrak and arrive at San Francisco, ride the Bay Area Rapid Transit or BART and the cable cars, take a trip lead by Shay steam locomotives to explore the Redwood Forest Steam Railroad, ride on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and indulge in an encounter with the Skunk Train of California Western Railroad. The tour includes tours of Sacramento Railroad Museum, lunch excursion aboard Sacramento River Train and three nights nestled on a paddlewheel boat.
Virginia and Maryland by Train, United States
Both Virginia and Maryland are known for their amazing foliage during autumn. The Appalachian Mountains and Allegheny have some stunning landscapes and you would miss them if you are flying or even if you are on a road trip that does not take you to places beyond the treaded paths. Holidays by Rail operates New River Train that offers a pristine journey, exploring New River Gorge in West Virginia, Cass Scenic Railroad and Cheat Mountain spruce forests. You would stay at Greenbrier Resort that has a nuclear bunker for the president, dating back to the Cold War. There are two trains operating twice every year. You could choose the diesel powered Salamander or steam powered Durbin Rocket.
Ride along the St. Lawrence River, Canada
Ffestiniog Travel operates a tour called Eastern Canada in the Fall. This is the trip you should consider to explore the foliage north of Virginia and Maryland and beyond the Great Lakes. You could even ride further north and indulge in polar bear sighting. Take the train along St. Lawrence River to La Malbaie. This route was closed for passenger trains for many years. You could start at Montreal and ride aboard the Abitibi to Senneterre. You may take the Polar Bear Express, starting from Cochrane and ride to Moosonee. The latter is at James Bay, a place where the nearest main road is around a hundred and fifty miles south.
Grand Alaska Railroad, United States
Alaska Railroad has a century old history and a rich legacy. It has catered to passengers and freight, often being the only mode of connectivity in the rugged terrain spanning what is clearly the last frontier in the north. The inaccessible landscapes of the state are accessible courtesy the Grand Alaska Railroad. Great Rail Journeys offer a trip of twelve days. There are four distinct train journeys. One is aboard a doomed observation car, one takes you on a wilderness tour to explore the wonders of the tundra at Denali National Park, another takes you to Talkeetna and the fourth lets you explore historic sites. You can also embark on a quest to spot wildlife and whales on a cruise from Whittier port.
Pikes Peak Cog Railway in Denver, United States
Great Rail Journeys offers an extensive tour as a part of its National Parks & Heritage Railroads. The one in Denver packs you in Pikes Peak Cog Railway and ascends around fourteen thousand feet. There are slopes or gradients at certain junctures that are as steep as twenty four percent. The steam powered 1880 train that takes you from Hill City to Keystone in Dakota’s Black Hills is a blast from the past with all the old world charm you can imagine.
Route 66 by Rail, United States
You have heard of road trips on Route 66. Now you can embark on a rail trip exploring the original Route 66. You may be aware that the old route is now decommissioned. The new one is a mishmash of interstate highways. The Mother Road can be explored from Chicago to Los Angeles with Railbookers. They have a fourteen days tour aboard the Texas Eagle and Southwest Chief. You would get to explore St. Louis, Williams and Albuquerque. Williams is actually the gateway to Grand Canyon. You would get to spend two days and nights at the Maswik Lodge.
Toronto to Vancouver, Canada
Canada is vast and wild. Let not the metropolises perplex you. The sheer uniqueness, diversity and immensity of the country can only be explored on a rail trip. Flying is essentially skipping everything that is on the ground. A train ride from Toronto to Vancouver, almost two thousand and eight hundred miles apart, is an experience to remember. Canadian is your ideal train for the ride through Ontario and beyond to British Columbia and its wilderness. The train has three schedules every week. Canadian Affair operates a tour lasting fourteen nights. The tour operator includes a day trip to the Niagara Falls, three nights at Jasper National Park and an adventurous exploration of the frozen floor at Maligne Canyon.