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The front cover of this beautiful book from Lonely Planet has the title Amazing Train Journeys superimposed on a blue sky above a train snaking its way alongside a river with dense forest stretching away towards stark grey mountains. In one corner it has the words “60 unforgettable rail trips and how to experience them”. Inside, before you reach any of this exciting information, there is a two page colour photograph of New Zealand’s TranzAlpine train traversing a bridge over one of our famed braided rivers. If you, the reader, have been lucky enough to have been on the TranzAlpine rail journey, it may be hard to tear yourself away from this fantastic reminder of your experience. But once you do, you’ll find much more to take your interest and capture your imagination.
The foreword on page 6 notes: ‘There’s something magical about a journey by train. Sometimes the magic is inside – on a train you have room to move and meet people, dine in a restaurant car with white tablecloths, sleep in a private compartment between crisp, clean sheets with the sound of steel wheel swishing on steel rail beneath you. Sometimes the magic is outside, in the landscape the train traverses – an adventure, an experience, an insight into the heart of a nation.’
So onwards in our journey into the photographs, the information of places, animals, people and, most of all, trains and where they take us. Africa and the Middle East is the first stop. Johannesburg to Capetown across the Great Karoo. Then the journey from Andimeshk to Dorud takes the passenger through the mountainous heart of ancient Persia. Further on, the Bernina Express is described as one of the world’s most beautiful rail journeys. A masterpiece of early 20th century engineering, it takes in 55 tunnels and 196 bridges as it travels from Chur in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy.
There are rail journeys from the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania, which includes the aforementioned TranzAlpine as well as the Northern Explorer from Auckland to Wellington. As is usual with this publisher, the details of each journey are replete with information regarding the time involved, the scenery, notes of interest about the history of the train track and country it passes through, and the people one might meet as companions on the journey. The photographs are superb, many of them covering two pages and all in full colour. I can guarantee that many readers will be thinking of saving their pennies and reaching for their passports after reading this book.
Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra
Amazing Train Journeys
by Lonely Planet
Published by Lonely Planet