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Riding the Rails the World Around
Even as Amtrak's future remains unclear, interest in rail travel--particularly luxury and recreational--continues to grow. Here are contacts for selected trains around the world. (Note: Some numbers listed are for U.S.-based travel agents.)
Alaska Railroad: Trains between Fairbanks and Anchorage via Denali National Park; also from Anchorage to Whittier and Seward; (800) 544-0552, fax (907) 265-2323, http://www.akrr.com.
Amtrak: Our national rail system, highlighted by the new high-speed Washington-New York City-Boston Acela Express; (800) USA-RAIL (872-7245), http://www.amtrak.com.
BC Rail: Trains in British Columbia, including the imperiled North Vancouver-Prince George Cariboo Prospector, the luxury Whistler Northwind and the Pacific Starlight dinner train; (800) 663-8238, (604) 984-5505, http://www.bcrail.com/bcrpass.
VIA Rail Canada: Our northern neighbor's equivalent of Amtrak, known for the Canadian, its scenic transcontinental train between Vancouver and Toronto; (800) 561-3949, http://www.viarail.ca.
Britrail: Source of train service in England, Scotland and Wales; (877) 677-1066, fax (877) 477-1066, http://www.britrail.net.
Eurostar: High-speed passenger train linking London, Paris and Brussels; (800) EURO-STAR (387-6782), 011-44-20-7928-5163, http://www.eurostar.com. Or see Rail Europe.
Rail Europe: Source of all European rail passes (including British and Eurostar) as well as schedules, individual tickets and reservations; (888) 4-EURAIL (438-7245), http://www.raileurope.com.
Great Southern Railway: Operator of Australia's coast-to-coast Indian Pacific (Sydney to Perth), the Ghan (Sydney/Melbourne to Alice Springs) and the Overland (Melbourne to Adelaide) trains; (800) 423-2880, (310) 643-0044, fax (310) 643-0032, or internationally 011-61-8-8213-4592, fax 011-61-8-8213-4490, http://www.gsr.com.au.
Queensland Rail: In Australia, runs the Queenslander, Sunlander, Kuranda Scenic Railway, more; 011-61-7-3235-1122, http://www.traveltrain.qr.com.au.
Japan Rail: Four decades of the Shinkansen, or Bullet Train, and more; (310) 618-1181, or through Japan Airlines, (800) 525-3663, http://www.japanrail.com.
LUXURY AND CRUISE TRAINS
The Acadian Railway Co.: Tours of Northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada, including fall foliage specials; (866) 918-7246, http://www.thetraincollection.com.
Al Andalus Expreso: "Hotel" train that tours southern Spain; (800) 223-1356, fax (212) 686-0271, (818) 755-9333, fax (818) 755-0999 (agent also books El Transcantábrico, a vintage train in northern Spain), http://www.alandalusexpreso.com.
American Orient Express: Our domestic version of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express offers eight itineraries, including New England and Quebec, new this fall; (800) 320-4206, http://www.americanorientexpress.com.
Blue Train: Southern Africa's classic luxury train, recently refurbished and posher than ever, with three routes; (800) 768-9020 or internationally 011-27-12-334- 8459, fax 011-27-12-334-8464, http://www.bluetrain.co.za.
Montana Rockies Rail Tours: Two-day excursions from Sandpoint, Idaho, to Livingston, Mont., with possible motor coach add-ons to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, other Rockies highlights; (800) 519-7245, (208) 265-8619, http://www.montanarailtours.com.
Palace on Wheels: Tour India like the maharajas; (800) 421-5643, http://www.indianpalaceonwheels.com or http://www.indianrail.gov.in.
Rocky Mountaineer: Daylight tours between Vancouver and Jasper or Banff/Calgary; (800) 665-7245, http://www.rockymountaineer.com.
Rovos Rail: Luxury rail tours in South Africa with historic coaches, spacious accommodations; (800) 524-7979, http://www.rovos.co.za.
Royal Canadian Pacific: Elegant excursions in the Canadian Rockies with refurbished plush cars once used by railroad execs; (877) 665-3044, http://www.cprtours.com.
Royal Scotsman: Super-luxury, country-house-type experience; (800) 323-7308, http://www.royalscotsman.com.
Sierra Madre Express: Train tours to Mexico's Copper Canyon; (800) 666-0346, http://www.sierramadreexpress.com.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: Besides the London-Paris-Venice VSOE, the company operates the Eastern & Oriental Express through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore; the Great South Pacific Express in Australia; and two day-excursion trains in Great Britain, the British Pullman and the Northern Belle; (800) 524-2420, http://www.orient-express.com.
DAY EXCURSION TRAINS
Algoma Central Railway: Operates Ontario's Agawa Canyon Tour Train, a scenic route from Sault Ste. Marie to northern Ontario, other service; (800) 242-9287, http://www.agawacanyontourtrain.com.
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad: Spectacular steam-powered, narrow-gauge railway in Colorado and New Mexico; (888) CUMBRES (286-2737), http://www.cumbrestoltec.com.
Grand Canyon Railway: From Williams, Ariz., historic train to the heart of national park; (800) THE-TRAIN (843-8724), http://www.thetrain.com.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: Cousin of C&TS, above, a splendid steam-powered ride through Colorado's Animas Canyon; (888) 872-4607, http://www.durangotrain.com.
Napa Valley Wine Train: Probably the best of the "dinner trains," serving fine meals, excellent wines; (800) 427-4124, http://www.winetrain.com.
White Pass & Yukon Route: Diesel and steam round-trip excursions from Skagway, Alaska; (800) 343-7373, http://www.whitepassrailroad.com.RAIL TOUR OPERATORSSociety of International Railway Travelers: Rail tours worldwide, newsletter; (800) 478-4881, http://www.irtsociety.com.
Trains Unlimited, Tours: Adventure rail travel, emphasizing Latin America and steam locomotives; (800) 359-4870, http://www.trainsunlimitedtours.com.
PRIVATE RAILWAY CARS
American Assn. of Private Railway Car Owners: Want to charter a private car for a tour? This is the source; (800) 856-6876, (202) 547-5696, http://www.aaprco.com.
Forsyth Travel Library: Thomas Cook's European and Overseas Time Tables, sold here, are invaluable for serious rail travel abroad. Guidebooks and rail passes also available; (800) 367-7984, http://www.forsyth.com.
National Assn. of Railroad Passengers: Informative newsletter and a chance to be counted as a supporter of passenger rail; (202) 408-8362, http://www.narprail.org.