If you feel like the travel bug bit you again, then get ready to experience an extraordinary journey through 20 of the world’s most spectacular train routes. Admittedly, some of these less familiar routes look so surreal that they will surely have you falling out of your seat in expectation. But while most of these railroads run across barren fields or lush forests, others are noticeably different because of their unusual location.
Indeed, the nature of their location allows you to enjoy splendid and scenic views of the surroundings. But still, these train journeys are probably not the best idea for the faint-hearted travelers. Gladly, though, they’re perfect for those with a sense of adventure.
Running high up spectacular mountain gorges or steep passes, these train rides are genuinely fantastic for anyone who needs a natural dose of inspiration. But note that if you’re scared of heights, you will probably need to sit comfortably in your seat and avoid looking out the window.
From Argo Gede Train Railroad to the awe-inspiring Glenfinnan Railway, below you’ll find our roundup of the most exciting and dangerous train routes in the world.
Running from Jakarta to Bandung in Indonesia, this jaw-dropping railway is known as Argo-Gede Railroad. Over the years, this particular place has become quite famous for its extremely high route running across this freakish Cikarutug pylon trestle bridge. Only the image of the train powering down the bridge is enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. But, oh well, this is hardly the spookiest part of the story. If you dare to look below into that subtropical valley, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that this train route isn’t for you – and you’ll be right to think so. After all, that bridge is pretty much unfenced, making it quite unsafe even for engineers, let alone random travelers.
Have you ever tried to ride one of those bamboo trains? These atypical and strange routes were built by the French; however, most of them are eventually destroyed once the dreaded Khmer Rouge regime took over the country. Subsequently, Cambodia’s train routes were somehow utilized by its locals. But still, they weren’t at all getting any safer for domestic use. The so-called bamboo trains are basically handmade carts, propelled across the tracks. So you can only imagine the danger if the carts suddenly got stuck in the middle of this Cambodian route. It doesn’t sound like the most exciting and pleasant experience, does it?
This stretch of railroad in Thailand is widely-known as The Death Railway, and there's a good reason for it. If you’ve seen or heard the epic war movie, Bridge on the River Kwai, then you must know what we’re talking about here. But if you haven’t seen it, here is what you should know about this crazy train route. This Death Railway, as it’s fittingly named, is situated in Kanchanaburi Province, bordering Myanmar. It was precisely this track on which over hundreds of POWs lost their lives during its construction, and it happened to be during World War II. The route is, of course, quite scenic, and a bit freakish too.
While some train routes run through lust forests or just below a stunning waterfall, others pass through active volcanoes. Believe it or not, this Japanese Aso Minami train route goes through the country’s most active volcanic area. Of course, there is absolutely no doubt about the technologically-advanced Japanese train system; however, the fact that nobody can ever predict the exact moment of the volcanic eruption will surely make you think twice about riding a train here. Couple that with the lava-burnt forest that borders this exact track, and you’ll probably forget that you ever wanted to explore Japan by train.
Another atypical train route which has gained popularity over the years is this freakish track in Ecuador, known as The Nariz Del Diablo aka The Devil’s Nose. If you’re the timid type of traveler, then you should probably change your travel plans in Ecuador. But if you’re a daredevil, who’s not afraid of train journeys high up in the Andes Mountains, you’ll probably have no problem riding the Devil’s Nose Train Route. All in all, The Nariz Del Diablo sits at a high altitude of about 9,000 ft, so let’s just say that it’s the perfect candidate for the world’s most scenic and dangerous train route.
Unlike some of the other train routes, which are quite extensive, The White Pass and Yukon one is rather narrow. Actually, it’s more of a gauge rail route that links Alaska’s Skagway with Whitehouse Yukon. But the way it does it will surely send cold shivers down your spine. There’s really nothing more chilling than the thought of this railway, running through rugged cliffs which somehow get lost in its shade. This exceptional railroad was constructed in 1898 and was used extensively in the time of the Klondike gold rush. But today, it’s nothing more than just a freakish train route that sure looks fantastic unless you have to travel through it.
When compared to the other train routes, The Kuranda Scenic railroad is certainly at least twice as breathtaking and risky. This oddly beautiful railroad, located in the country’s symbolic Barron Gorge National Park, runs through wooded areas. But at some point, it also passes really close to a bunch of thundering waterfalls which usually spray the entire track with water. But apart from the eye-popping route, The Kuranda Scenic Railroad in Australia is actually recognized as the country’s most beautiful and priceless world heritage rainforest. No wonder why it still makes the headlines around the world.
Constructed in 1914, this unique Pandan Railway Bridge goes upon a super low-level sea bridge that was originally built to connect the island of Rameswaram in Chennai to the southern parts of India. What’s quite interesting about this train route is that it runs across an extended length of track that measures over 2,050 meters. And if by any chance you happen to ride the train through this area, all you’ll ever see out the window is a blue world of an endless sea that just never ends. Indeed, it could be an incredible experience unless the idea of such a journey doesn’t scare the wits out of you.
If you get on the Tren a las Nubes in Argentina, you’ll most likely feel as though you’re running up towards the puffy clouds, not just through some mountainous terrain. But regardless of how extraordinarily beautiful this railroad looks, it has got a pretty annoying habit that includes zigzagging across steep areas, like the one in the above picture. In fact, it took the constructors almost 30 years to finish this particular track, and it was partly due to the dangerous spirals that they had to build as well. Today, this unusual Tren a las Nubes Railroad is undoubtedly more of an airplane ride that runs through clouds before powering down nearby the Chilean border.
Evidently, the USA is undoubtedly filled to the brink with such super narrow-gauge railroads; however, the one that’s considered the most dangerous is known as The Georgetown Loop Railroad, Colorado. Initially, the track was built to help prospectors get to the nearby silver mines. But the reason why it’s thought of as quite risky for train adventures is quite obvious when you take a look at the Devil’s Age Bridge that it passes through. All in all, this happens to be Colorado's most dangerous railroad where the train must move as slowly as possible. After all, nobody knows when the bridge will eventually give way.
Qinghai Tibet Railway is merely the perfect area where altitude sickness hits really hard those who struggle with fears of heights. Riding the Quinghai Tiber Track is not only quite an adventurous experience, but it sure is the loftiest journey on the planet. Before the train gets to its scheduled destination, it reaches over 5,050 meters at Tanggula. For instance, Peru’s Ferrovias Central Railway soars to 4,829 meters at Ticlio Pass, making it the second highest track, followed by Bolivia's Rio Mulatos line, which only boasts about 4,786 meters at Condor. Apparently, Quinhai Tibet Railway’s reign won’t let up anytime soon.
The Funicular Schwyz-Stoos Railway in Switzerland is known as the world’s steepest one soaring to about 44,6 meters. It was designed in such a unique way that it literally flies up the sides of the mountain in the Swiss Alpine resort of Stoos. The estimated speed at which the funicular runs up the side of the hill is 10 meters per second. Indeed, this sure sounds like an eye-popping ride that the travelers can ever get the chance to experience. Although it’s quite hard to think of a reasonable reason as to why this Alpine resort wanted such a steep funicular railway, at least the travelers and tourists in Stoos will probably spread the word about it.
Another impressive train route which certainly deserves our recognition today is the famous Flamsbana Railway in Norway. The track runs for about 13 miles before dropping down almost 3,000 ft from Myrdal right onto the Oslo-Bergen railway. It goes like this until it reaches the port of Flam. Interestingly, this 13-mile stretch was so steeply built that the locomotives that would pass through it had to have at least five braking systems, just in case if something went south. During this long journey from Myrdal to the port, the train goes through dozens of tunnels, some of which are even spiral-shaped. Well, this factor easily turns the Flamsbana in Norway into one of the steepest railways that also gets sprayed by waterfalls, washing over certain areas.
Located in the most southern parts of the Rocky Mountains, The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad operates even in the coldest seasons as it takes passengers on a chilling winter adventure through dozens of trestles, tunnels, and loops before soaring to over 10,000 ft when it reaches its terminus at Antonito, Colorado. Admittedly, this otherwise fantastic train route deserves to be filmed in any high-budget Hollywood blockbuster since it has got the full package to become the favorite new spot of many top movie directors. Indeed, it’s just too surreal to be true, and yet it certainly is.
Another Indian train route that’s probably just as spooky as the previous one is the so-called Kalka-Shimla Railway. Similarly to its doppelganger – the Nilgiri Mountain Railway - Kalka was built to serve a few hill stations in the time of the British Raj in India. Even to this date, Kalka-Shimla is considered an engineering marvel, with lines cutting through jaw-dropping foothills and mountain contours. Realistically, these trains aren't really the definition of ultimate comfort and relaxation - after all, they’re painfully slow - but they’ve got a unique character that’s still worth the look.
Alright, it’s clear that these weird funicular railways weren’t built with the idea to bring much comfort and relaxation to the passengers. Also, these old funiculars– which are indeed really steep –are some of the most popular ones in Valparaiso, Chile.
Just take a single look at them, and you’ll most likely see something familiar in their construction. Actually, the most famous examples in North Devon may also give the creators of the ones in Valparaiso a good run for their money. Anyway, the Valparaiso Funicular Railways look as though they're 300 years old, so travelers should be careful there.
If you really believe that you can handle hair-raising bends and gut-clenching drops, come take an exciting ride on this jaw-dropping train route in South Africa. Actually, this devilish railway can take you through the country’s most picturesque areas before it slows down nearby the stunning Garden Route as if to let you marvel at the country's beauty. Although the entire track is quite stunning, it still doesn’t take away the fact that it’s considered quite risky due to its numerous bends. Because of that, there was also a problem with the line, and the government decided to shut it down for a while until it was all fixed and ready to go again.
At first glance, most markets in Thailand look almost the same; however, there’s one that certainly stands out from the rest – the Maeklong Railway Market. Apparently, the market is known as the Talat Rom Hoop which literally translates as “Market Umbrella Close.”
Weirdly enough, the train goes through the middle of the market at least several times a day. The strangest part, though, comes with the little warning bell that goes off over the speaker system at the market. Well, that doesn’t really sound like the safest train system ever. But unfortunately, this is how it is in some parts of Thailand.
Believe or not, there was only one functioning railroad in Nepal until it was closed down because of the construction of a considerably newer but narrower gauge line. The newer one was completed last year, but it’s still not as modern and safe as most European railway roads. The Nepalese passenger railway runs for about 60 km as it takes passengers from Janakpur in Nepal to Jainagar in India. Apparently, the train route goes really close to the border between the two countries as the line also continues its way to Bijaloura; however, the only problem with this section is that it also passes near a severely damaged bridge, which is certainly not safe for train riders in Nepal.
Bernina Express Switzerland is, without a doubt, one gorgeous track that’s often considered an engineering marvel. It’s so spectacular that it did not have any problem earning a spot on the World Heritage Site List as well. But besides being an impressive view, this Swiss Bernina Express route is also known as the highest rail crossing of the entire Alps – isn’t that quite fantastic? Also, the Bernina Express passes through the beautiful areas of Chur and Tirano. During the warmer seasons, an open carriage lets passengers feel what it’s like to ride the Swiss train through one of the country’s most spectacular but crazy routes. Here, the thrill of barreling through endless tunnels while staring out the window has never been more intense.
References: entertales.com, easyvoyage.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, tielandtothailand.com, wonderslist.com