October 20, 2022 — Our retired friend EZ loves a great train trip, and hates everything about flying. He resents getting to the airport hours early, parking in a remote lot, shuffling through security lines, worrying that some delay will make him miss your flight – all to have the airline delay or cancel it anyway. So when he visits his grandchildren in Colorado, he takes the EZ way. He took the Shoreline Express to New Haven, where he switched to the Acela to Washington. From there it was the Capitol Limited (with roomette) to Chicago. There he picked up the California Zephyr. He enjoyed everything about that train trip too – resting in his roomette, eating in the dining car, chatting up interesting passengers, and enjoying the view from the observation cars. It takes a little longer, but is so much more pleasurable. BTW, his wife flies out to Colorado!
Many people in retirement are looking for an adventure, and a train ride makes for an exciting one. From around the world, here are 10 of the best train rides you might want to try in retirement. Some are fairly short and not that expensive, while others can go for days and can be quite costly. One advantage that most train rides offer is that you can get off and spend a day or more at as many stops as you would like.
10 Best Retirement Train RIdes
The California Zephyr. This popular, 2 day Amtrak route starts in Chicago, with popular stops in Denver, Grand Junction, Salt Lake City, Provo, Reno, and Sacramento. The trip ends in Emeryville, CA, near San Francisco. The sights of the American west, like the Colorado River and Glenwood Canyon, are hard to beat. On most of these Amtrak routes you can get off and explore, then get back on.
Coast Starlight (Amtrak). This one begins in Seattle and runs along the west coast to Los Angeles. There are roomettes and a dining car. Sights include the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara, and Cascade Mountains.
Pacific Surfliner. One of Amtrak’s most popular routes, this 351 mile route runs from San Luis Obispo to San Diego. You’ll see a lot of the Pacific Ocean as well as California’s agricultural heart. For more about Amtrak rides, you can listen to this audio of 15 cross- country Amtrak ideas.
Trans Canada Adventurer (12 days). Canada Rail has its act together in putting together great train adventures. You can choose from a variety of packages and number of days length. These packages include travel on luxurious trains with bedroom and dining options, plus travel and lodging off the train at key destinations along the way.
Delia Davitt“I went from Vancouver to Jasper, I think it was about 19 hours. Single travelers were in “roomettes”, spaces about the size of a business class airline seat. The toilet stuck out in the middle of the space.”
Highlight destinations include Banff, Lake Louise, Niagara Falls, and Toronto. The Rocky Mountaineer Train travels exclusively by day so you can see the sights, while The Canadian has dining, glass observation, and sleeper cars from another era. The journey has different length versions available, usually starting in Vancouver and ending in Toronto. (For Delia’s more detailed review of this trip and the Orient Express go here).
The Alaska Coastal Classic. Explore Alaska’s wild coast on this 114 mile trip from Anchorage to Seward. You’ll go through the Chugach Mountains and the Turnagain Arm waterway to the scenic Kenai Peninsula, ending up in charming Seward. From there you can explore the Kenai Fjords National Park and see active glaciers. Many consider this to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the world.
Tokaido Shankensen. You haven’t lived until you have taken a Japanese bullet train. The service, which links Japan’s 3 largest metro areas (Tokyo, Khoto, and Nagoya) is impeccable and ultra reliable. Armies of uniformed snack purveyors, conductors, and cleaners attend these spotless trains, bowing to riders as a sign of respect. Each type of worker has a unique and charming uniform. Trains leave every few minutes, reaching speeds of 285 km/hour. Best of all you can combine the rides with package tours, taking in the amazing attractions in Kyoto, Kanazawa, and Hiroshima, etc. along the way.
Switzerland’s Glacier Express. The Glacier Express is a direct train connecting railway stations of the two major mountain resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz via Andermatt in the central Swiss Alps. This is an 8 hour trip and connects some of the most amazing sites in Switzerland.
Machu Picchu by train. Here in Peru you have a choice of two rivals, Inca Rail and PeruRail. Both run from the city of Cusco, World Heritage Site through the village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. The train ride is about 90 minutes through the Sacred Valley, and includes a bus trip at the top to get to Machu Picchu. There are 1 to 5 day packages available.
West Highland Line
The West Highland Line – Scotland. There are a number of terrific train journeys in Scotland, but this one is often thought to be the most scenic rail journey in the world. From Glasgow it heads north through the wilds of the west coast. At times you can see areas that are only visible by train, including parts of Loch Lomond and the amazing Trossachs National Park. For Harry Potter fans, this is the railway that took Harry Potter from Platform 9 and ¾ all the way to Hogwarts.
The Orient Express. Ultra luxurious, The Orient Express was a long-distance passenger train service created in 1883 by the Belgian company Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits, which operated it until 2009.
Delia Davitt“We started in Venice, traveled through the Alps during the night, and arrived in Paris for breakfast. We spent the evening in the lounge car, sipping champagne and listening to the pianist play show tunes.”
Since then The Venice-Simplon Orient Express train, a private venture by Belmond using original CIWL carriages from the 1920s and 1930s, continues to run to and from various destinations in Europe, including the original route from Paris to Istanbul. (For Delia’s more detailed review of the Orient Express go here).
There are plenty of great options for a railroad adventure in your retirement. Why not find one that matches your budget and appetite for adventure, and go rolling along! Please share your railroad adventures in the Comments section below.