In Europe, better and faster trains are the order of the day. In the United States, the good news is that Amtrak apparently is secure for another year. In British Columbia, the poor economy has caused BC Rail to eliminate its passenger service on what once was among North America's most scenic routes. Here are contacts for selected trains around the world. (Note: Some numbers are for U.S.-based sales agents that have exclusive booking contracts with these lines, but most trains can be reserved by your local travel agent.)
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: Embattled and imperiled as it may be, our national rail system is the only way to go if you want to use trains as transportation in the United States; (800) USA-RAIL (872-7245), http://www.amtrak.com.VIA Rail Canada: Our northern neighbor's national rail passenger network is currently in a modest growth mode, with new Renaissance coaches and sleepers entering service. The scenic Vancouver-Toronto Canadian remains the gem; (800) 561-3949, fax (506) 859-3943, http://www.viarail.ca.
Britrail: Source of train service in England, Scotland and Wales; (877) 677-1066, fax (877) 477-1066 (both toll free), 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/Adelaide to Alice Springs) and the Overland (Melbourne to Adelaide); (800) 423-2880 or (310) 643-0044; internationally 011-61-8-8213-4592, fax 011-61-8-8213-4490; http://www.gsr.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. Queensland Rail: In Australia, runs the Sunlander, Kuranda Scenic Railway, more; 011-61-7-3235-1122, http://www.traveltrain.qr.com.auhttp://.
LUXURY AND CRUISE TRAINS
The Acadian Railway Co.: Tours of Northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada, including fall foliage specials; (866) 91-TRAIN (918-7246), fax (281) 866-9222, http://www.acadianrailway.com.
Al Andalus Expreso: "Hotel" train that tours southern Spain; (800) 223-1356, fax (212) 686-0271; or (818) 755-9333, fax (818) 755-0999 (these two agents also book El Transcantábrico, which tours northern Spain); http://www.alandalusexpreso.com.
American Orient Express: Our domestic version of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express now has two trains operating on eight itineraries; (800) 320-4206 or (630) 663-4550, http://www.americanorientexpress.com.
Blue Train: Southern Africa's classic luxury train, recently refurbished and more luxurious than ever, with three routes; 011-27-12-334-8459, fax 011-27-12-334-8464, http://www.bluetrain.co.za.
Montana Rockies Rail Tours: Two-day excursions between Sandpoint, Idaho, and Livingston, Mont., with possible motor coach add-ons to Yellowstone and Glacier national parks, other Rockies highlights; (800) 519-7245 or (208) 265-8618, fax (208) 265-8619, http://www.montanarailtours.com.
Palace on Wheels: Tour India like the maharajahs; (800) 421-5643, fax (818) 990-9762; or (800) 824-6342, fax (212) 753-3956 (U.S. sales agents); http://www.indianpalaceonwheels.com or http://www.indianrail.gov.in.
Rocky Mountaineer: 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, 011-27-12-315-8242, 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, 011-44-131-555-1344, 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 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, and 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.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad: Cousin of Cumbres & Toltec Scenic, 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 to heart of the national park; (800) THE-TRAIN (843-8724), http://www.thetrain.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.wpyr.com.
RAIL TOUR OPERATORS
Rail Travel Center: Offers a variety of rail tours in North America and abroad; (800) 458-5394, fax (802) 387-4350, 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, emphasizing Latin America and steam locomotives; (800) 359-4870, fax (530) 836-1745, 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 or (202) 547-5696, http://www.aaprco.com.
Forsyth Travel Library: Thomas Cook's overseas timetables, 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.