I love trains. Well let me be clear. While I spent the significant part of my life jumping on the IRT, BMT, and LIRR in New York City, I’ve always embraced the concept of ease. What’s there not to like? I’m not referring to the pickpockets and disgustingly greasy metal poles which are so slimy you can actually graffiti your initials. And while I recently found out that about every strain of bacteria known to mankind ranging from E coli to staphylococcus (just ask New York Magazine) can be found on said poles, it’s still a convenient system. Tip of the day: just use gloves or tissues.
It’s all about the glory of knowing I will arrive at my destination in a shorter amount of time so it’s no surprise this is my preferred method of travel when in Europe whether taking the London tube and arriving at Charing Cross Station knowing that Trafalgar Square is just minutes away or Paris’ Le Metro nicely color coded and numbered so you can’t possibly get lost. And if you’re in Korea there’s no better way to get from Seoul to Busan than with their high speed (nearly 220mph) and fastidious bullet train.
This leads me to my obsession with luxury travel trains – a pulsating and fast movement against a picturesque background. I’m daydreaming and thinking of classic Hitchcock- Strangers on a Train and North by Northwest; Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and James Bond most notably in From Russia with Love (nobody does a train sequence like 007). The glamour of the 40s and 50s in particular are so clearly etched in my mind as Lauren Bacall and Eva Marie Saint entered their tiny compartments wearing Dior and Nina Ricci travel suits and carrying their gloves and hat boxes in hand. The elegance of seeing their sweeping Valentino gowns bustle and glide their way through narrow corridors as they made their way to the dining car – a magnificent room lit in sparkling crystal, crisp delicate linens, and shiny antique silver illuminated the mystery and glamour of the experience.
While time has gone by, those notable journeys have now become more sophisticated and elegant, but not the feeling. You can still see landscapes and murals that suddenly appear magically on the peripheral canvas that not even an artist can be so quick to capture or brush and I think of the majestic ride sweeping into the night thundering through corridors, valleys and peaks. Imagine the swaying of the cars and the distinguished sounds of the train as it announces its presence night and day.
Luxury train travel has evolved to create a more sophisticated and incredible once in a lifetime experience. With its sheer aptitude to stretch across peaks and landscapes at higher velocity, train travel has created a more convenient way to see more cities and countries in less time. And its amenities have dramatically improved ranging from spacious luxury suites to Michelin Star cuisine artistically draped on Villeroy and Boch dinner plates and champagne bars serving Taittinger and Cristal in Lalique glassware.
With a surge in luxury train travel, it’s not unusual for a group to request a train charter – a private experience to celebrate weddings, birthdays and milestone occasions or quite simply a themed trip – Murder Mystery, James Bond adventure or a Golf and Whiskey outing. I’m thinking of working on a manuscript while enjoying my Gibson Martini just as Cary Grant did in North by Northwest as I gaze out the window making my way through glens and ancient villages in Scotland or maybe I should just take that dogsled trip in the Arctic Circle starting off in Russia courtesy of the Trans-Siberian Express.