The world’s coolest train lines

 Some train journeys are, frankly, boring. No-one's going to get too excited by the V/Line to Geelong or the Sydney Airport Line, for example. But elsewhere, train trips can be considerably more arresting. Whether it's staggering scenery or highly distinctive urban settings, these train lines will stop you looking at your phone…

The Bergen Line, Norway

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Intercity trains don't get much more exciting than the journey from Oslo to Bergen. The seven hour trip takes in fields, forests and fjords, but perhaps more importantly, it heads through the mountains, too. The Bergen Line climbs high, often through milky white-out conditions, as it travels along the Hardangerjøkulen glacier. See

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, India

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Photo: Alamy

The steam locomotives are part of the novelty factor on the 46 kilometre Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Tamil Nadu, southern India, but it's the scenery that's the real star. The steepness of the ascent requires a rack and pinion system to work. But 250 bridges and frequently-appearing tunnels assist the climb through tea plantations and rainforest gullies. See

The Loop, Chicago, Illinois


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The L may not be one of the world's most reliable public transport systems, but it's arguably the most visually arresting. Several L – short for elevated train – lines pass through the centre of Chicago, sling-shotting round The Loop. The trains rattle overhead, on lines carried aloft  by support pillars through a forest of elegant skyscrapers. It's no wonder they've featured in a gazillion movies. See

The Linha do Douro, Portugal

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The Linha do Douro largely follows the Douro river through northern Portugal. Starting at the immaculately-tiled São Bento station in Porto, the line passes through lush green scenery, with vineyards climbing the hillsides. It skirts so close to the river that you sometimes feel you're floating, and there's a blizzard of pretty bridges on the way. See


The Glacier Express, Switzerland

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In what is surely the most outrageous use of the word "express", the Glacier Express takes about eight hours to chug its way between the Swiss mountain resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz. The Oberalp Pass and Landwasser Viaduct are the acknowledged highlights, but the day-long journey is a non-stop feast of alpine meadows, gorgeous pocket-sized hamlets and towering peaks as the train slices through the ice. See

The Death Railway, Thailand

in Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand. one time use

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The Death Railway, more politely known as the Thai-Burma Railway, was constructed in brutal conditions in World War II by Japanese prisoners of war. Originally connecting Thailand to Myanmar, the Death Railway now stretches 210 kilometres from Bangkok to Nam Tok. It hugs valley sides on the way through, and crosses trestle bridges. The infamous Bridge Over The River Kwai is at Kanchanaburi. See

The Tokaido Shinkansen Line, Japan


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High speed trains have spread all over the world, but the Japanese Shinkansen are the trailblazers. The original bullet trains cover 515 kilometres in two-and-a-half hours, reaching speeds of up to 285kp/h. If it's a scenic journey you're after, forget it – a lot of the time you're going too fast to take much in. But the cool factor of riding on a pioneering modern marvel – the world's first high speed train line – is immense. See

The Market/ Frankford Line, Philadelphia, USA


Photo: Steve Weinik

This elevated train line would be pretty humdrum were it not for a series of 50 murals emblazoned high on building walls. Together, these quirky murals form a giant love letter. And it turns a train ride through West Philadelphia into a trip through a giant art project. The murals were painted by Philadelphia-born artist Steve Powers and Mural Arts Philadelphia offers tours with commentary. See

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, China

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The world's highest railway pierces its way across the Tibetan Plateau, with long bridges stretching across chilled flood plains and the Himalaya soaring at all angles. The mere existence of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is a huge engineering feat, something that's best appreciated when you cross the Tanggula Pass at 5231m above sea level. The train goes so high that oxygen has to be pumped into the carriages.

The Lake Titicaca Railway, Peru

B0HBGN Andean Railway travelling between Puno at Lake Titicaca

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Lake Titicaca, high up in the Andes, is supposedly the highlight of this ten-and-a-half hour journey from Cusco to Puno. But there's a lot more to it. The mountain peaks rise up, the lake glistens in the sun, and the train itself throws considerable degrees of romance and luxury. Expect 1920s-style Pullman dining cars, musicians on board and lavish afternoon teas. See

David Whitley has been a guest of the Chicago, Philadelphia and Norway tourist boards.

See also: Podcast: On board the world's longest train journey

See also: New Zealand's epic train journey from north to south