|This year, Australia’s legendary long distance train, The Ghan celebrates 10 years since its inaugural transcontinental journey across Australia.|
|On 1 February 2004, The Ghan train departed the South Australian city of Adelaide for the very first time on its 2,979km crossing through the heart of the country to the Top End. Two days later, the train arrived at the Northern Territory capital of Darwin. To mark the milestone, The Ghan gives us 10 reasons to explore Australia by rail this year:
1. Size matters
When it takes three days, two nights and a staggering 2,797km to complete a rail journey, you know you’re in for an adventure of sizeable proportions
2. Train your palate
More than 1.3 million restaurant-quality dishes are served aboard The Ghan every year. Whether you’re up for grilled saltwater barramundi, pasture-fed pork cutlet with macadamia and sage, Coorong Angus beef medallion or wild lime and coconut tart, it’s on the menu.
3. Half a million tracks made
4. All-inclusive, all year round
Platinum and Gold Service guests on board the Ghan can now enjoy fully regionally-based dining, on-board beverages and fascinating Off Train Excursions at key stops, as standard extras.
5. Prestigious history
While the Ghan has traversed Australia for the past decade, the train itself actually dates back to 1929 when it used to travel between Adelaide and Alice Springs.
6. 40,000 years of history in a day
More than 35,000 guests last year enjoyed the ancient wonders of Katherine Gorge. Marvel at the sheer sandstone cliffs, Aboriginal rock art and cruise the tropical waters where you might even spot a croc!
7. Meet new mates
The on-board Outback Explorer Lounge is open round the clock, where you can enjoy a complimentary beverage or two and meet some new travel companions.
8. Visit a town called Alice
There’s nothing malicious about the quintessential Outback town of Alice Springs, which you can explore with your choice of complimentary Off Train Excursions.
9. Go your own way
Whether you’re up for a backpacking adventure in Red Service, travelling in comfort by yourself or with a partner in Gold Service or immersing yourself in luxury in Platinum Service, there’s on-board accommodation to suit all needs and budget.
10. Early bird specials
Book your Ghan adventure by 30 April 2014 for travel from 1 November 2014 onwards to save 25% off your journey. Prices start from £964 per person for Gold Twin Service with dining, beverages and Off Train Excursions included.
Book your Ghan Adventure now!
Alternatively, take a look at Great Rail Journey’s epic 22 day tour of Australia, which as well as the Ghan journey itself also takes in The Great Barrier Reef, dinner under the stars by Uluru, Sydney and the Blue Mountains, a Barossa Valley wine tour and 4 other scenic railways, including the majestic Kurunda Railway, with return flights from London Heathrow, from £6,075 per person.
10 Ghan facts to go’han about
1. The name and symbol of the Ghan was inspired by the pioneering cameleers (many of them Afghans or as they were widely known, ‘Ghans), who more than 150 years ago first established a permanent trail to the Red Centre.
2. In World War II, the Ghan played a vital role in transporting troops. Each year, The Ghan pays tribute to veterans with its special Anzac Tribute journey between Adelaide to Darwin.
3. From Adelaide to Alice Springs, the Ghan track originally consisted of wooden sleepers. The desert termites dined on the sleepers as quickly as they were laid. Flash flooding also frequently washed the track away so in 1980, the old rail track was abandoned in favour of a new standard gauge line built with concrete sleepers.
4. When the Ghan departed Adelaide for its inaugural journey to Darwin, it was the longest passenger train in Australian history, stretching more than 1km with two locomotives and 43 carriages.
5. The 43 carriages on the first journey to Darwin included four ‘Special Carriages’ – the Chairman’s, Sir Hans Heysen, Sir John Forrest and Prince of Wales carriages.
6. The average weight of The Ghan is 847 tonnes (single – 16 carriages) and 1,344 tonnes (double – 26 carriages), excluding the locomotive. For the inaugural journey to Darwin, the total weight exceeded 2,000 tonnes.
7. Work on the 1,420km line commenced in April 2001 with the eventual cost reaching AU$1.34 billion – AU$741 million from private enterprise and AU$559 million from the government. It remains one of Australia’s largest ever infrastructure projects.
8. When construction was finally completed in January 2004, workers had used 15 million cubic metres of earthworks, 146,000 tonnes of metal rail, 2 million concrete sleepers, 3,500 tonnes of structural steel, 2.8 million tonnes of ballast and built 93 bridges.
9. The average speed of the train is 85km/hour with a maximum speed of 115km/hour.
10. The total length of the journey is 2,979km, which takes 54 hours to complete.
Ever taken a trip on the Ghan train? Tell us how you found it!
Check out our growing selection of luxury train journeys across the globe.
February 13, 2014 by Jools
January 15, 2014 by Jools
Depending on who you believe, the remote Danish picture book island of ærø can either be pronounced as it sounds – as in aerodynamic – or if you’re a stickler for the Danish language, it can sound a bit like a particularly violent sneeze.
But there’s nothing remotely violent about the island itself – whose main claims to fame are being home to the world’s largest solar power plant and seeming to be plucked from the pages of a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale. All woozily angled bungalows and eye-catching doors, brightly painted in pastel shades and wearing the year of their build with pride in iron horseshoes.
We were there for a friend’s wedding and it certainly lends itself well for that purpose. The happy couple had an intimate affair in the end, the distance and expense caused a fair few invitees to drop off – but really getting there is not so hard, if you don’t mind taking a few trains and ferries.
We stopped off first via an overnight stay in Copenhagen, a very calm, pleasant – and surprisingly quiet – capital city, staying at the Hotel Absalon, an unpretentious modern railway hotel just a few minutes walk from the Central Station. Copenhagen wasn’t quite as expensive as we were led to believe either, with a really tasty and ample Smorebord platter for 2 in one of the main squares coming in at just shy of 25 Euros.
We particularly enjoyed strolling around the orderly landscaped gardens of Kongen’s Have, past the scout hut-like cottage buildings and side streets around Nyhaven and taking in the fine esplanade walk past the grand Gefion fountain, the National Gallery and gawping in awe at the people dangling from the ridiculously high rides in Tivoli Gardens.
It’s a city that often makes you crane your neck to the heavens, we didn’t go in, but the Roundtower looked interesting for those with more time. The main thing that struck us about the city was just how quiet and orderly it was. Even during the midweek rush hour, it seldom had the bustle you’d come to expect from a capital city.
Train to Svendborg
Then we trotted off to the station for a 2 train journey to the ferry port of Svendborg. The station, done out in that dense dark brown brickwork beloved of the Danes, is a perfectly pleasant place to dwell, having retained its wooden struts and typical railway architecture.
The Danish trains we rode on were certainly busy (reservations were definitely necessary), but very comfortable, with wide seats and enough luggage space. We didn’t notice a buffet service or car on this short journey. It’s worth noting too that this journey goes via Copenhagen Airport, whose station is handily directly located in the terminal building.
The booking process using the Danish national operator DSB was noticeably smooth and easy – they even allow you to amend your booking up to a day before you travel at no extra charge. You can print your tickets at home, just remember to have your credit or debit card handy to show the inspector. The return 2 hour journey cost around £80 per person, including reservations.
Some 75 minutes later, having past a few water-based windfarms, farmland and the music festival town of Roskilde, we got into Odense. A tight connection there meant there was no time to explore the town, but if the view from the station platform of grim modern architecture is anything to go by we probably didn’t miss too much.
Odense to Svendborg
Our second journey was shorter and on a smaller train where seats were at a premium. Soon enough though we reached Svendborg, which looked quite charming, if a little sleepy. We struggled to find a cafe that was open on a Sunday afternoon, eventually settling for a table in the quirky, piggy bank festooned pub just around the corner from the station. A real local’s place reeking of rich pipe tobacco.
A few minutes walk from the station is the ærø ferry terminal. The crossing takes 75 minutes and a return ticket will set you back around 200 Krone, or £25. You can buy your ticket on board. The jollily painted ferry is a fair size, with plenty of seats on the two lower decks, picnic style benches on the top deck and a basic cafeteria on board. You’ll pass many small islets, populated mainly by seabirds.
The ferry docks at Aeroskobing, one of the island’s three ‘towns’ and the closet it has to a centre. A few minutes walk from the port you’ll find the main street, mostly impossibly pretty houses, a few gift shops, restaurants and ice cream parlours.
There’s a Tourist Info Office, just by the port, plus a cafe (both were shut when we arrived after 5pm) and there’s a Netto supermarket just around the corner for all your essential supplies. The area’s a bit of a building site currently, as a multi-purpose arts centre is being built, but don’t let that put you off, there’s still plenty of natural and architectural eye-candy to feast upon.
We stayed at Villa Bloomberg, up a quiet country lane (also home to the solar plant) a 15-20 minute walk from the port. This former boarding school building was converted into a hostel earlier in the year. It’s wonderfully set with views of the water, windmills and gently rolling fields.
Being a hostel, the accommodation is fairly spartan, but cosy enough with many double rooms and plenty of shared bathrooms with powerful showers. Excellently run by good humoured retired chef Keld, with a little help from his two sisters, you can expect a very friendly, easygoing welcome here and truly superb traditional Danish food served at generous breakfast and dinner sittings.
Our brief stay on the island didn’t allow for too much exploration, but we would recommend dropping into the Pension Vestergade, for afternoon tea. The pension is a gorgeous 18th century cottage built by a wealthy sea captain at a time when the island was effectively independent and allowed tax-free living – and run today by delightful English emigree teacher Susanna.
Her house, with its beautifully rambling wooded garden, is packed from floor to ceiling with books, stuffed animals, object d’arts and curios in every nook and cranny. It really feels more like staying with your eccentric Danish auntie than at the average BnB.
The town museum, which doubled as the registry office for the wedding ceremony, looked like it would be an intriguing spot to while away an hour or so, but mostly the appeal of ærø lies squarely in going for quiet rambles along the calm coast and farmlands.
There is something ever so slightly eerie about ærø , such is its charming remove from ‘civilisation.’ As tourists dragging our cases from the port on arrival we felt more than a little bit conspicuous. I half expected to be chased by one of those giant bubbles that emerged from the sea in the Prisoner. That said, everyone we met was unfailing friendly and welcoming.
Know before you Go
Depending on your time of arrival, it may be worth arranging your transport from the ferry in advance. There is a (free!) bus service on the island but departure times are sporadic and you will probably struggle to find a taxi. Our helpful hosts offered to collect us by car.
More to see around ærø
September 24, 2013 by Kirsty Knaggs
Here at Railway Stays we have a fierce aversion to the horribly hipster fad for ‘pop-up’ everything, and tend to turn our noses up at anything that refers to itself that way. However, we could (quite easily) be persuaded to put such petty peeves aside for the chance to enjoy dinner with Raymond Blanc on board the Northern Belle.
The imaginatively named ‘The Dinner Hosted by Raymond Blanc’ is part of the Orient Express’ new series of pop-up (cough!) dinners, which will see the UK’s most celebrated chefs host evenings on board the Northern Belle and the British Pullman.
The 100 lucky passengers who manage to bag a ticket to the first of these exclusive fine-dining events in November will be treated to champagne and canapés on the platform of Manchester Victoria station before boarding the Northern Belle. This stunning Art Deco luxury train is beautifully furnished, and each carriage is individually styled with ornate marquetry on the walls and mosaics on the floors.
As the journey begins, so will the dining – passengers will be served a seven-course meal created by Raymond Blanc himself, accompanied by champagne and fine wines. When he’s not busy in the kitchen he’ll be passing through the train to chat to his guests, talking about his love of food and sharing the story behind the evening’s menu. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’ll also be onboard entertainment with a musician and magician visiting each table, and a fireworks display part-way through the journey.
If you’re thinking that this would be the perfect evening for a big romantic gesture, you’re going to love this next bit: the Northern Belle will make a stop at Carnforth Station, the filming location for iconic British railway romance Brief Encounter, before heading back to Manchester.
Raymond Blanc is also hosting another dinner later in the month on the British Pullman, this time leaving from London, but at the time of posting there was no further information about the rest of the series or the celebrity chefs involved. Don’t worry though – we’ll keep you posted!
A Dinner Hosted by Raymond Blanc: 2 November, Manchester, from £335pp; 16 November, London, from £495pp.
Category Luxury Train Journeys | Tags: , A Dinner Hosted by Raymond Blanc, Brief Encounter, British Pullman, Carnforth Station, luxury trains, Northern Belle, orient express, Raymond Blanc | No Comments
September 5, 2013 by Jools
Here’s the first in our occasional series of posts, bringing you some lovely luxury train news, you lucky people you.
Behind the Iran Curtain
Gotta spare 15k burning a hole in your pocket? Yep, me too. Great, why not book yourself onto the first ever private train to be allowed into Iran from Europe?
A company called MIR Corporation is behind this private train tour, which departs from Budapest for Tehran this October. The 15-day ‘Jewels of Persia’ tour passes through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey, drinking in several UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Bulgaria’s ancient city of Veliko Tarnovo, the Fairy Chimneys and cave houses of Turkey’s Göreme Valley and the ruins of Persepolis in Iran. Intrepid travellers on these inaugural trips are promised ‘a truly unique route you won’t see on any standard itinerary.’
Can’t say F-f-f–f-Fairer than that
Round the World Train Trip
Still got that urge to splurge? No problemo, quash it with this even more epic Round The World train trip, courtesy of possibly the world’s least stutterer-friendly travel agent Ffestiniog Travel. FT, as you may prefer to call them, are hitting the big 4-0 next year (hey, me too, can I crash the party?) and to celebrate they’re really pushing the boat out, or rather they’re pushing the luxury train out, with their epic 40-day Rail Holidays of the World trip.
For a mere £19,965 of your earth pounds they’ll whizz you across the globe, kicking off with a welcome dinner at the truly excellent Kings Cross St Pancras Renaissance hotel.
This world-whooping journey across the Northern Hemisphere begins in Europe, taking in city visits to Brussels, Frankfurt, Vienna, Budapest and Moscow, followed by 11 days on the privately-owned Tsar’s Gold Luxury train, with lunch in a typical nomadic herdsmen’s settlement, a Mongolian horseback riding show and even a stop in the Gobi Desert.In China you’ll get escorted tours of the Great Wall of China, Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Terracotta Warriors (in Xi’an) and a full day exploring Shanghai. Then they cheat a bit and stick you on a flight to Vancouver, where you’ll get some time to explore this fine, cultural melting pot of a city, before boarding the Rocky Mountaineer for a Gold Leaf service journey to Kamloops.
You’ll get to explore two of Canada’s greatest national parks, Banff and Jasper, before hopping on to Via Rail’s Canadian train, through the famously wide open Prairies, via Saskatoon (which rhymes with balloon) and Winnipeg (which rhymes with boiled egg) to Toronto (which rhymes with pronto or orthodonto.)
Then it’s a case of ‘another day, another train operator’, as you board Amtrak’s Maple Leaf service to New York. The grand rail tour to end all grand rail tours finally reaches its apotheosis with a 3 night stay in the ‘Big Apple, where you’ll get more sightseeing and a lavish Farewell Dinner, just to cushion the blow of your re-entry to the real world, back on Blighty.
Want to book this journey with Ffestiniog Travel? Make sure you quote this reference when you do: Ref: JS1
The humble Cally Sleeper to get the Orient Express treatment?Mere hours after we published our guide to Scotland’s Caledonian Sleeper train we learned of news to give the night train service a bit of a blingy redux, when it gets put out for tender in 2015.Transport Scotland, who will award the 15 year contract, hope that the service will become ‘as iconic as the Orient Express‘, which certainly sounds rather ambitious given its present pedestrian state under the tenure of First Scotrail, but who knows?Could it even come to rival the OE’s Royal Scotsman one fine day? We’ll see. Stranger things have happened at sea and on the rails I suppose.’Will it be mushrooms? Fried onion rings? We’ll have to wait and see.’**And if you get the above obscure ‘cultural reference’ and leave a comment below correctly identifying it, you can win a bumper prize of travel on all of the aforementioned epic train rides!Only joking…
Category Luxury Train Journeys | Tags: , caledonian sleeper, ffestiniog travel, jewels of persia, luxury trains, maple leaf train, orient express, private train Iran, round the world rail trip | 2 Comments
August 29, 2013 by Jools
Few things evoke the golden era of rail travel better than vintage rail posters. If you find yourself hankering after the charming retro artwork of days gone-by, then you’ll probably enjoy these new versions, courtesy of hotel site HRS.
100 years ago George Bradshaw published the world’s first guide to rail travel, Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide, now celebrated by Michael Portillo’s popular BBC TV series Great Railway Journeys, while 50 years before that saw the opening of the London Underground.
In celebration, HRS has commissioned this series of vintage-style railway posters. Depicting some of the world’s greatest trains from the age of steam onwards, these posters pay homage to the original advertisements used to attract rail travellers in the first part of the 20th century.
The boom of our railways sparked major change in Britain, stoking the fires of the industrial revolution and opening up leisure travel to the masses. It wasn’t long before steam locomotion crossed the English Channel and rail services began to spread across Europe.
George Bradshaw first produced his Continental Railway Guide in 1847, publishing Europe’s new railway timetables, but it was the 1913 edition of his guide – an 1100 page tome – which really opened up the continent to British tourists.
As well as timetables, Bradshaw’s guide carried overviews of towns and cities, recommended ‘watering holes’, tips on places to go and to avoid, ticket prices and anything else the intrepid train traveller of the time might need. The guide was updated monthly, from 1847 right up to 1939, when World War II broke out.
The London Underground opened in 1863 with its Paddington to Farringdon line. Whatever your views on the Tube today, there’s no denying that London would be a different city without its subterranean transport network, which aided the city’s expansion over the decades.
A third milestone this year might be the 75th anniversary of the Mallard breaking the world speed steam record, a record which remains unbeaten today.
Sadly the posters are not available for sale just yet, but you can see hundreds like them in the archives (and online) of the National Railway Museum in York.
As a rather sad footnote, earlier this month we learned of the demise of Thomas Cook Publishing, the people behind what is perhaps Bradshaw’s modern-day equivalent – the excellent guide book Europe by Rail and the printed European Rail Timetable, which was until very recently updated monthly.
Like Bradshaw’s, TCP’s rail guides date back to the 19th century, so this really feels like an end of an era for rail information publishing.
Hidden Europe magazine provides a fitting eulogy to the firm in one of their recent Letters from Europe articles.
August 22, 2013 by Kirsty Knaggs
Here at Railway Stays we’re suckers for a romantic rail tale. Here’s a round-up of a few of those that have caught our eye lately.
Tokyo’s marriage carriage
One of Tokyo’s busiest trains will be transformed into a unique wedding venue for one day only. East Japan Railway is offering one lucky couple the chance to get married on board the circular Yamanote Line as it makes its way around the city.
The 11-car train, which is normally packed with around 1,000 commuters, will carry only the bride and groom and up to 120 guests on the big day.
It will stop at all 29 stations during the hour-long journey to give spectators on the platform the chance to enjoy the sight of the quirky wedding, but the doors will stay firmly closed. The ceremony will be held on 14 October 2013, the 141st anniversary of the launch of Japan’s railways.
Prague’s love train
Speed dating has taken on a whole new meaning in Prague. Ropid, the city’s public transport authority, is introducing special ‘singles only’ carriages on its three underground lines. The carriages, which will be sponsored by dating agencies, are part of a campaign to encourage people to ditch their cars and take the train.
But potential partners will have to be quick – the average journey on the underground is just five minutes, which barely leaves time for a lingering eye-meet let alone a full-on flirt. Still, while travelling on the ‘love train’ may not lead to lasting relationships for Prague’s singles, it will at least brighten up their daily commute.
British railway romances
If Brief Encounter is your idea of a perfect love story, get yourself to the National Railway Museum in York. Station Stories is a new permanent exhibition that aims to show how railways have shaped the lives of the Great British public and, unsurprisingly, many of the memories submitted have love at their heart.
Tales of on-board romances sit side-by-side with stories of station rendezvous, and all paint a wonderfully warm picture of old-fashioned courtship and long-lasting love. Take a hanky!
Fancy doing your own railway wedding? We’ve a few ideas for that too.
Category Railway Weddings, Romance of the rails | Tags: , love train, Prague dating on train, railway romance, railway weddings, romance on rails, Ropid Prague, Tokyo train wedding, Yamanote Line | 2 Comments
July 19, 2013 by Jools
Yup, you read that right. It’s those golden words – free rail travel! Always music to our ears that.
The Alaska Railroad is celebrating its 90th birthday in style – by offering entirely free train travel to all other 90 year olds this year!
It certainly looks like a fine old railroad too, taking in glaciers, national parks and maybe even the odd grizzly sighting, if you’re really lucky.
Kudos then to the Alaska Railroad for rewarding seniority like this – it’s just a bummer we’re a good half century too young to take advantage of it ourselves!
Great Birthday Treat for Senior Railfans
So go on folks, why not ‘treat’ your railfan gramps to a birthday ride he won’t forget for a while? After all, he probably doesn’t really ‘get’ the interwebs and so doesn’t need to know it was a freebie does he?
This way you look pretty darn generous, save some cash and he’s happy as Larry with his special birthday surprise – win win!
Call them to get the Free Ride
Quoting their facebook page, the Alaska Railroad says:
‘To celebrate the Alaska Railroad’s 90th anniversary in 2013, we’re giving free rail travel to passengers born during 1923. Book your rail trip now by calling 1-800-544-0552. This offer will be valid for rail travel any time through the end of 2013.’
What about the rest of us?
Well us whippersnappers can come along for the ride too of course, but we have to stump up some cold, hard cash for it. That said, it can still be pretty good value. You could go from around $589 for a 2 day in Adventure Class for their 2 day Real Alaska Tour package. See their site to check out the full range of their rail vacation packages.
Deluxe Alsakan Adventure
For the full deluxe option, you could really push the boat out and plump for their Deluxe Alaskan Sampler. Over 7 days from May 31 – September 5, you can stay in good quality hotels, get behind the wheel of a 4×4, go rafting, dog sledding, take a wildlife tour and enjoy some great train rides to Seward, Girdwood, Anchorage, Fairbanks and Denali. Adventure Class starts at $2,349 per person, double occupancy.
So what are you waiting for, he won’t stick around forever will he? Jump on this one while you can!
And what about your gran, might she want to come too? ‘I dunno, but I’ll ask ‘er’ (sorry!)
Ever taken a trip on the Alsaka Railroad? Tell us how it was by leaving a comment below.
July 6, 2013 by Jools
Entries for this competition has now closed, sorry!
Wimdu offers great value rental accommodation year-round though, so do check out the deals in the widget below.
The good folks over at InterRail have teamed up with the equally spiffing chaps at Wimdu to offer one great train travel competition this summer.
You could win a a pair of Global InterRail passes plus a 1000 euro voucher to spend on rental accommodation with Wimdu! Wimdu offer great quality rental properties in many major cities across Europe.
Having worked with both companies before we’re happy to vouch for their excellence. Last year we stayed on a houseboat in North Amsterdam, courtesy of Wimdu and would heartily recommend that experience.
On the very same trip we traversed a good chunk of central and western Europe using a First Class Global InterRail pass and can recommend that too, especially if you’re not so young as you once were, as indeed we are not. Going first class with InterRail means you get access to better quality, less crowded cars, plus the occasional free snack or newspaper on certain routes too.
We’ve entered the contest ourselves of course, so if you like the sound of our entry please feel free to give us a vote while you’re at it, but be quick about it as voting closes on 18 July.
Our entry is based on this post I wrote last summer – Around the InterRail Map in 40 tracks. A fun – if hectic – way to dot around the wondrous European InterRail map for a song.
You can enter the InterRail and Wimdu competition here on facebook.
And here’s our entry too. (Look for Jools Stone if in doubt.)
We don’t normally go in for these social media voting contests these days but this one just looks too good to pass up.
Thanks and good luck with your entries!
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July 4, 2013 by Jools
Hello and welcome discerning train travellers to Railway Stays, your guide to the world’s best railway hotels, sleeper, luxury and long-haul train rides and railway-themed accommodation!
We aim to make this the last stop you’ll need to make for top-quality hotels and accommodation in, near or inspired by the romance of train travel and hope you enjoy clambering on board soon.
Don’t mind us, we’re busy painting our wagon just now, but be sure to pop back soon for plenty more goodies!
Gotta suggestion for an essential railway hotel or luxe train journey to cover? Just drop us a line below and tell us why it’s special.
Thanks and happy trails on rails!