When it comes to magical train journeys, the most impressive are often those that pick a route through the high mountain scenery, and seeing those slopes rising on both sides of the train can make for an awe-inspiring trip. These journeys are often impressive because of their engineering too, using high bridges, tunnels, and cuttings to make the mountain terrain able to accommodate a railway line. These journeys are some of the most impressive that you will experience anywhere in the world, and they are well worth the fare.
Rocky Mountaineer, Canada
This trip covers three different routes that connect the city of Vancouver with Banff and Jasper in the Rockies, and each line takes visitors through some wonderful mountain scenery. The First Passage to the West is the original trip and is considered by many to be the most impressive of all, with the climb through the Kicking Horse pass a stunning journey, with amazing wildlife to be spotted along the way.
Trans-Siberian Express, Russia
This journey is one of the longest train journeys that you can take, covering a distance of thousands of miles, and taking in many different mountain ranges. However, it is particularly worth spending time enjoying the scenery as you travel through the Ural mountains, as it is a lovely green and attractive part of the country.
Bernina Express, Italy & Switzerland
A beautiful trip through some stunning Alpine scenery, this express covers a 90-mile journey from Tirano in Italy to Chur in Switzerland. There are 55 tunnels and 196 bridges along the way, with the superb Landwasser Viaduct being particularly memorable, while the panoramic windows on the train itself allow you to take in as much as possible of this wonderful journey.
Train to the Clouds, Argentina
Departing from Salta in Argentina, this trip is a full day's journey and climbs over three thousand meters on a journey to the Polvorilla Viaduct, and along the way there are 29 wonderful bridge crossings. There are also several zig zags and two spirals to help the line gain height, but it is the wonderful Andean scenery that really takes the breath away as you climb up towards the Chilean border.
Quito to Guayaquil, Ecuador
This line is best known for one particular area that is known as the Devil's Nose, which is a magnificent series of switchbacks where the train has to shunt back and forth to climb a particularly steep area. This line was reopened in 2013 after decades of neglect but is now one of the most popular tourist railways in South America.
The West Highland Line, Scotland
Traveling from Glasgow to the highland ports of Mallaig and Oban, this line takes travelers through the beautiful Scottish scenery, including passing the shores of Loch Lomond. The most famous part of the journey is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which has featured in several of the Harry Potter movies, while 'The Jacobite' is a steam locomotive hauled service for visitors which runs along the line between May and October.
Covering a beautiful area of Tyrol in western Austria, this journey connects the city of Innsbruck with Bludenz and has one of the steepest sections of mainline railway in the world. The Trisanna Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks along the route, which is also where you can see the impressive Weisberg Castle which overlooks the railway.
Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is one of the most famous historical sites in the world, and the railway journey up to the site is one of the most remarkable journeys that you can enjoy. The route takes in some spectacular Andean scenery, and for an extra indulgence, the luxury Hiram Bingham train is the most impressive way to reach the site.
Kalka to Shimla, India
This narrow gauge railway is one of several small railways in India that were built during the colonial period, and this route used to take the British leaders from the hot summer plains up to the cooler air of the mountain station in Shimla. The route crosses several impressive viaducts and rises through lovely mountain scenery.
Snowdon Mountain Railway, Wales
This steam railway travels a route up to the top of the highest mountain in Wales and is a great way to enjoy the scenery without the hard work of having to climb the mountain. The peaks of Snowdonia are truly beautiful, and on a clear day the panorama of mountains there is spectacular.
The Empire Builder, United States
One of the long distance Amtrak services that connects Chicago with the cities of Portland and Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, this train crosses several mountain ranges. The scenery as the train crosses the Rocky Mountains is beautiful, and this area is also a part of Glacier National Park, while closer to the west coast the route travels through the Cascade Mountains which are also very beautiful.
Semmering Bahn, Austria
Known as the first real mountain railway, it was built in the nineteenth century and travels over the Semmering mountain pass, connecting the towns of Gloggnitz and Murzzuschlag. There are 16 viaducts along the route, and the snowcapped mountain views are very impressive.
Chamonix to Mer de Glace, France
This rack and pinion railway only travels a short distance, but rises up from the town of Chamonix, and carries passengers up to the stop at Montenvers, 900 meters up the mountain. The view of the glacier from this spot is impressive, and those with a desire to explore can also visit a glacial cave a short distance away from the train stop.
The Tranzalpine, New Zealand
Crossing the imposing Southern Alps on the South Island of New Zealand, this journey begins in the city of Christchurch and takes an amazing journey through beautiful mountains to the town of Greymouth. The train runs throughout the year, and the route is particularly impressive in the winter when the snow covers the region making for some spectacular scenes.
Glacier Express, Switzerland
Traveling between the Swiss skiing resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz, this beautiful journey is made in carriages with panoramic windows to allow you to really appreciate the sensational scenery along the way. As well as getting a great view of the Matterhorn, this route also crosses the Landwasser Viaduct, which crosses from one mountainside over the valley and directly into a tunnel on the opposite mountainside.
California Zephyr, United States
There are two main mountain ranges that are crossed on this journey that travels from Chicago to San Francisco, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This doubledecker train also has plenty of carriages with panoramic windows to allow you to enjoy the scenery, although it is worth checking that your train does cross these areas during daylight hours.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, India
A route that climbs over 2,000 meters over the course of the 48-mile route, this journey is served by diesel locomotives, although there are tourist trains that run over a part of the route from Darjeeling pulled by steam engines. There are some interesting viaducts and loops where the line gains altitude, and the beautiful mountain scenery here includes some beautiful vistas looking out towards the high Himalayas.
Ffestiniog Railway, Wales
This is another of the beautiful Welsh train journeys that runs on narrow gauge lines and travels from the coastal town of Porthmadog up into Snowdonia. The line is known for the double ended 'Fairlie' locomotives that can operate in both directions, while the views from the route are very picturesque.
Harz Narrow Gauge Railway, Germany
This impressive railway in the old East Germany connects the towns of Wernigerode, Nordhausen, and Quedlinburg in the Harz mountains. The most scenic area is the climb up to the old Soviet listening post known as the Brocken, which really works the steam engines as they climb up to the top.
Bergen Railway, Norway
This seven-hour route connects the town of Bergen with the capital Oslo and is a lovely route that takes in fjords and mountain valleys, while the views out over glaciers are equally impressive. You will often find skiers and snowboarders using the train to get up to the resorts in the north of the country during the season, while a side trip to the Flam Railway is also a good idea if you have the time.