4 Great Railway Journeys immortalised in print
- By Chloe Green
- 28th Jun 2012
Epic railway journeys have always sparked great stories. So what could be better than reading these great train books while travelling on the routes that inspired them?
Chance encounters, thrilling mysteries and high-speed chases, writers have always been captivated by the romance of the railway. At the dawn of the industrial revolution, when trains arrived in Europe, they not only altered our landscapes but were symbolic of massive social change. Unsurprisingly this left a mark on the literary landscape too. We’ve put together a list of page-turners inspired by great railway journeys for you to enjoy on your next European train trip…
London to Russia by train and beyond on the Trans-Siberian railway
Where: London – Brussels – Cologne – Moscow – Vladivostok
What to read: Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina
Why: The epic expanses of the Russian landscape stir the soul, so should you find yourself gazing out of a train window into the Siberian wilderness, Anna Karenina is the perfect companion. Persistently making ‘books to read before you die’ lists, it’s a tragic tale with trains featuring as motifs of destruction and doom. This Tolstoy classic is an epic read, spanning many thousands of words, which makes it perfect for a long journey on the Trans-Siberian railway.
How: The Man in Seat 61 once told us that “flying to Moscow to catch the Trans-Siberian is like taking a bus for the first 500 metres of a marathon” and we couldn’t agree more. The Loco2 Engine room and blog are brimming with tips on how to get from London to Russia by train, and we recommend Real Russia to help you book the Trans-Siberian leg of your journey.
England by train
What to read: E. Nesbit – The Railway Children
Why: When three children are forced by mysterious circumstances to move from their London townhouse to a cottage in the country, they become fascinated with the nearby railway. They soon find themselves caught up in solving mysteries and saving a train from disaster. It may have been intended for children, but Nesbit’s image of an idyllic English countryside has endured in the imaginations of adults too. Although not set in a specific part of England, the picturesque backdrop is an amalgamation of Englishness real, and imagined, sure to get you in the mood for discovering the UK by train!
How: If you want an adventure by train near home, there are still a few night trains in operation. Check out the United Kingdom forum in the Engine Room for some ideas, including how to get a Caledonian sleeper bargain berth.
London to Venice on the Venice Simplon Orient Express
Where: London – Venice
What to read: Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express
Why: Perhaps the most famous train journey ever made, no train books list would be complete without this classic. The Orient Express is synonymous with glamour and adventure, thanks in no small part to the grand dame of the mystery novel, Agatha Christie. Follow detective Poirot and a cast of strangers on a masterful whodunnit, with twists and turns that will have you enthralled to the very last page. Many trains through Europe have been called the Orient Express, with destinations including Paris, Budapest, Bucharest, and Istanbul so it’s fair to say this is a book that captures the spirit of European rail travel.
How: The original Orient Express (Strasbourg – Vienna) no longer runs, nor does the Paris – Istanbul train which inspires this book. So instead, reproduce the glitz and the romance by taking the Simplon Orient Express from London to Venice. The price tag alone is to die for, as this luxury train trip will set you back a cool £1600 per passenger!
Ostend to Istanbul by train
Where: Belgium – Belgrade – Vienna – Istanbul
What to read: Graham Greene – Stamboul Train
Why: Nothing lends itself to great railway journeys like a good thriller. And Graham Green’s Stamboul Train is no exception. This lesser known classic, also set on the iconic Orient Express, tells a tale of subterfuge in a time when rail travel across European borders was a real adventure. An exploration of the lives of characters trapped on a journey together, this tense tale of entangled fate and dark humour is fraught with historical and political drama.
How: The Ostend-Vienna Orient Express no longer runs, but there are still trains of the non-luxury variety between Ostend to Vienna and beyond. You can find help and ideas for how to plan your trip in the Further Afield forum in the Engine Room, where Jo asks “What’s the best way to break up a journey from London to Istanbul?”.