They say the journey is more important than the destination, and seems like wanderlusts are imbibing this philosophy down to the T. This year, get ready to embrace this ideology with open arms as ‘Luxury Train Travel’ is the latest trend doing the rounds. By Bayar Jain
Think back to the time you spent journeying from one city to another in a train bogey. Relive the gentle swaying of the coach rocking you to a dreamy headspace, and vast expanses of the countryside greens whizzing past. As you think back to the echoing of the chugging engines and the train tracks sending you to a trance, a sense of nostalgia is sure to set in. After all, trains ooze with an enticing aura that leave an unparalleled impact for years.
Now, pair this same memory with grandiose cushioned seats, gourmet foods, personal attendants or even onboard spa sessions and you’ve got a win-win situation like no other! Luxury Train Travel –- the newest trend in the world of wanderlusts –- aims to reignite the same emotions. Relying on slow, leisurely travel, such journeys are often designed to offer a very comfortable ride to the passengers while simultaneously evoking an association with history and heritage as well.
A Brief History Of The Latest Trend
Although Luxury Train Travel is only picking up pace as a trend now, it isn’t something new. In fact, the first luxury train can be dated back to 1865. Around that time, railroad was expanding immensely in America. However, these trains were often uncomfortable and dirty, designed using cramped beds and inadequate ventilation. George M. Pullman and Benjamin Field, two entrepreneurial industrialists saw this as an opportunity and designed (what was then considered) an uber luxurious train. The Pioneer, the new sleeper they created, contained folding upper berths and seat cushions that could be extended to make lower berths. It even included separate dining and sleeping areas to maximise the comfort. The rest, as they say, is history.
Luxury Trains Around The World That Have Left A Mark
While it is difficult to choose the best of the lot, some manage to stand out from the crowd. Whether it’s their stellar services or ultra luxe interiors, there’s an alluring charm in each of their steel bogeys.
Believed to operate the highest number of trains in the world, Belmond trains runs services in Europe, Asia and South America. In fact, it is one of the few private luxury train providers to offer continental or intercontinental services. Iconic trains like the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, The Royal Scotsman, The Belmond Grand Hibernian, and The Eastern and Oriental Express find space in their portfolio.
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Pride of place in the Rovos stable goes to the historic and newly rebuilt station and locomotive yard in Pretoria, which is the heart and headquarters of this private railway company. From here, successful charters from one to 10 days have been undertaken with incentive groups, historical tours and private gatherings.
Combing the golden era of rail services with modern convenience and yesteryear’s elegance is child’s play for Africa’s Rovos Rail. After having started its Pride of Africa service in April 1989, this pan-African luxury train leaves no topography unconquered. This perennially available service runs through Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Victoria Falls, Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), and Swakopmund (Namibia). While en-suite facilities and Edwardian features of the Royal, Deluxe, and Pullman suites ensure a lavish stay on board, the crisp linen and sparkling glass and silverware of the dining room leave you spellbound.
With a journey spreading almost 10,000 kilometres, it’s no surprise that the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express is the longest of its kind in the world. The train, apart from taking you from one destination to another, also journeys you across two continents and eight time zones! This 2007-born steel wonder connects Moscow and European Russia with the Russian Far East, Mongolia, China and the Sea of Japan.
No list on luxury trains is complete without a mention of India’s first luxury train, Palace on Wheels. With 14 salons and an ability to accommodate up to 88 guests, each space is embellished with miniature paintings, furnishings, upholstery and mirror work. Two on-board restaurants, one in-house bar, and a designated sitting lounge complete the royal package here. The fact that the train meanders through Delhi, Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, and Agra makes the journey 10 times better!
Luxury Trains Set To Romance The Rails Soon
Trains might date back to the 1800s, but they’re constantly revamping themselves to keep up with the times. As we chug towards 2020, here are some of the latest luxury trains expected to enthrall travellers.
Who needs to surround themselves with opulence when underwater marvels can do the same for you? Picture blue oceanic hues reflecting inside the trains while schools of fish swimming by. Currently, Japanese, French and many other European underwater tunnels already provide space for this magic to unravel, but India, too, is expected to join the bandwagon soon. These underwater trains are expected to run between Mumbai and Ahmadabad, and even within Kolkata. There are also hints at a connection between United Arab Emirates’ Fujairah and Mumbai.
Luxury need not be confined to the spheres of slow travels; high speed bullet trains have a charm of their own. Japan is already at the forefront of this, with trains whizzing at speeds of 320 kilometres per hour. The much-hyped Mumbai and Ahmadabad bullet train is expected to join this list too!
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Strictly speaking, Karnataka’s Golden Chariot Train has been around since 2008 but it had seized operations temporarily. After a long hiatus, the train is set to chug again. The newly refurbished train — with its intricately carved Hosalya temple architecture dating back to 12th century — is replete with air conditioned cabins, a cigar bar lounge, and even spa and gym facilities.