Rail travel

Rail travel includes everything from heritage steam trains to high-speed bullet trains, from sightseeing or dinner trains to the convenience of speed as a means of modern transport.

In the history of rail transport, dating back to the 19th century, there have been hundreds of named passenger trains. Lists of these have been organised into geographical regions.

Trains with numeric names are spelled out. For example, the 20th Century Limited is listed under “Twentieth Century Limited”.

Named trains are sometimes identified through a train headboard, drumhead, lettering on the locomotive or passenger cars, or a combination of these methods.


Railroads emerged in the 19th century, as the first widely available means of fast land transportation, and has put its mark on most countries and cities, even before the rise of the automobile. In Russia, the Trans-Siberian Railway was the only coast-to-coast land transport until a Trans-Siberian Highway opened in the early 21st century; in Canada, the country was unified only by rail until the Trans-Canada Highway was completed in 1961.

The availability and quality of rail infrastructure varies greatly between countries. While countries such as Germany and Japan have an excellent rail network both in and between cities, the rail network in the United States has fallen far behind its road network, and some countries are completely devoid of rail.

Rail travellers might encounter timetables and information being available in local languages only, poorly translated information or hard to understand ticketing requirements.

Tickets and their prices are an important point for travelers and rail companies. Because, for example, the construction and operation of a railroad, as it is called Office German, is a costly business. On the other hand, none of the customers would like to pay more than necessary, possibly even because they were not sufficiently informed.

The traditional train ticket is based on the model distance tariff , which could be determined earlier computationally simple: With the help of route tables or tables, the distance from the start was partly determined over several sections to the destination and then multiplied by the price per kilometer. Today, prices are often no longer so easy to understand because databases in the background work with additional parameters such as a degressive kilometer price (the larger the distance, the lower the kilometer price). The basic principle is often still recognizable. Big advantage of such tickets is the high flexibility for the traveler, bargains are usually not provided.

Today, prices are often set without a fixed rate per kilometer. The companies are more geared to demand and the specific competitive situation. Depending on the specific start and finish, there is a certain price, often as a global pricedesignated. If necessary, certain connections can only be used with a global price, which may also differ between certain trains and traffic days. Or the price is even more flexible and can change in advance. Here, different rail companies get closer and closer to the airlines in their sales concepts. Some offers include additional services such as meals or seat reservation. These offers are rather inflexible, partly tied; but there are quite favorable offers. In times of high demand, such as a holiday in the travel country, comparatively high fares are not excluded for market economy reasons.

Pass rates as the InterRail ticket is a worthwhile alternative if you want to do several longer trips within a certain period. The passes are often designed as tourist offers to foreign visitors and may not be available to the citizens of the destination. In addition to the European InterRail ticket, country-specific passports such as BritRail or Swiss Pass are also offered.

Special Offers (in Germany low prices in Austria SparSchiene called) are usually tied to a Vorkaufsfrist or a specific train provided, so only apply to the booked connection. A seat reservation , if not part of a global price, usually costs extra. Unless it is not excluded anyway, buying tickets on the train is usually the most expensive option.

Flexible tickets are not necessarily valid every train of a route. In a more complex route network several offers with different designations can exist, depending on the Zuggattungen , which in the German-speaking area in the marketing to the customers today productsto be named. If a company wants to have a higher comfort or a shorter journey time of certain trains paid extra, corresponding surcharges for the customers are due. In many countries, however, the number of higher-priced trains in the regular network is low. For the categorization of the train types especially the holding concepts are decisive (from pure metropolitan connections over stays in other larger places and / or at railway nodes to stays at all stops).

Travel Planning

Day times
It may be advisable to avoid morning rush hours in major cities (Monday to Friday, except public holidays, 6am to 9am). (For example, the day tickets for the London Underground and suburban railways are much cheaper outside of the morning and sometimes evening rush hours.) Large items of baggage and bicycles may only be transported with restrictions (no transport at peak times).

At the station
In some countries (such as France and the United Kingdom ) there are platform gates where the ticket is valid.

The ticket should always be kept until leaving the destination station, also to be able to prove entitlement to refunds due to possible delays. In particular, in the case of rail vehicles, where the platforms are considered to be liable to pay, since here the tickets are checked in addition to the controls in the vehicles also leaving the station, this applies, inter alia, for the S-Bahn Hamburg , as well as the subways in Hamburg , Nuremberg , Munich and Vienna .

On board
According to the conditions of carriage of most railway companies, the ticket must be presented at all times. To have this on hand is also recommended on the way to toilets or restaurant cars. Likewise, every passenger should supervise his own luggage.

Trains offer a wide variety of equipment. Some trains offer entertainment systems comparable to those of airlines, Wi-Fi and power outlets. Others offer very little equipment, some do not even offer a toilet.
Train toilets also vary widely in standards, some may not be empty and others may be extremely unhealthy, while others are flawless and very modern.
Store your luggage as much as you can. Do not let them block the driveway or the seats for other passengers. There may be baggage compartments at the ends of cars for larger items, or slots above seats for small bags.
Most trains in developed countries are fairly safe with regard to petty crime. It may not be the case elsewhere and there are always “black sheep”. If in doubt, check that your luggage is kept in sight at all times. If you have your own compartment, lock the door from the inside when you sleep, preferably with your own lock.

Seats on board
If the train is light, simply sit down anywhere (preferably when the seat is stable).
More generally, there will be a few remaining seats. Double (or triple) seats are usually quite difficult to find (although there may be some at the end of the train)
If you are on a train during peak hours, you may find that all seats (if any) are taken. Do your best to find a safe place to stand or squat. Do not use the roof, toilets, luggage racks or space under seats or tables.
Many trains have a first class. This can be affordable in some cases or very expensive in others. You pay (typically) for a wider seat and a less filled compartment. The “benefits” offered to first-class ticket holders are generally quite small (for example, free tea and coffee, better entertainment or newspapers). Only travel first class if you have a ticket or other authorization to do so. In some countries (such as Belgium), pregnant women have access to first class at no additional cost.
If there are seats with reservations and you have a ticket without a reservation, look over the seats as there may be booking information, allowing you to choose a seat without a reservation. If there is no indication system or it does not work, ask staff to help you.
Food on the train
Almost all railways allow you to bring your own food and eat on board. For travelers watching their budget, this is often the best choice.
In some developing countries, people can enter the train for the sole purpose of selling food. It may be sold through the window or on the dock during (short) stops. It is generally cheap but you could risk the tourista (traveler’s diarrhea). In high-income countries, these people are usually employees of the railway company or are officially authorized, but their selection of food and drink is often limited and too expensive.
In most long-distance trains, there is some form of dining car (under various names) offering food ranging from, depending on the train, junk food in the microwave to freshly prepared local specialties. Of course, expect to pay more than comparable food outside a train.
In some trains (usually the “premium” category, ie the first class of high-speed trains), you can have food served at your seat. If it’s included in the price of your ticket, do not expect too much. Sometimes you will have to pay more than in the dining car.

Night trains
Within Europe as well as in Asia and North America travel night trains in the long-distance rail traffic, which mostly about the categories sleeping cars , couchette carsand seat cars. Sleeper berths are mostly divided into 1st class and 2nd class, as well as there are compartments with different numbers of beds, mostly between one and four beds per compartment, in the couchette cars exist in Europe mostly compartments with four or six berths, in car seat compartment cars too six seats each. As a rule, there is only 2nd class in the category couchettes and seat cars. – In general, night trains, also in the categories seat car and couchette cars are subject to reservation. Unlike in the other long-distance railways exist in night trains next to toilets and washrooms, which have sockets and chlorine-free wash water. Sleeper compartments usually have their own washing facilities and toilets and showers in the compartments of the 1st class. The night trains often have a dining car on board, in the categories sleeping car and couchette a breakfast is included, which is served by the train attendants at the place, in order to avoid overcrowding of the dining car arise. In Germany, the Scheiz, Austria and Italy reverses after the dissolution of theCityNightLine the ÖBB-Nightjet . One of the most well-known night railway lines is the Trans-Siberian Railway , which operates in Russia , Mongolia and China .

Night trains are to be distinguished from rail cruises, because even if in these the passengers also travel in sleeping car compartments and the trains have a board restaurant and showers, the night trains are a public transport, which serves the transport of passengers to a specific destination and not a pure holiday which is spent on the train throughout the duration of the holiday.

Many countries offer night trains , which can kill two birds with one stone by combining two of the least exciting activities on a holiday: sleeping and taking a long drive. On certain lines there are also Auto-trains for transporting a vehicle. The places proposed can be:

classic seats, which can be much cheaper, but less comfortable to sleep (although sometimes you can lie on several seats). In this case, you will have less privacy and your business will be less secure.
berths, in compartments of 2 to 6 beds. If this formula is more expensive, it can be economical compared to the price of a hotel room and a train ticket. The best facilities may include sanitary facilities such as a sink or shower.
Night routes can have several disadvantages:

Whether you’re in a classic seat or on a berth, you will not necessarily get the same quality of sleep as in a real bed because of the movements, the small berth and the noise of the train and your companions. trip.
It is not necessarily easy to find a place to take a shower after the trip (which makes you feel fresh while you enjoy your day).
Your departure or arrival time may be in the middle of the night or early in the morning. This is especially true for connections between minor or minor cities along the way and not at the departure or arrival station of the train.
If you plan to visit your destination on the day of arrival, you may also need to find a place to store your luggage for the day , such as an automatic train station locker. Plan money, and pay attention to opening hours.

Keep in mind that trains are an extremely safe means of transportation. The Japanese Shinkansen has not seen a single death in 50 years, just like the French TGV. The last fatal accident of the German high-speed train dates back to 1998, and the causes of this accident have since been resolved. Although it may seem counterintuitive, high-speed trains have a better safety history than “normal” trains. Trains that exceed the standard speed are equipped with continuous cabin signaling that automatically activates the brakes if the driver exceeds the speed limit or if he or she risks passing a red signal. This makes driver accidents much less likely.

That said, there are some ways to improve your personal safety.

All trains have emergency brakes. If you see something that seriously compromises the safety of the train (eg a part of a wheel having pierced the floor), do not hesitate to pull it. While doing so for no reason will usually be fine, if you can show that you had reason to believe that the train was in danger then you will escape.
If something falls on the tracks or if your vehicle stops or breaks down on a railway crossing, have everyone get out of the tracks immediately. If there is one, use the emergency phone at the station or railway crossing to contact the signalman, who will try to stop any approaching train if possible. Only after the signalman has assured you that all trains have been stopped should you try to remove the item or vehicle.
It goes without saying that we must not set foot on the tracks. Especially if the barriers have come down. If you have to cross at a railway crossing, do it quickly, only at the time and place authorized, and look both ways before doing so.
In the unlikely event of an accident, windows are usually a place to escape. In the German ICEs, there is a red dot on the upper part of the window and a small hammer next to it. Hit that point with the hammer to break the window and push it outward. Other trains have a similar system. If employees are present, they should always know how to go out the windows; otherwise, the instructions are usually written near the window or in a safety pamphlet.
Automatic doors can usually be disabled and then opened manually. Again, do not do it for fun because you could be fined. In the case of an accident, there is usually a lever or a button.
If you exit the train after a derailment, especially if you exit through the window, there may be a significant height separating you from the ground. Keep that in mind and look before you jump. In case of fire, a broken leg (or two) is always better than suffocating because of the smoke.
If you jump from the train, beware of catenary that could have fallen on the train. Be careful not to touch the train and the floor at the same time as you may be able to connect the power cables to the ground and receive a 25,000 volt load .
The most important risk factor for the average passenger is delinquency on board and at train stations. In particular, pickpocketing and touching can occur on crowded trains, even if it is not more or less than in other busy situations.

Movement speed
Train speed can be very variable. High-speed trains travel at around 300 km / h on dedicated lines, making rail the fastest mode of travel over long distances. They are actually able to go at even higher speeds if the infrastructure allows it, but for reasons of costs they stay at 320 km / h or less.
Conventional trains can travel at 150-250 km / h in countries with suitable infrastructure, or much slower in others. The same country can have both fast and modern lines, and slower lines.
The general speed limit for conventional speed trains is 160 km / h in much of continental Europe, approximately 200 km / h in Britain and 79 mph ( 127 km / h ) in the United States.
Many countries have pendulum trains (sometimes called Pendolino) with medium to high speeds that can travel faster than normal trains in curves. Some travelers may be nauseated because of the movement of the train. If you are concerned that this is the case, try taking another train.
When crossing large urban agglomerations, trains are generally faster than road transport because lanes are less congested than roads.
The train is usually, but not necessarily, faster than the bus.
If you compare the travel times by train and plane, do not forget to count in your calculations the time to get in and out of the airport. In Europe, most airports are located outside city centers (especially for low-cost airlines, such as Hahn Airport which is 100 km from Frankfurt and is supposed to be connected); this trip can take well over an hour in the wrong cases. Keep in mind that security checks and boarding procedures, if any, usually take longer at airports than in trains.

High speed traffic

On new lines, high-speed trains such as the French TGV, the German ICE 3 and ICE Velaro can now travel at speeds up to 330 km / h. In Germany, only the routes Cologne-Frankfurt and Nuremberg-Ingolstadt are approved for 300 km / h, in France the trains go up to 320 km / h.

Travel times on main routes vary considerably within a country. This depends on the route and the state of completion. Road crossings and conventional signaling systems on the track limit the speed to 160 km / h. Often only 120 km / h are possible on old construction roads, on mountain routes, the maximum speed can also be at only 80 km / h or lower. Only the signal transmission via line conductors or other transmission routes to the driver’s cab and road-crossing free crossings allow the increase to 200 to 230 km / h. New lines are built in such a way that 250 km / h or more are driven on them. Routes with unrestricted level crossings often lower speeds to 60 km / h.

Great Britain
With the East Coast Main Line you can travel 200 km / h in 4 hours 20 minutes from London to Edinburgh . In contrast, there are side lines with 60 km / h cruising speed as the route Blackpool – Leeds . For 135 km you need 2 hours 15 minutes, which corresponds to an average speed of 60.2 km / h.

The French TGV was the first high-speed train in Europe and a modified TGV still holds the speed record for a train on wheels (as opposed to magnetic levitation technology). Although the trains are unbeatably fast and relatively cheap, French centralization means that places can be “suspended” from the rail network on a case-by-case basis for a few minutes. On the other hand, there are some TGV stations on the high-speed line, which in the eyes of customers, the nickname gare de betteraves (= beet station) meet. The French TGVs are as safe as the Japanese Shinkansen; In more than 30 years of operation, there has not been a fatal accident on a high-speed line in regular operation.

Spain was more of a laggard in terms of high-speed trains, which is also related to the Spanish network, which until recently was built entirely in Spanish broad gauge and incompatible with the European standard gauge network. Although the Spanish TALGO ( tren articulado Goicochea Oriol ) solves this problem in principle by umspurbare axes, but decided to build the high-speed lines still for the standard gauge. Since 1992 with Madrid – Sevilla the first route went into operation, enjoys the high-speed system of increasing popularity and especially the Madrid- Barcelona routewas a complete success. Unfortunately, the high-flying plans to connect Madrid to Madrid in less than four hours in just a few years have been significantly reduced by the crisis that hit Spain hard. However, the ticket prices remain reasonable if booked on time.


Since 1964, the “inventors” of the modern high-speed train have been operating one of the fastest, cleanest and most punctual railway systems in the world. Since the Shinkansen (in the English-speaking world also known as bullet train so, (gun) ball-train ‘), there was not a single fatal accident despite frequent earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis. However, the – now privatized – trains are not cheap. Compared to Europe, you have to dig deeper for service and speed.

China has built by far the largest high-speed network in the world in recent years with 13,000 kilometers. On many routes, regular driving with 300 kilometers per hour is scheduled. Some trains, in particular the Velaro models supplied by Siemens, are also approved for higher speeds up to 350 km / h but limited to 300 km / h in daily operation for several years. If you want to travel fast, you have to pay attention to the different train types. The maximum cruising speed of a turn is usually indicated by a letter.

South Korea
The South Korean system is still under development, but is already outnumbering the airlines. After the first route from Seoul to Busan has been a complete success, relieving one of the country’s most congested road corridors, there are already ambitious plans to build one of the country’s most popular holiday destinations by building tunnels or bridges around the nearby islands, especially Jeju Network to connect. There is definitely a need – for some years, the Seoul-Jeju route has been the most flown in the world. The first-generation Korean trains were basically a French TGV, but are now increasingly geared to domestic technology and suppliers.

So far, Taiwan has only one line in the west of the island from Taipei in the north to Kaohsiung in the south, but already has this one line, which traverses the train in just ninety minutes, a huge effect on the travel habits of the Taiwanese. Domestic flights have become much rarer in Taiwan, and now you can often book a train ticket from Taipei to your destination right away.

North America
The train no longer has the major role it once had. Although they remain useful for journeys within many metropolitan areas, intercity trains in the United States and Canada are quite practical in the north-east corridor and the Windsor-Quebec City corridor, and can be used in California and parts of the country. Midwest and southeastern Canada, and are squarely sparse in other parts of the continent. If you prefer to travel by train, this is always possible (depending on where you go), but this usually does not offer speed or convenience. Passes to make multiple trips in the same country are available, but cross-border passes have disappeared. Many stations have no ticket agents, or do not have only for brief periods at the scheduled arrival of the train. In smaller stations without personnel, you may be able to use an ATM, or you may have to buy your ticket on board. You can also buy tickets online or by phone.

Trains still play an important role in parts of the Caribbean. In addition, there are tourist trains in Saint Kitts and Jamaica . Almost all trains on the mainland of Central America have ceased operations and those that still exist provide tourist benefits rather than true transportation for most people. However, talks to revive a few lines or build new ones have only been interrupted by the recent global economic crisis, which may change in the future.

South America
After numerous state railway companies were privatized between 1980 and 1995 and the network of lines was thinned out, South America today experiences a tentative revival in rail traffic. High-speed lines are planned in Brazil , Argentina and Venezuela . However, the traveler still has to settle for a few, often very slow moves.

Ferrocarril Central Andino, the “train of the Andes” from Lima to Huancayo .
The Hiram Bingham train from Cuzco to Machu Picchu .

Rail travel was a dominant form of long-distance travel in Australia until the 1950s. After the Second World War, the popularity of the private car led to the decline of rail and nowadays that of Australia is no longer as the shadow of what he was. Many lines have since been abandoned, and the only remaining suburban lines are those linking the “big four” cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to nearby small towns.

Nowadays, the train trip to Australia is quite expensive and is not fast at all. This is a little less true for the more populated East Coast. Most of the lines were built for freight and passenger transport was only considered after the fact. That said, a train trip from one end of the continent to the other is one of the latest adventures, and even luxurious on comfortable sleeper trains.

In New Zealand, the rise and fall of the train journey has largely followed the same trajectory as in Australia. Today, it is neither common nor fast, with the exception of some suburban lines around Auckland and Wellington, which together account for the lion’s share of rail usage in the country. Nevertheless, a trip on one of the four (yes, that’s the total number for the whole country) long distance lines offer breathtaking views and a way to flow in a style with which road and air transport can not compete. There are a small number of tourist routes whose journey is in itself an attraction.

Source from Wikivoyage