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Heritage railways

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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]

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. 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.

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, 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]

France[edit]

  • 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.

Germany[edit]

  • Germany has a number of historic railways some of them in scenic landscapes like Franconian Switzerland or the East Frisian islands.
  • 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. Another line goes from Radebeul to Moritzburg with a Schloss in the latter the main draw for tourists.
  • The Harz contains Europe's largest steam railway. As a matter of fact it has expanded in the 21st century, acquiring and regauging disused tracks from Deutsche Bahn.

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]

  • The S·T·A·R museum railway between Stadskanaal and Veendam in the Veenkoloniën region of Groningen province.
  • The Stoomtram Hoorn-Medemblik is a steam tram route that can be combined with a steam boat taking you to Enkhuizen.
  • The Veluwsche Stoomtrein Maatschappij runs a 22 km-long track between Apeldoorn and Dieren.
  • The former GOLS-line between Enschede and Doetinchem is still served once or twice per week by the Museum Buurtspoorweg. Only the section of track between Haaksbergen and Boekelo remains.

Poland[edit]

Romania[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

A publication called Railways Restored, published by Ian Allen, contains detailed listings for a number of heritage railways in the UK.

England[edit]

All standard gauge unless otherwise stated.

Scotland[edit]

All standard gauge unless stated.

Wales[edit]

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]

  • Fort Edmonton ParkEdmonton/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 on Wikipedia
  • High Level Bridge StreetcarEdmonton. 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 on Wikipedia
  • Heritage Park Historical VillageCalgary. 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 on Wikipedia

Ontario[edit]

South Simcoe Railway

United States of America[edit]

South America[edit]

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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