They set out to conquer the peaks, travelling between heaven and earth on their two parallel rails: they are the famous mountain trains. Some have been operating tirelessly for centuries. They transport their passengers across some of the most legendary mountain chains to discover some of the world’s most beautiful peaks. Join Hiking on the Moon, aboard some of these amazing trains!
Travelling through the Himalayan landscape
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Crédits Photos : Stictravel.com
India boasts a wealth of mountain railways which wend their way through mountainous regions, demonstrating remarkable technical expertise. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a testament to the work of the 1930s engineers, was inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 1999. This legendary rail line, known as the “Toy Train,” covers 82 kilometres and 2,000 metres cumulative height difference from Siliguri to Darjeeling. The route has had to adapt to a harsh environment so the train sometimes has to negotiate hairpins bends alternating between moving forwards and backwards. Rock falls mean that there are regular diversions. Today’s train travellers are delighted by these traditional old railways and bowled over by the beauty of the landscape, making for a unique and unforgettable journey.
Conquering the roof of Europe
The Mont-Blanc Tramway
Crédits Photos : Quechua
The Mont Blanc tramway was opened in 1909 and is the highest rack railway in France. It transports hikers and climbers from St Gervais, situated at 2,380 metres above sea level, to the Nid d’Aigle in front of the Bionnassay glacier. Many climbers start their ascent of Mont Blanc from this point, via the normal route, the most popular itinerary. Passengers enjoy a magnificent view of the Aiguilles de Chamonix and the dômes de Miage. The original idea behind this crazy project was to reach the Mont Blanc summit by train, something which was clearly later abandoned!
Conquering the rocky mountains
Crédits Photos : Northerndevelopment.bc.ca
The Rocky Mountaineer, between Vancouver and Calgary, retraces the steps of the early railway pioneers, travelling through the immense rocky mountains of West Canada. Amazing mountains with snow-covered peaks, immense lakes, forests and waterfalls unfold before your very eyes. The Rocky Mountaineer connects with the entire Canadian railway network which means you can travel across the country from the Pacific ocean to the Atlantic – a really incredible journey!
Beyond the Andes Mountain
The Cloud Train
Crédits Photos : Argentine-info.com
This train, believed to be one of the world’s highest, transports you above the clouds, as its name indicates. In fact, at times you’re travelling so high you might be able to spot a bank of clouds under the train track. From Salta (1,187 metres), you can go as far as La Polvorilla Viaduct at 4,220 metres above sea level. This vertiginous journey takes you across more than a dozen viaducts sometimes perched more than 60 metres high, with 21 tunnels and 29 bridges. A great classic journey for travellers in search of thrilling experiences and sublime landscapes!
Let’s go to Zermatt !
Crédits Photos : MySwitzerland
This train is the slowest in the world; it links St Moritz and Zermatt, taking some 7 hours, during which time you can enjoy some exceptional landscapes thanks to its panoramic windows and glass roof. You’ll climb over the 400 m deep Rhine Gorge and cross the Oberalp pass, 2,033 metres above sea level, with a clear view of the Cervin. A journey that mountain lovers will remember for a long time to come!
Exploring la Mer de Glace
Crédits Photos : Compagnie du Mont-Blanc
This rack railway, which was opened in 1909, transports you in complete safety, and within the space of just 20 minutes, to France’s biggest glacier: la Mer de Glace (7 km long and 200 metres deep). The view is exceptional; a tour of the grotte de glace (ice cave), takes visitors into the heart of the glacier where you can learn about the life and culture of the mountain. In summer, you can cross from Montenvers to Plan de l’Aiguille via the Grand Balcon Nord with its unforgettable landscapes – something which will delight hikers.
Find this article on the new magazine Hiking on the Moon #9, “BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH”