Romancing the Rails

By Georgette Moger

These ten ultra-luxe train journeys, perfectly timed for the fall and winter seasons, revive the golden age of rail travel.

Compared to the standards of today’s inelegant travel—tedious tarmac delays, precision pours of liquid toiletries, barefoot shuffling into security stations—the old style of rail travel seems impossibly blissful.

Indeed, during the golden era of railways, nearly a century ago, porters went above and beyond, and a trip felt more like a journey toward romance, introspection and enlightenment than a simple means to an end. Back then, travelers departed smartly dressed and always arrived smiling.

Happily, there is a nostalgic new order in luxury rail, thanks to high-end operators that offer enriching cultural adventures, with excursions from Arctic ice fishing to painted-elephant polo. Plus, the onboard experience is a feast for the eyes, from the romantic, dark-wood corridors and carriages restored to Art Deco splendor to bar cars where cocktails flow and a resident jazz band might play into the night.

In the spirit of George Mortimer Pullman—the father of luxury train travel, who invented the sleeper-car beds in the 1860s—here are ten of the most exquisite railway trips in the world, many of which have special departures scheduled for this fall and winter. Some have reinstituted steam engines; others have brought back onboard personal butlers and claw-foot tubs, but all of them revive the art of the fascinating journey.