Historical rail lines, trains take riders back in time

By
|
NEW YORK -- You may have heard of Switzerland's Glacier Express or Norway's Flam Railway, but the Continent's historical routes, lesser known than its scenic gems, are a boon for railway buffs.

Here's a look at some historical routes that also guarantee memorable views:

Finland

The Jokioinen Railway's steam locomotive pulls wooden rail cars, built in the 1940s and '50s, over a narrow-gauge track built in 1898. Passengers take an hour-long ride from Humppila to Jokioinen or vice versa for $10, stopping in the town of Minkio to browse through a collection of old Finnish narrow-gauge engines and rolling carriages.

Meanwhile, the Porvoo museum train takes passengers from Helsinki to Porvoo, a coastal town of old painted houses, stone streets and a 15th century stone-and-wood cathedral.

Most passengers return to Helsinki by boat. The trip, which costs about $25, departs every Saturday from June 5 to Aug. 28. Passengers depart Helsinki at 10 a.m., arriving in Porvoo at 11:45 a.m. The return boat trip departs Porvoo at 4:30 p.m. and arrives in Helsinki at 6 p.m. Shorter rides on the train are also available on days other than Saturday.

Finnish Tourist Board
Phone: (800) FIN-INFO or (212) 885-9737
Fax: (212) 885-9710
E-mail: [email protected]

Hungary

Visitors to Budapest often seek to explore the countryside without renting a car. The Mavnosztalga train provides them with the opportunity to see the Danube bend and the northern shore of Lake Balaton from the comfort of a refurbished 1917 locomotive.

The train, used strictly for tourist day trips, was part of the Austro-Hungarian Southern Railway. Seats are available in the "atmospheric" first class or in third class on wooden benches, according to company literature.

Hungarian Tourist Office
Fax: (212) 207-4103
E-mail: [email protected]

Poland

The country's first narrow-gauge rail tracks emerged in 1853; steam engines followed in 1872. Most of these historical routes and trains now carry tourists for half-day excursions. Sample roundtrip routes, which cost about $2 or $3 per person, are:

  • Gniezno to Powidz. The town of Gniezno is filled with historical churches, including the 14th century St. John's Church, an 18th century Baroque monastery and a Gothic Cathedral with a 12th century bronze door. The route ends at Lake Powidzkie, which is surrounded by water-sports facilities.
  • Sochaczew to Wilcze Tulowskie. The train departs from the Museum of Narrow-Gauge Railways in Sochaczew, passing the village of Zelazowa Wola, where composer Fryderyk Chopin was born. Passengers end the journey with a walk through the Kampinos Forest.
  • Polish National Tourist Office
    Phone: (212) 338-9412
    Fax: (212) 338-9283
    E-mail: [email protected]rg
    Web: www.polandtour.org

    Portugal

    The train that runs on regular service between Pinhaou and Porto follows a wine route that has been in use by vineyard owners for more than a century. Traveling through one of Portugal's most scenic valleys, the train makes stops at tiny towns, where the stations are covered by ceramics and, in season, flowers. Passengers will have a view of cabbage gardens, terraced vineyards and undulating hillsides. The route is incorporated into tours of the region run by Pinto Basto Tours in New City, N.Y.

    Pinto Basto Tours
    Phone: (800) 526-8539 or (914) 639-8020

    Comments
    JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI