The Best Train Stories
Stories about the Romance of travelling by train
I attribute my love of train travel to my mother. When I was young, shortly after my father passed away she took us on many family holidays to visit friends and relatives in country Australia. I think she wanted to try to make life as "normal" as possible so holidays were at the top of the agenda and in those day trains were the most affordable way to travel.
Most of the journeys we took were between 8-18 hours long and always bought with them much excitement. The trains themselves offered dining cars and sleeping bunks and friendly fellow passengers. Outside the windows were small towns and red dirt, kangaroos running in the distance and train stations that appeared in the middle of nowhere. It was all very very different to the city life I knew.
As an adult I have ridden overnight trains in Germany, Italy, France and Vietnam, some comfortable, some less so but none I would have missed. On this page I plan to introduce you to some books about travelling by train, some classic and some more modern adventures. I hope they encourage you to take your own train journey.
Photo credit: Wilson Adamsvia Wikimedia Commons
"It's my experience that most folk who ride trains could care less where they're going. For them it's the journey itself and the people they meet along the way.
The Great Railway Bazaar - The classic train story
Paul Theroux's journey includes rides on the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, the Mandalay Express, the Trans-Siberian Express. In the mid 1970s he traveled from London to Asia via India discovering food, culture and religions along the way.
The train journey from Hue to Denang - As recommended by Paul Theroux
Sunrise on the Southbound Sleeper - 20 plus train stories from around the world
'An exceptionally well-chosen collection...the book itself amounts to a pleasurable journey...punctuated by pithy, profound anecdotal nuggets.' Time Out '
This book is an anthology of train stories commission by the Telegraph Newspaper in London. Most are about recent trips (2010-2011) although there are some older journeys. From Cuba to Hong Kong and all places in between this collection of stories is a great read for any traveller
Have you ever taken a long train ride?
Last Call For The Dining Car - A great anthology of train stories
These stories, taken from British newspaper The Telegraph include train stories from around the world by a variety of well known travel writers. If you have every thought about taking a train trip the stories here paint a pretty good picture of what it will be like.
Ghost Train To The Eastern Star - Sequel to The Great Railway Bazaar
In 2006, Theroux retraced the tracks of the original 1970's journey this time heading from Europe to Japan. This is a classic of this genre and a must read for anyone who loves the wunderlust of travel.
Paris to the Past
If you are planning an extended trip to Paris you will love this book. Using 25 one day train trips departing from Paris the author explores the history and geography of France. This book made me want to return to Paris and stay for a few months just so I could take these journeys.
Midnight Train to Georgia
The Indian Pacific - The Ultimate Australian endurance train trip
This 3333 kilmotere ride across the breath of Australia will take you from Sydney to Perth in 3 days and passes through some of the most remote country in the world.
The hours and hours of "nothing" can be soothing or hard to endure depending on how you approach it.
I have taken only the first part of this journey from Sydney to Broken Hill, a 20 hour section. I spent most of that time in the club lounge chatting with fellow travellers and taking in the vastness of it all.
Sydney-Perth on the Indian Pacific train
Riding the Iron Rooster - Travelling in China by train
"[A] very funny, beautifully written, wonderfully observant, and deeply insightful description of the vagaries of life and politics in China." -- Conde Nast Traveler
In 1985 Paul Theroux spent more than a year riding trains through China and Tibet just a decade after the Cultural Revolution. He's descriptions of the people he meets are every bit as interesting as the journey itself. Reading this book has put the idea of exploring China by train on my bucket list. If you know very little about China and have an interest in learning more this book is a good place to start. Oh and the book won the 1989 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award so it deserves a read.