The good, bad and the chugly of rail travel

Mimi Wang reminisces on her rail travel adventures from impressive Swiss Alps to an experience on the North East train line.

Mimi Wang
4th November 2019
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Across Europe and beyond, people rely on trains a lot. In the past, the rail was a means of transferring passengers and goods and now, the increasing awareness of environmental ramifications is influencing people ditching flights for train.

Moreover, the rail journey is incredibly scenic. Looking out of the window, resting your head on you arm and leaning against the window is a pleasure. Feeling the rhythmical movement of the train is somehow peaceful.

There are many incredible train journeys across the world from the Trans-Mongolian, weaving through untouched parts of Asia, to the Copper Caynon railway in Mexico, known for being one of the most dramatic railway journeys in the world.

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It is indispensable to mention my experience by rail through the heart of the Swiss Alps on the world-famous Glacier Experience train in Switzerland this April. The classic route was impressive. The trip began and ended in sophisticated mountain towns of Zermatt and St. Moritz. Taking a seat on the  Glacier Express, I enjoyed  the breath-taking scenery and endless skies above the Swiss Alps through the train’s huge panoramic windows, there was so much to see! The eight-hour journey on the Glacier Express toured via various bridges and tunnels that cut thought the dramatic landscape. I was so stunned by their rail technique and wondered how it was built in such a rough topography - one side of the train was a steep cliff, the other side was an edge. Fragmentary houses located in the broad glacier area, their roofs  rather inclined to prevent the houses from being crushed by the weight of the accumulated snow. But still, some had already been buried under the snow, only the roof exposed. People hopped off and  on at different spots to spend some nights in the Alps, most with rosy red cheeks and an alpine glow. Even though it was near the end of the season, many brought ski equipment with them, even very young children.

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As the gentle sun shined upon the snow making it sparkle I was struck by the irresistible beauty of nature  which made me lay rapt with a peaceful mind. Ah, how wonderful this moment was.

The journey was interspersed with an audio guide which offered interesting historical explanations and a catering service. A funny waiter with a moustaches brought the delicious meal that I ordered. It was a pleasure to dine while enjoying the alpine mountains. I noticed a couple brought food on-board to save money with is a good idea.

There was a group of elders sat at the next table. They radiated elegance in a casual but stylish way. After a friendly greeting, we had a brief conversion. They were two couples travelling around the world twice a year after retirement.

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I always find that so many unexpected situations happen on train journey. For example, once on the return journey from Durham to Newcastle the train was held up, caused the train to be stopped still in the tracks for an hour. Passengers became frustrated. A father and his twin sons, who looked like four years old, sat next to me.

‘How long will we need to wait? Papa?’ the twin climbed up and down the chair restlessly. The father simply explained the situation to them and asked them to wait patiently, they ignored him and fought over a toy unicorn. The father kept telling them to stop but with no luck until his phone rang. It was from his wife, the children’s mother, the twins instantly stopped the  naughty behaviour and jumped to the phone, ‘I miss you so much, mommy!'  How lovely and heartwarming it was to witness this.

Travelling on trains is the perfect place to people watch, strike up conversation and let your mind wander, no wonder so many authors say their best ideas came when on  public transport.

Undoubtedly, my rail journey will continue and I hope yours does too.

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