Everyone that’s seen the Harry Potter movies – and that means, let’s face it, all of us – has thought of themselves climbing aboard the Hogwarts Express and chugging off on a remarkable journey across the wilderness.
Sadly, the kind of magic belonging to wizards and witches isn’t real. But the magic of the steam train is. All around the world, there are wonderful journeys you can undertake through impressive landscapes. This week, we’re exploring some of the ultimate train rides. Let’s hop aboard and check out the world’s best steam train experiences.
The Puffing Billy, which celebrated its 200th anniversary back in 2013, is the world’s oldest surviving steam locomotive. Initially designed to transport coal from Wylam Colliery to Lemington Staithes on the River Tyne. The timeless locomotive now carries adventurers and history buffs alike. It has become one of Australia’s major tourist attractions, proudly standing beside kangaroos and vegemite. Why is it called “Puffing Billy”? Apparently, nobody really knows – the name still remains a mystery until today. Will you take on the challenge and find out while enjoying the journey?
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Royal Windsor Steam Express
Imagine yourself a royal experience aboard a steam train followed by a visit to one of the world’s most renowned castles? Jump right on! The Windsor Express steam train service offers direct service from central London straight to the beautiful Windsor Castle. A unique and convenient way to get maximum enjoyment with minimum hassle, you might even catch a glimpse of the Queen if you visit in April during her yearly residence in the royal quarters. Be sure to have a cup of tea for the typical British royal experience – or, if tea is too tame for you, the coach service also offers a Pullman style brunch option with champagne.
If breath-taking landscapes, delightful villages and nostalgia are your thing, it is time to step aboard the Brocken train on Germany’s Harz railway. Formerly the mainline of the Harz Narrow Gauge Railways, the wonderfully preserved steam train now functions as a tourist attraction in its own right while the network in its entirety is classified as a historical monument. As you enjoy the scenic routes from the comfort of your seat and think of days bygone, you might just pass the highest peak of Northern Germany, the Brocken mountain, at 1142m. Sit back and enjoy the (astonishingly scenic) ride!
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Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Brought to modern fame through Wes Anderson’s movie Darjeeling Limited, you might be amazed to read that the train is not just a figment of his incredible imagination. Quite on the contrary. The precipice-topping train is actually UNESCO-listed and has been operating in some form since the late 19th century. Nicknamed “toy train” by locals, the legendary train zigzags through the breath-taking scenery of cloud-topped valleys, rolling foothills and luscious tea plantations so characteristic of the Eastern Himalayas. It is sure to provide you with a captivating and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Yet another historic British train journey easily available from the capital, the Cathedrals Express steam journey is reminiscent of old times, with its hissing and puffing locomotive. Once aboard the carriages, you are being carried away on an memorable journey across rural England. Views of verdant hills and grazing sheep abound, and the train passes through plentiful quaint towns, many of which boast a cathedral matching the film-star quality of the Cathedrals Express.
Article in partnership with AAT Kings. If you want to ride the Puffing Billy, make sure you contact GrownUps Holidays and ask about AAT Kings Puffing Billy Tours.
Have you travelled by steam engine train before? Let us know in the comments below!