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Iconic Rail Journeys

Here at Arena Travel we offer journeys on some of the most iconic railways in the whole world. From the Glacier Express, offering breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps, to the Poppyline, showcasing Norfolk's best scenery - there's an unforgettable journey to be had on any of our rail holidays.

GoldenPass Line

iconic Railways - GoldenPass Line

Switzerland

First opened in the year 1905, the GoldenPass Line is one of Switzerland’s most iconic rail routes, passing through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery on its 150km route.

Connecting central Switzerland with Lake Geneva, the entire route passes from Montreux to Lucerne and consists of three different trains – which you will have to hop on and off if you want to undertake the whole journey.

One lovely view follows another, and as you travel past lush green vistas, wooden chalets, cows grazing in flowery meadows and the crystal clear waters of Lake Geneva, you may start to think that the scenery was created specifically for the rail route – but we can assure you, it wasn’t.

The views are enhanced even further by the comfortable, classic Belle Epoque or modern panoramic carriages – which make taking in the views that little bit more special.

Take in Switzerland’s spectacular scenery aboard the GoldenPass Line on our Christmas & New Year Glacier Express Magic and Grand Swiss Railways, train holidays.

Pinzgauer Railway

iconic Railways - Pinzgauer Railway

Austria

The 53km narrow gauge railway connects the Austrian towns of the upper Salzach Valley and travels from Zell am See through the Pinzgau mountains.

Work began constructing the 121 year old Pinzgauer railway in 1896, when emperor Franz Josef agreed work on the rail line could commence, and two years later, the route was complete with the first journey taking place in 1898.

Today the train chugs along at a steady pace of 43mph, transporting around 900,000 passengers a year from Zell am See to one of Austria’s most popular tourist destinations – Krimml Falls.

Enjoy a spectacular journey and top it off with a visit to the stunning Krimml Falls on our Oberammergau Passion Play rail holiday.

Mendola Mountain Funicular

iconic Railways - Mendola Mountain Funicular

Italy

One of Europe’s steepest tracks with an 845 metre incline and a 64% gradient, the 2370 metre long Medola Mountain Pass Funicular is one of the most spectacular rail routes in the world – offering stunning views from the Italian Dolomites as it passes through woodland and mountainous terrain.

After 14 months of nonstop construction, the funicular railway was officially opened on the 3rd October 1903. Today the little train, that transports eager passengers up and down the Dolomites, is thriving, with thousands of visitors clambering aboard each year. Surprisingly however, the train wasn’t always as popular with visitors as it is today.

Due to a low number of passengers, in 1916 the train was assigned to be used only for the purposes of the military and in 1933 it closed altogether.

Thankfully due to a resurgence in tourism after the Second World War and a new desire for adventure – the rail line was reopened in 1988 and after a revamp in 2009 it has not stopped growing in popularity.

See sights you’ve never seen before and travel to the top of the Dolomites on our Little Trains of the Dolomites rail tour

Yellow Train of the Pyrenees

iconic Railways - Yellow Train of the Pyrenees

France & Spain

The Jaune railway, also known as the Yellow Train of the Pyrenees, first took to the tracks in the year 1910 after seven years of hard work.

The gauge railway runs from Villefranche-de-Conflent in Spain to Latour-de-Carol-Enveitg in the French Pyrenees. The route is 63km long and climbs up to a height of 1593m, making Latour-de-Carol-Enveitg the highest train station in Europe.

Its distinct bright yellow carriages are inspired by the yellow colour of the Catalan flag and you have a choice to sit within a closed cabin or trundle along on one of the train’s open cabins – allowing you to fully embrace the scenery.

Another interesting fact about the Jaune railway is that the train itself is electrically powered by hydro electric generators in the River Tet – making it totally environmentally friendly!

The journey is one of stunning scenery, as the train winds its way across viaducts running over steep ravines, meadows of wildflowers and through chasms – exhilarating!

If you’re a lover of old-world charm and spectacular sights then get on board our Little Trains of the Pyrenees rail escape!

Trinucellu

iconic Railways - Trinucellu

Corsica, France

Way back in 1877, the people of Corsica decided that they'd had enough of travelling coast to coast, town to town by donkey or on horseback, and thus the idea to build a gauge railway was born.

It took 22 years and 20,000 labourers to build the single-track railway, which was all laid by hand - and possibly the cause of the distinctive wobble so many tourists and locals have come to love.

The line was finally complete in 1899 and the 232km long network serves 16 stations, with around ten journeys run throughout the day during the summer months, making it very easy to hop on and off and visit different locations across the island.

Even though “the boneshaker”, as it is often nicknamed, loudly clatters over uneven tracks, it is worth the occasional jostling for one of the most scenic train routes in the world.

The journey from Corte to Ajaccio is often said to be the most beautiful routes, with sights including the Vecchio viaduct, engineered by the one and only Gustav Eiffel and the Vizzavona Forest.

A train experience like no other, experience the Trinucellu on our Highlights of Corisca rail holiday.

Glacier Express

iconic Railways - Glacier Express

Switzerland

Don’t be fooled by its name, the Glacier Express is not an ‘express’ train but a journey of discovery through some of Switzerland’s most breathtaking scenery. It is in fact the slowest express train in the world.

Passing over almost 300 bridges and through 91 tunnels, the train travels 291km from St Moritz to Zermatt. Its panoramic windows mean guests travelling aboard can truly embrace the views of the passing alpine meadows, mountain brooks, glacial peaks and sights such as the famous Landwasser Viaduct and the Overalp Pass. With the option to enjoy a delicious three course meal, which is served to you at your seat – surely there’s no better way to see Switzerland than on board the Glacier Express.

The Glacier Express features on four of our Swiss rail tours.

iconic Railways - Snowdon Mountain Railway

Snowdon Mountain Railway

Wales

The Snowdon Mountain Railway began offering journeys from Llanberis, to the summit of Mount Snowdon, in the year 1896. It is a truly unique experience and offers some of the world’s most spectacular views.

The narrow gauge, rack and pinion mountain railway covers 7.53km and it is the only one of its kind available to the public in the UK. It is a 1085m climb to the summit and as the little steam train chugs along up the tracks it offers views of rocky valleys, rolling green hills and an abundance of wildlife to those onboard– before reaching the UK’s highest visitor centre, Hafod Eryri.

See our Snowdon, Portmeirion & Welsh Mountain Steam holiday to find out more

iconic Railways - Centovalli Railway

Centovalli Railway

Italy

Linking the Swiss canton of Locarno with the Italian region of Domodossola, the narrow gauge Centovalli railway offers one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.

Crossing through Italy’s One Hundred Valleys, the journey will take you past glorious countryside, green vistas, tiny hilltop villages and over thrilling viaducts. It is the quickest way to get from Bern in Switzerland to the Italian Lake of Maggiore and has been in operation since 1925.

The Centovalli railway features on our Lake Maggiore & Borromean Islands tour.

iconic Railways - Mont Blanc Express

Mont Blanc Express

France

Over 110 years old, the famous Mont Blanc Express has been travelling from St Gervais Le Fayet in France, all the way through the Chamonix Valley, and on into Martigny in Switzerland since 1908.

The mountain train crosses varied terrains as it travels from the wild Trient Gorge and ascends breath-taking heights as it reaches Chamonix. Travellers will then see waterfalls, shady forests and cosy hilltop villages before reaching the mighty Mont Blanc, Europe's highest peak.

See the mighty Mont Blanc by train on the Lake Annecy and the Mont Blanc Express rail tour.

iconic Railways - Vulkan Express

Vulkan Express

Germany

Taking over an hour to travel just 11 miles, the Vulkan Express is all about sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the ride. Travelling between Brohl and Engeln the line first opened in 1901 but it was forced to close in 1961 due to the dwindling freight services.

Luckily for us though, a group of rail enthusiasts appealed for it to be reopened as a tourist train, and in 1977 the Vulkan Express carried its first load of commercial passengers.

Passing volcanic rock formations and fairytale castles, it’s no surprise that the Vulkan Express remains a firm favorite with tourists to this day.

Check out our Little Trains of the Rhine Valley tour for more on this and other trains in Germany.

iconic Railways - Poppy Line

Poppy Line

UK

First opened in 1887, The Poppy Line, also known as the North Norfolk Railway, is one of England’s most popular rail routes. Each year many people descend on the East coast from all over the country, to enjoy a journey on this scenic heritage railway.

The steam train, with its vintage carriages, offers a 10.5mile round trip, running from Sheringham to Holt. It’s the best way to experience the delightful Norfolk scenery, as poppy fields and wooded hills offer a treat for the eyes. Each train station along the route also provides a unique history lesson and an atmosphere of a bygone age.

Explore Norfolk by rail on our Little Trains of Norfolk rail holiday.