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Train on the Ffestiniog Railway, Wales

Heritage railways (or railroads) are railway operations that are not part of mainstream rail travel.

Oriented mostly towards historical railways, heritage train travel is usually short in length; many of these train operators are attached to museums, associated with heritage of a region or location. In many cases, heritage railways are the last bastion of working steam locomotives in their respective countries.

Railways spread across most continents in the 19th and early 20th century, as the backbone of the Industrial Revolution, and heritage railways are an integral part of industrial tourism.

Some countries and operators take their role seriously to the point of generous funding, facilities and operational concessions to heritage railways.

Always check in advance as to operating times and seasons, as smaller museums and steam travel in many countries are severely restricted seasonal operations. Many of these lines are run by volunteers or staffed by summer students, leading to annual, seasonal changes of their days of operation. Not all countries provide English as a language for tourist railway information.

Understand[edit]

Fireman duties on the Jokioinen small gauge railway, Finland

In most countries, railways have been built by a mixture of private and public capital and have been subject to various amounts of government oversight and regulation. In the UK for instance, every new railway had to get parliamentary approval, even if it did not plan to spend a single shilling of public money. While state actors often took political or military considerations into account, leading to lines that were not designed either to minimize construction costs or to maximize revenue, private operators usually tried for one or both. Beginning in the 1830s, there were several "railway manias" in which lines were built that had no chance of ever meeting the ridership required to deliver the promised return on shares. While a great many fortunes were lost, the lines were - if built - still able to return an operating profit and thus mostly remained in service until the advent of the automobile.

However, once the railways got competition from cars and buses and later from aviation, the writing was on the wall for many of those marginal lines. Some had never carried all that many passengers or freight and private operators could not turn a profit on them let alone pay interest on investment. Some were taken over by state actors and starting in the 1960s and 1970s countries in the East Bloc actually maintained railways that would have been shut down in the West as a means to cut down on foreign oil consumption and save hard currency, but in almost all of the west, railways were shut down, services replaced with buses and lines converted to other uses - often bike paths, but sometimes - in an almost symbolic twist of fate - roads. A small few of those lines however, were taken over by enthusiasts - sometimes with active help, sometimes with tacit approval, sometimes in spite of outright hostility of former owners and state authorities - who started running steam engines (original to the line or brought in from elsewhere) for both their own enjoyment and for tourists.

While many countries in Latin America had sparse networks to begin with, shutdowns and economic woes have left some entirely without a modern railway network and even where tracks still exist, there is nothing approaching modern mainline passenger rail. Unfortunately, there was little interest and capital to preserve former mainline railways upon their shutdown and thus many lines - even some that represent engineering marvels on par with the great alpine crossings - have laid dormant or been abandoned and left to other uses for decades. Even some nominal "state railways" in these countries are more aptly called heritage railways or at least tourist railways. However, with a slow but steady resurgence of rail in many countries, some lines are actually being restored or converted from heritage to mainline service with even tenuous signs of ambitious new construction.

In some countries regulations were different for lines of the (local) standard gauge versus lines in narrow gauge and thus marginal lines were built in narrow gauge to cut costs. Narrow gauge lines were rarely modernized and even if they still functioned as "regular" lines after the advent of the automobile, investments like electrification or dieselization rarely occurred (Swiss narrow gauge railways are one big exception to this rule), preserving them in an outdated but often touristically attractive state. This often coincided with the first voices clamoring for preservation of lines that did not have a business case for them any more. In Britain a huge part of the network was shut down in one fell swoop in the 1960s (the "Beeching cuts" or "Beeching Axe"), but locomotives and cars were not immediately scrapped thus enabling many heritage lines to start out with decent equipment that has often been maintained in near original condition to this day.

Asia[edit]

Japan[edit]

  • There are almost 2 dozen steam locomotives in daily use. While technically part of the national public transport network and can be used for normal commuting, they are mostly used for tourist purposes.

Europe[edit]

At the Tramway historique Lobbes-Thuin (ASVi)

Belgium[edit]

Steam (vapeur in French, stoom in Dutch):

  • 1 Chemin de Fer à Vapeur des 3 Vallées (CFV3V), Chaussée de Givet, Mariembourg, Couvin, Namur. This steam tourist railway operates over a 14 km (8.7 mi) standard gauge line between Mariembourg and Treignes at the French border. On some days, autorails (rail buses) operate instead of steam trains. Chemin de Fer à vapeur des Trois Vallées on Wikipedia
  • 2 Stoomtrein Maldegem-Eeklo (Stoomcentrum Maldegem), Stationsplein, Maldegem, East Flanders. Both steam and diesel trains operate over a 10 km (6.2 mi) standard gauge line or a 1.2 km (0.75 mi) narrow gauge (600mm) line. Stoomcentrum Maldegem on Wikipedia

Trams:

  • 3 Tram Museum (Museum of Urban Transport Brussels), 364 Avenue de Tervuren, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre (From Montgomery station on metroline 1B, take Tram 39 (dir. Ban Eik) or 44 (dir. Tervuren) to tram stop "Musée du Tram/Trammuseum".), +32 2 515-3108. Sa Su and holidays 13:00-17:00 from the first weekend of April until the first weekend of October. The museum runs old trams to one of Brussels suburbs, Tervuren, through a very nice wooded area. The trip is especially pleasant on a sunny day. Brussels Tram Museum (Q609692) on Wikidata Brussels Tram Museum on Wikipedia
  • 4 Tramway des grottes de Han, Rue Joseph Lamotte, Han-sur-Lesse, +32 84 37 72 13. The diesel tram line runs from the village of Han-sur-Lesse to the tourist attraction of the caves: Grottes de Han. Former Vicinal diesel trams operate on a 2 km (1.2 mi), metre-gauge line, and often pull up to 3 trailers some of which may be open cars. Caves of Han-sur-Lesse on Wikipedia
  • 5 Tramway historique Lobbes-Thuin (ASVi museum), Thuin. The museum consists of two metre-gauge lines, one for electric trams and another for diesel trams. All trams came from the now largely defunct interurban tram network called the Vicinal in French or buurttram in Dutch. ASVi museum (Q1514279) on Wikidata ASVi museum on Wikipedia
  • 6 Tramway Touristique de l'Aisne, Rue du Pont-d'Erezée 1a, Érezée, +32 86 47 72 69. Sa 14:00-16:00, reservation required. Former Vicinal diesel trams operate on a 11 km (6.8 mi), metric-gauge line. Tramway Touristique de l'Aisne on Wikipedia
  • 7 TTO Noordsee, Loskaai 15, De Panne, West Flanders, +32 497 38 41 93. This museum schedules periodic excursions along the Kusttram using vintage trams.

Denmark[edit]

  • 8 Skjoldenæsholm Tram Museum (Sporvejsmuseet Skjoldenæsholm), Jystrup, Zealand (located 65 km (40 mi) south-west of Copenhagen, between Ringsted and Roskilde). The museum has two tramways. A 300 m (980 ft) metre gauge tramway is used for rolling stock from Aarhus, Flensburg and Basel. An approximately 1.5 km (0.93 mi) standard gauge tramway is used for trams from Copenhagen, Odense, Malmö, Oslo, Prague, Düsseldorf, Rostock, Hamburg, den Haag, Oslo and Melbourne. Skjoldenæsholm Tram Museum on Wikipedia

Finland[edit]

Diesel train at a crossing/stop, Jokionen heritage railway
  • Steam locomotives were kept until the 1990s as a reserve for the case of oil imports being affected by a crisis (Finland had a long border with the USSR during the cold war and delicate relationships with both sides). Thus there was ample rolling stock left when the historical interest was awakened. The Finnish Railway Museum is in Hyvinkää (founded already in 1898) and among the cars on display are three cars of the Finnish train of the Russian emperor and the car of the president of Finland, while the oldest locomotive is from 1868. A few tours are made in summer on the mainline railways. There is a 1:8 railway on the museum premises.
  • A real heritage railway is the narrow gauge one from Humppila on the Turku–Tampere railway to Jokioinen, with a museum, like the railway run by enthusiasts volunteers.

France[edit]

  • Venice Simplon Orient Express. The Orient Express sleeper train cars of the 1920s and 1930s era have been placed back into service as the "Venice Simplon Orient Express", a seasonal tourist train. Only one run annually (in each direction) makes the full Paris-Istanbul trip; others run from Paris (or London) to Venice. While luxurious, this train is expensive and slower than the multiple modern trains required to complete the same route.
  • 9 Train de l'Ardèche (Chemin de fer du Vivarais), Tournon Saint Jean de Muzols. This 52 km (32 mi) metric-gauge rail line operates steam trains and autorails (rail buses) through the very scenic gorges de l'Ardèche. Chemin de fer du Vivarais on Wikipedia

Germany[edit]

Heritage railways in Germany

The following are the heritage railways in Germany arranged by German state (Bundesland). A few still serve public transportation functions but are included due to their quaintness.

Bavaria[edit]

  • 10 Chiemsee-Bahn, Bahnhof, Prien am Chiemsee. Chiemsee-Bahn is a 2 km (1.2 mi), metre gauge, steam tramway linking Prien am Chiemsee railway station to the wharf on Chiemsee. Using tram engines, it is the oldest continuously operated steam tramway in regular operation. Chiemsee-Bahn on Wikipedia

Baden-Württemberg[edit]

  • 11 Härtsfeld-Museumsbahn, Dischinger Str. 11, Neresheim, +49 7326 5755. Once abandoned and now restored by enthusiasts, this metre-gauge railway operates stream trains and diesel motor cars through rustic areas. It operates on the first Sunday of each month from May to October, plus on other scheduled event days. :DE:Härtsfeldbahn on Wikipedia
  • 12 World of Trams Stuttgart (Straßenbahnmuseum Stuttgart), Veielbrunnenweg 3, Stuttgart, +49 711 78857770. W-Th 10:00-16:00 museum only, Su 10:00-18:00 museum & rides. The museum houses 36 historic tram vehicles in its 1929 depot, and offers tram rides on Sundays on metre-gauge, museum tram route 23 with a panoramic portion having an 8.5% maximum grade. :DE:Stuttgarter Historische Straßenbahnen on Wikipedia

Brandenburg[edit]

  • 13 Woltersdorfer Straßenbahn, Rahnsdorf S-Bahn station, Berlin (connects with  S3  at Rahnsdorf). This quaint tram operation uses small, antiquated trams built between 1957 and 1961. For special ocasions, it uses even older trams. The line is 5.6 km (3.5 mi) long and operates daily as it is still a public transit service. The tramway is line 87 in the VBB fare system, and VBB tickets valid in zone C can be used on the tramway. Woltersdorf Tramway on Wikipedia

Franconian Switzerland[edit]

  • 14 Dampfbahn Fränkische Schweiz (Museumsbahn Ebermannstadt – Behringersmühle), Bahnhofsplatz, Ebermannstadt. The 16 km (9.9 mi), standard-gauge scenic railway from Ebermannstadt to Behringersmühle operates steam and diesel locomotives pulling restored passenger coaches. Ebermannstadt is served by regular trains from Forchheim. Dampfbahn Fränkische Schweiz on Wikipedia

Hesse[edit]

  • 15 Der Feurige Elias, Marktplatz, Darmstadt (east side of Schlossmuseum). Der Feurige Elias (The Fiery Elias) is a steam-powered train that runs through the streets of Darmstadt on the tracks of the Darmstadt tram system. (Before electrification, many tram systems used steam locomotives of which Elias is one of the survivors.) Elias makes 3 round trips on most Sundays in September. The September trips are to Griesheim from a downtown location beside the Schlossmuseum near Marktplatz. Consult the web site for dates, times and changes in itinerary. Adults €4.50, Child €2, Family of 5 (2 adults, 3 children) €9. Double price for a return trip..

Lower Saxony[edit]

The following two rail operations are on the East Frisian islands:

  • 17 Museums-Pferdebahn (Horsecar line), Spiekeroog. The Pferdebahn is a horse-drawn tram running on rails through scenic landscape. Spiekeroog horsetram (Q2309987) on Wikidata
  • 18 Wangerooger Inselbahn (Wangerooge Island Railway), Wangerooge. This is the only narrow gauge railway operated today by Deutsche Bahn. The metre-gauge line is 6 km (3.7 mi) long and uses small diesel locomotives to haul trains at a speed not exceeding 20 km/h (12 mph). The line has a heritage railway feel even though it still serves as public transportation. Wangerooge Island Railway on Wikipedia

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania[edit]

  • 19 Molli-Bahn (Mecklenburgische Bäderbahn Molli), Bahnhof, Bad Doberan. This narrow-gauge (900 mm), steam-powered railway operates over a 15.4 km (9.6 mi) line, part of which runs along the main street of Bad Doberan like a tram line. Molli railway on Wikipedia

North Rhine-Westphalia[edit]

  • 20 Bergische Museumbahnen, Kohlfurth, Wuppertal. The museum has acquired over 30 trams from various operators, 10 of which are in operating condition. The museum provides rides over its 2.8 km (1.7 mi), metre gauge line that runs through a wooded area. Bergische Museumbahnen on Wikipedia

Saxony[edit]

Historically Saxony was a bastion of narrow gauge railways and while most were shut down or regauged, some survive as heritage railways. Most of the surviving railways go through beautiful landscapes in the Saxon Ore Mountains and primarily serve touristic purposes nowadays.

  • 21 Fichtelbergbahn (Fichtelberg railway), Oberwiesenthal, Saxon Ore Mountains. This narrow-gauge (750 mm), steam-hauled heritage railway runs 17 km (11 mi) between Cranzahl and Oberwiesenthal. Fichtelberg railway on Wikipedia
  • 22 Lößnitzgrundbahn (Radebeul–Radeburg railway), Radebeul (near Dresden). This narrow-gauge (750 mm), steam-hauled heritage railway runs 16 km (9.9 mi) between Radeburg and Moritzburg. Moritzburg has a Schloss, the town's major draw for tourists. Lößnitzgrundbahn on Wikipedia
  • 23 Preßnitztalbahn (Pressnitz Valley Railway), Jöhstadt (near Chemnitz). This steam-operated, narrow-gauge (750 mm) line is 8 km (5.0 mi) long, and operates between Jöhstadt and Steinbach bei Jöhstadt. Pressnitz Valley Railway on Wikipedia

Trams:

  • 24 Kirnitzschtalbahn (Kirnitzschtal tramway), Bad Schandau. This metre-gauge line uses trams built between 1925 and 1968. It connects Bad Schandau to the Lichtenhain Waterfall, a distance of 8 km (5.0 mi), and runs along the side of a road through a rustic forest. The tram line is a tourist-oriented public transit service. Depending on your definition, this makes Bad Schandau the smallest German city with its own tramway, as opposed to other villages which are served by the tram of a nearby city. Kirnitzschtal tramway on Wikipedia

Saxony-Anhalt[edit]

  • 25 Naumburger Straßenbahn, Naumburg. At only 2.5 km (1.6 mi) long, this metre-gauge line is the smallest urban tramway in Germany, and one of the smallest in Europe. Unlike most heritage railways, this tram line offers daily service with a 30-minute frequency. Trams in Naumburg (Saale) (Q876113) on Wikidata Trams in Naumburg (Saale) on Wikipedia

Thuringia[edit]

  • 26 Harzquerbahn (Harz Railway), Nordhausen. The Harz contains Europe's largest steam railway, running on 60.5 km (37.6 mi) of metric-gauge track. As a matter of fact it has expanded in the 21st century, acquiring and regauging disused tracks from Deutsche Bahn. Harz Railway on Wikipedia

Ireland[edit]

  • 27 Lartigue Monorail and Museum, John B. Keane Rd, Listowel, County Kerry, +3536824393. The museum operates a replica of a monorail that ran from 1888 to 1924. The replica uses a diesel locomotive disguised to resemble one of the original monorail steam locomotives. Train rides are provided along 1-kilometre (0.6 mi) of monorail track. Lartigue Monorail on Wikipedia

Latvia[edit]

The "Marisa" locomotive of the Alūksne–Gulbene narrow gauge railway, Latvia

Luxembourg[edit]

Most of Luxembourg's heritage railways can be found in the Land of the Red Rocks. Here you will find the following:

  • Musée National des Mines de Fer Luxembourgeoises in Rumelange features a ride on a narrow-gauge railway into the mines, along with a tour of the mines.
  • In Fond de Gras is a station that only services heritage trains to Pétange and Lasauvage, the latter of which is a town focused on telling its history to those that visit.

Netherlands[edit]

See also: Rail travel in the Netherlands

Poland[edit]

Romania[edit]

Sweden[edit]

  • Inlandsbanan Kristinehamn––Mora–Östersund–Gällivare (1,363 km, two days)

Switzerland[edit]

See also: Rail travel in Switzerland

As Switzerland has shut down very few railways, there are few "heritage railways" in the usual sense, but there are several rail lines which in addition to their role in regular transport serve a touristic role and are an attraction in themselves.

  • 28 Chemin de fer Blonay-Chamby, Place de la Gare, Blonay (near Vevey and Montreux), +41 21 943 21 21. The country's most significant heritage railway line, the Chemin de fer Blonay-Chamby operates both steam and vintage electric trains on a metre-gauge line. Blonay–Chamby museum railway on Wikipedia
  • 29 Musée du tram (L’Association Neuchâteloise des Amis du Tramway (ANAT)), Chemin des Isles 33, Boudry (west of Areuse Littorail tram stop), +41 78 628 77 10. On one Sunday afternoon for each month in summer, the tram museum operates free rides on historic trams between Neuchâtel and Boudry. Trams in Neuchâtel on Wikipedia
  • 30 Dampfbahn-Verein Zürcher Oberland (Steam Train Society Zürcher Oberland DVZO), Bahnhofstrasse, Bauma. The museum line operates steam trains every first and third Sunday each month May to August. The flyer also indicates weekend (Friday-Sunday) trains in September to mid-October. Hinwil is another town where trains can be boarded. Dampfbahn-Verein Zürcher Oberland on Wikipedia
  • 31 Furka Steam Railway (Dampfbahn Furka-Bergstrecke (DFB)). This railway became redundant when the Furka Base Tunnel opened in the early 1980s. Its operation was - and continues to be - a major feat of human effort, as all the electrification equipment has to be removed each autumn and lugged up the mountains again each spring to protect it from snow and ice. These days, the railway is largely run by volunteers and it is one of the highest railways in Europe. Furka Cogwheel Steam Railway (Q666898) on Wikidata Furka Steam Railway on Wikipedia

United Kingdom[edit]

A publication called Railways Restored, published by Ian Allen, contains detailed listings for a number of heritage railways in the UK, some of the more prominent lines are listed below:

England[edit]

All standard gauge unless otherwise stated.

Scotland[edit]

All standard gauge unless stated.

Wales[edit]

Ffestiniog DLG BF.JPG

All narrow gauge unless stated.

North America[edit]

See also Tourist trains#Historic and museum trains, Rail travel in Canada and Rail travel in the United States.

Canada[edit]

British Columbia[edit]

Alberta[edit]

  • 35 Alberta Railway Museum, 24215 34 St NW. Weekends from Victoria Day to Labour Day. The collection of railway equipment and buildings contains locomotives from the Canadian National Railways (CNR) and Northern Alberta Railways (NAR). Trains operate only on holiday weekends in summer. Alberta Railway Museum on Wikipedia
  • 36 Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton/South. Fort Edmonton Park is a historical theme park that operates a steam train line and a streetcar line. The streetcar line goes through the middle of two streets in the park. Both lines use vintage equipment. Fort Edmonton Park (Q5471114) on Wikidata Fort Edmonton Park on Wikipedia
  • 37 High Level Bridge Streetcar, Edmonton. Summer service mostly in the afternoon. Vintage streetcars operate over the pictoresque North Saskatchewan River valley via the High Level Bridge. The line provides tourists with a direct link between the Alberta Legislature and Old Strathcona. Inexpensive fare. High Level Bridge Streetcar (Q5755833) on Wikidata High Level Bridge Streetcar on Wikipedia
  • 38 Heritage Park Historical Village, Calgary. Heritage Park is a historical theme park that operates a steam train line within the park. There is also a streetcar line to act as a shuttle between parking lots and the park entrance. The steam line uses vintage equipment and operates whenever the park is open. The streetcar line uses replica trams and might not operate every day. Heritage Park Historical Village (Q3891105) on Wikidata Heritage Park Historical Village on Wikipedia

Ontario[edit]

South Simcoe Railway

Quebec[edit]

  • 44 Exporail (Canadian Railway Museum), 110, rue Saint-Pierre, Saint-Constant (Brossard), +1 450-632-2410. Historical trains, train & streetcar rides, an old station and other historical exhibits. An interesting introduction to Canadian railway history. Cafe offering basic lunches.

United States of America[edit]

South America[edit]

Argentina[edit]

  • 45 Association of Friends of the Tramway (Asociación Amigos del Tranvía), Taller Polvorin, Emilio Mitre 500, Buenos Aires. The museum has a collection of old trams and subway (subte) cars stored at the subway system workshop Taller Polvorin. Trams operate for a limited time on weekends and holidays, and run through nearby streets on a 2 km (1.2 mi) loop. Check Horarios in the link for more precise operating days and times. Trams in Buenos Aires#Heritage Tramway on Wikipedia

Brazil[edit]

Oceania[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Tourist trains have some overlap, though they are often distinct in being for profit and offer even less transportation value. Their historical accuracy may be even more lacking.
  • Enthusiast rail travel#Museums. In some countries heritage railways are limited in function due to seasonal/weather constraints - however many heritage railways have static museum displays incorporated to compensate for out of season visitors.
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