As has become the norm, rail travelers enter this year regretting some losses but happily anticipating some gains.
In the loss column is the decision by Montana Rockies Rail Tours, operators of the Montana Daylight train, to suspend service for 2005. American Orient Express, which expanded to two trains in 2002, is back to one.
Operating on slightly tighter schedules, Amtrak's high-speed Acela trains between Boston, New York and Washington continue to log more riders, as does Amtrak nationally. Its decision to exit the mail and express business will improve timekeeping on some routes. Recent storms have disrupted service on some lines.
In Canada, passenger trains are set to roll once again on BC Rail's scenic routes in British Columbia, but not until 2006, when Great Canadian Rail Tour Co., operator of the Rocky Mountaineer, will run the Whistler Mountaineer between North Vancouver and Whistler as well as a train from Whistler to Jasper.
Here are contacts for selected trains around the world. (Note: Some numbers are for U.S.-based agents that have booking contracts with the lines, but most trains can be reserved by any travel agent.)
Asia/Australia Great Southern Railway: Operates Australia's Indian Pacific, the Ghan and the Overland. ATS Tours; (800) 423-2880 or (310) 643-0044. Or Rail Australia; 011-61-8-8213-4592, fax 011-61-8-8213-4490, http://www.gsr.com.au .
Queensland Rail: The Sunlander and Outback services in Australia; 011-61-7-3235-1133, http://www.traveltrain.qr.com.au .
Europe Rail Europe: Source of all European rail passes, schedules and tickets; (888) 4-EURAIL (438-7245), http://www.raileurope.com .
North America Alaska Railroad: This summer, the Denali Star between Fairbanks and Anchorage via Denali National Park will offer luxury GoldStar Service in new dome cars; (800) 544-0552, fax (907) 265-2323, http://www.alaskarailroad.com .
Amtrak: (800) USA-RAIL (872-7245), http://www.amtrak.com .
VIA Rail Canada: Silver & Blue Class aboard the scenic west-bound transcontinental Canadian, from Vancouver to Toronto, is one of the world's great rail experiences; (888) 842-7245, http://www.viarail.ca.
Luxury and cruise trains Al Andalus Express: "Hotel" train touring southern Spain, http://www.alandalusexpreso.com ; Marketing Ahead, (800) 223-1356, fax (212) 686-0271; EC Tours, (800) 388-0877 or (818) 755-9333, fax (818) 755-0999, http://www.ectours.com .
American Orient Express: Operates one train on nine itineraries: "Rockies & Sierras," between Denver and San Francisco, is new; (800) 320-4206 or (630) 663-4550, http://www.americanorientexpress.com .
Rocky Mountaineer: Two-day tours between Vancouver and Jasper, and Vancouver and Banff or Calgary, Canada; (800) 665-7245, http://www.rockymountaineer.com .
Rovos Rail: Luxury rail tours in South Africa with historic coaches; for bookings, 011-27-12-315-8242, http://www.rovos.com ; for information, call Warren Green of Kartagener Associates in New York, (800) 524-7979.
Royal Scotsman: Luxury experience, now part of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express; (800) 524-2420, 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 trains, the company's family of trains includes the Eastern & Oriental Express through Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore and two day-excursion trains in Britain; (800) 524-2420, http://www.orientexpress.com .
Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad: Spectacular steam-powered, narrow-gauge rail- way in Colorado and New Mexico; (888) CUMBRES (286-2737), http://www.cumbrestoltec.com .
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: A splendid steam-powered ride through Colorado's Animas Canyon; (888) 872-4607, http://www.durangotrain.com .
Grand Canyon Railway: From Williams, Ariz., historic train into the national park; (800) THE-TRAIN (843-8724), http://www.thetrain.com .
Napa Valley Wine Train: The best "dinner trains"; (800) 427-4124, http://www.winetrain.com .
White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad: Excursions from Skagway, Alaska; (800) 343-7373, http://www.wpyr.com .
Rail tour operators Rail Travel Center: Rail tours in North America and abroad; (800) 458-5394, http://www.railtravelcenter.com .
Society of International Railway Travelers: Rail tours worldwide, newsletter; (800) 478-4881, http://www.irtsociety.com .
Trains Unlimited, Tours: Adventure rail travel focuses on Latin America and steam locomotives; (800) 359-4870, http://www.trainsunlimitedtours.com .
Private railway cars American Assn. of Private Railway Car Owners: The source for chartering a private car; (800) 856-6876 or (202) 547-5696, http://www.aaprco.com .
Information Thomas Cook Publishing: Its overseas timetables are invaluable; http://www.thomascooktimetables.com .
National Assn. of Railroad Passengers: Informative newsletter and a chance to be counted as a supporter of passenger rail; (202) 408-8362, www.narprail.org.