Team Wanderlust | 21 April 2022
Wanderlust readers' tales: Memorable train journeys
Awe-inspiring scenery, childhood recollections and... fishy luggage. Here, our readers tell their most memorable stories form the track...
Awe-inspiring scenery, childhood recollections and... fishy luggage. Here, our readers tell their most memorable stories form the track...
My most memorable train journey was from Par in Cornwall to Penzance. Myself and my partner enjoyed some breathtaking views, but whilst looking out of the window we saw a man jumping on a trampoline completely naked and waving at us, everyone on the train was in shock but we couldn't stop laughing. It definitely made the journey more memorable.
Sharon Catterall, Blackburn
When I was about 7 and my sister was 5 (late 70's) we had a family holiday to the West Coast of Scotland. To get there our parents booked the Motorail from London to Perth. This was incredibly exciting, we had never been on such long train journey. Once we were aboard, and our VW fastback secured, we settled in for the ride. I have vivid memories of being in a single compartment with books and toys to keep us occupied before we went to sleep. Unfortunately I have even more vivid memories of the fact that, the following morning, someone had obviously been taken unwell and left every single toilet on the train unusable. I don't remember how my parents dealt with two children of 7 and 5, but I doubt it was easy. To this day I cannot even sit near a toilet on a train, let along use one (the rest of the holiday was, to my memory, fantastic).
Joel Rawlings, London
I was 10 years old and we went to Italy by train, my first ever trip abroad, so excited I could burst! It was a sleeper car and in the middle of the night some French people boarded and tried to evict us from our sleeper bunks! It seems there was a double booking ! The sight of my dad in his pants and string vest with his hands raised ready for fistycuffs was hilarious and I remember him repelling all boarders! We made it safely and had a wonderful time on the Italian coast. My mum died sadly less than 2 years later but I have fond memories of her one and only experience abroad.
Judy Prescott, Torrington
My late mother & I were enjoying a wonderful holiday in Lake Bled (1992) when war broke out in the former Yugoslavia. Much happened during that 7 days holiday ending in a rescue mission to get all the British holiday makers safely out. As Llubijama airport had been bombed, a plan to get us (approx. 800) out was by train journey via Austria. The journey was very scenic but also scary when soldiers boarded our train to check our ID's etc. Eventually our train journey ended in Austria, but then taken by coach to Trieste in Italy where we then boarded boats which took us down the coastline to Pula airport where we boarded our plane back to the UK. It was certainly a memorable holiday in more ways than one.
Susan Shaw, Bridlington
As a child I went on a day trip via a privately chartered train from Chester-le-Street to Whitley Bay. This is not a long journey - about 10 miles - but as a young child this was an amazing adventure and I sat next to the window all the way just loving seeing all the farmers fields, people going about their day and the best was going across the bridge over the Tyne to continue down the track to the seaside. It was a day trip organised for families and we were all piled on with our buckets and spades, packed lunches, swimsuits, windbreakers - you get the idea! The noise was deafening with excitement! It was my first ever train journey and I remember every minute if it. At the end of our seaside adventure we did the train journey in reverse but this time it was much quieter as everyone was tired after such a wonderful day. I sat with my head against the window though and kept my eyes open all the way - I didn’t want to miss anything. I’ve loved train journeys ever since!
Dawn Gray, Chester
On the Via Rail Canadian the first day waking up and looking out my window at what looked like Narnia, snowy trees and frozen lakes with beaver dams! My fellow travellers on the shoulder season were a mix of tourists and then locals, a couple returning home after a season playing ice hockey, youth going home to see family from college, a family moving to the west coast, grandparents going to see family the slow way because they could and musicians given a ride if they entertained us in the lounge car. Somewhere between Calgary and Winnipeg up early drinking tea in the observation car on my own I watched a family of coyotes play on the prairies in the sunrise. The next day of course whilst getting changed we stopped at a remote stop with my window in the direct eyeline of a trucker waiting at the crossing as my top was off..... I also saw Grizzly from the window on this trip, elk, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, and that incredible sight as the Rocky Mountains rear up about of the prairie like they're on steroids. The downside, pulling over whilst 200 car grain trains passed as they had priority on the tracks. Multiple times. A day. There is nothing I would change about that trip from Toronto to Vancouver. In fact I would love to repeat it.
Kat Clifford, Bristol
We travelled on the Sri Lanka train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella and we were so lucky to be invited into the drivers cab (after running along the track to get into the cab!) The views were stunning and the driver even let us blow his whistle!! He even got us to stick our heads out of the windows to take photos of each other but did warn us of close vegetation or bridges approaching, was a great experience and must be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world and made even more special to get the drivers eye view too.
Carol Burgess, Winchester
A train ride from Barrow in Furness to Whitehaven hardly sounds enticing, but what an eye opener it turned out to be, particularly once it started to hug the coast at Ravenglass. The western part of the Lake District tends to be overlooked/ignored by most visitors, it comes as a contract, but there's no better way of experiencing it than taking this train. You get to experience: magnificent views out over the Irish Sea, and out over the Solway Firth; on clear days, the sight of the Isle of Man, and also Scotland, in the distance; the surreal experience of stopping at Sellafield, reputedly England's most secure installation, with a golf course adjoining its perimeter fence; the slow, cautious navigating of the headland south of St Bees. An eye-opener.
Eamon Wright, Fleetwood
Toronto and Vancover Island The beauty and vastness of an ever changing landscapes, forests, priaries and farmland with the evening harvesters in the distance. The elk wandering around the streets of Jasper and the wonder of Banff. Then, the unforgettable Lake Louis with its torquise reflections and the Rocky Mountaineer, views from the paneramic windows of the carriage, ball headed eagles, brown bears merandering down to the line for morsals of grain. The Frazer River with its bends and turns, high mountains, valleys, history not derailed, but, living and finally, Vancover Island, home for so many who love mountains, sea and the great adventure!
Colin Powell, Southbourne
Without hesitation I would recommend Kiwi Rails scenic trip from Auckland to Christchurch & beyond. This includes a memorable ferry excursion from Wellington through the Marlborough Sounds to Picton. From there the train follows the majestic Kaikoura coast to Christchurch.
Stuart Ikin, Leduc
While in Sri Lanka we travelled from Nuwara Eliya to Ella on what we believe one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. Apart from all the cute little station stops where friendly locals wave to you in excitement as if they haven’t seen tourists before, the panoramic views along the way are sublime. The contrast in countryside from steep hills covered in tea bushes to palm like jungles and beautiful waterfalls, is truly magnificent. The locals all seem to enjoy it as much as the tourists. You can’t believe how beautiful it is until you experience it.
Jean Blewitt, Worthing
I was lucky to go to Vietnam with my best friend. She arranged everything including a train to take us to our next destination. I cannot remember where the train took us from but it went up the mountains, past beautiful rivers and countryside, had wooden benches that was super comfy and cheeky older passengers that teased us throughout. We brought local pears from the woman at the station and munched our way, contently staring out the window.
Cat Reynolds, London
The Sunday steam train from Bogota to Zipiquaria’s Salt Cathedral was a brilliant day out. We got to the station early, but a throng of noisy Colombians were already excitedly milling around. A guard shouted a long list of instructions in fast Spanish about what to expect. He caught us looking bemused, so when he’d finished, he sidled up to us and said in perfect English, “just follow me”. The carriages, as old as the puffing engine, had grand leather seats. Announcements flowed thick and fast but a young girl sitting behind, interpreted for us. The two hour, 20 km journey passed in a flash. We were entertained by lively, loud jazz and soul bands who strolled through the carriages and vendors offered plantain-wrapped tamales, Colombian tinto (coffee), the ubiquitous empanada and huge, creamy-white merengon. And the highlight was meant to be the Cathedral.
Helen Jackson, London
A long-held dream of travelling on Australia's Indian-Pacific 4-day railway journey from Perth to Sydney, finally achieved in 2019. Was it the superb food, the drinks and the fabulous crew that made this trip so memorable? Or was it the realisation the carriages have no suspension as you finally fall asleep at night on your bunk? Perhaps the race to be the first to spot a wild kangaroo in the middle of nowhere from the large carriage windows. More especially, the wonderful camaraderie between all the passengers in the cafe car? There were certainly no complaints about getting up early to have a snack breakfast as the sun rose in the desert plains, or the memorable meander through the Blue Mountains. With no Wi-Fi on board, it's so easy to just go off-grid for 4 days - and to truly appreciate the lands that make up the southern regions of the continent.
Richard Stevenson, Alford
I travelled by train from Cochin in Kerala to Nileshwar on the Kerala/Karnataka border. The train was completely full with even some people sitting on the roof at one point. Tea and food was brought round almost continuously and everyone talked to everyone else, it was a beautiful snapshot of India, with all the smells and noises that make India so special. I would have loved to have gone further.
Caroline Douglas, London
In 1984 I was backpacking with my partner in Mainland China, we were on a tight budget & did a 21 hour train journey in "hard seat" ie. 3rd class from Kunming to Emei. We were the only non Chinese in the packed compartment so lots of stares ! There was no air conditioning or non smoking compartments so spent most of the time coughing as most people seemed to be chain smoking. Young children wore crotchless pants rather than nappies so just peed on the floor ,the urine splashing up my legs. There was also a lot of spitting on the floor, not just phlegm but gristle & bones from people eating their food. A tannoy played loud "music" continuously. The route also had 150 tunnels so every few seconds were plunged into darkness so difficult to read or look out the windows.
Sue Goodman, Tadworth
I was in the Eurostar to Rotterdam during storm Dudley. We had left London at 18.00 and we arrived in Brussels without any problems. When we entered The Netherlands everything changed. The train had slowed down and I noticed that it was swaying more than normally. Soon there was an announcement to say that we would be 30 minutes late, he train had to travel slowly due to the wind. The swaying increased as the speed of the train decreased and eventually we stopped. Another announcement, we were now 60 minutes late. I realised that we had arrived at the Moerdijk brug, a long, very exposed bridge over the Hollands Diep. The Western wind howled and battered the train, the carriage still swayed even when we were stationary. Eventually we inched forward over the bridge, which seemed to take an age. But we made it and arrived in Rotterdam late but safely.
Dineke Ten Hove, Leicester
We took a train from Hanoi to Hue in Vietnam it was a night train and at about 1am the train stopped and more people got on, we had 1 spare bunk in our carriage (4 Bunks) so this guy opens the door and puts his young child in the spare bunk then disappeared and came back with a polystyrene cool box which he put under the table which was where my head was as i let the missus have the top bunk and it smelt of fish, roll on 7 hours and we arrive in Hue to a massive puddle of fishy stinky water, our suitcases were under my bunk and everything was soaked. We went ballistic at this guy which was a pointless exercise as he spoke no English and we spoke no Vietnamese. When we got to our hotel we had to get both of the cases taken away by the staff and everything was laundered including the case, we had planned to train the whole country but after that we booked private hire taxis to go all the way to Ho Chi Min City which cost a fair few quid but we couldn't face the train again.
Kevin McGovern, London
We travelled from Washington DC to Charleston. Great train journey. Unfortunately our luggage travelled from Washington to Charlotte!
Yvonne Wilkinson, Llandudno Junction
My wife and i got the train from Bournemouth to Amsterdam and the family we were sharing with for the bulk of the journey were out of control. We ended up having to entertain the other couples children and they thanked us for our efforts just to get the kids to sit down. It was the longest train journey ever!!!
Keith Gould, Poole
Travelling the length of Thailand in the none tourist class carriage from Bangkok to Chang Mai we saw stunning tropical forests & of course incredible temples, even a humongous Buddha! The best part we're getting to speak with a Thai couple who had taught themselves English! They worked for WD (the hard drive company) in Bangkok but were from a small village. They had to come to Bangkok for work leaving their son behind with family, all the money they earnt was sent back home. Ever since we meet I think of them every so often, they we're so kind, intelligent & their eye's were filled with enthusiasm. There were also incredibly grateful for absolutely everything they had. It was a heart warming experience. We laughed along together at what the other Thai passengers were saying about us & at the end the whole carriage we're chuckling along together. Such an amazing experience I'll remember forever.
Rachel Sadler, Nottingham
When we were in Italy on a packed train we were talking about a handsome man sitting near us - what we didn't realise was he could understand us completely... He said thank you for the compliments and wish us well. We felt super awkward!
Tarbs Gill, Woodhurst
An overnight train from Varanasi to Siliguri. Shared a cabin with 5 Indian guys. After advising me to use my backpack as a pillow, they then entertained and fed me for journey. Even ensuring I got a wake up call. They were all constructions workers working in Kashmir but living in north east India and their journey home was taking 5-7 days. Lovely, kind and humble guys who were wonderful company and gave me a look into their hard lives. A journey I won't forget.
David Harrington, Alton
In September 2018 I embarked on the rail trip of a lifetime on the Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin with a dear friend. An amazing journey where we made new friends and won the bar quiz too! My dinner party story starts when a freight train derailed on the track ahead of us in the Outback before coming into Alice Springs. As the Ghan runs on a single track we just had to wait for the freight train to be removed and then the track repaired. We spent about 23 hours extra on the journey. Bar crawls were instigated for a change of scenery (there are many bars on the Ghan) and the crew organised a nighttime drinks and bonfire party off the train for us. Lucky the Ghan is well stocked with food and drink, we didn’t go without and it made the journey more memorable. Some unfortunate people did miss flights from Darwin though. As we were stopping in Alice Springs for a week en route we just missed a one day tour so not so bad for us and I am much more forgiving of U.K. train delays now!
Lynne Meredith, Charlton
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