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Europe’s Best Steam Trains

Steam railroads were once ubiquitous throughout Europe and their importance to the history of the region cannot be understated. Their arrival was a significant moment in the Industrial Revolution, allowing passengers to travel with relative ease on journeys that would have taken days by foot or horse.

The first steam locomotive was developed in 1804 in the United Kingdom and used mainly to transport cargo. Passengers would have to wait more than 20-years - it wasn't until 1825 that the Locomotion No. 1 started carrying passengers. Today,  steam experiences are held in a nostalgic regard as a charming way to experience a bygone age. 

Here are Our Top 5 picks of the  best steam railroad experiences in Europe.

Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland

Fort William to Mallaig

The Jacobite was introduced in  1984  as  an effort to encourage tourism, making it a relative newcomer as far as steam locomotives go. It was originally called  the West  Highlander, but  was renamed  the Jacobite following the privatization of British Rail in 1995.    

Described as the "greatest railroad journey in the world" this 84-mile journey  carries  passengers through the rugged terrain and demanding gradients of Scotland's Highlands. But it is perhaps best known as the "Harry Potter Train" having been  featured in several films including 'The Philosopher's Stone'.

13  tours available including the West Highland Line.
Featured tour:  Edinburgh, the Highlands & Islands  9 days from $2,045

The Jacobite

Brienz Rothorn Railroad, Switzerland

Brienz to  Brienzer  Rothorn

Jungfrau Express

This Alpine railroad first came into usein1892, was suspended in 1914and reopened  in 1931. From 1953 to 1990, the BrienzRothornwas the onlyfullysteam-operated line in Switzerland.

Traveling over4.5miles and reaching a height of  7,300 feet  above sea level,the Brienz  RothornRailway isnot onlyone of the steepest railroads in Switzerland, but also one of the most beautiful.  The viewarenot only dramatic but varied as well-ranging  from  undulating greeneryand jagged peaks  to the glittering waters of Lake Brienz.   

3 tours available including the Brienz Rothorn Railroad
Featured tour:  Jungfrau Express  9 days from $3,335 per person

Brocken Railroad, Germany

DreiAnnenHohne to Brocken

While the Brocken first started operations in the  1890s, it was  closed because of damage sustained during World War II. During the erection of the Berlin wall, the Broken became a military base and its railroad was used for the transport of supplies. The railroad was reopened for passenger use in 1992, following the reunification of Germany.

The Brocken Railroad courses through the snow-capped peaks of Germany's Harz Mountain range. Joining  the  Harz Railroad at 1778ft, your journey skirts the Bode River before making the steady climb up the eponymous mountain, the highest in the region. This Alpine National Park is best explored in the winter months, when a covering of snow and a refreshing breeze make for a truly magical experience.  

3 tours  available including the Brocken Railroad 
Featured tour:Harz Mountain & Rhine Gorge 10 days from $2,156.

The Brocken Railroad

Isle of Man Steam Railroad, Isle of Man

Douglas to Port Erin

Isle of Man Railroad

Founded in the 1870s, the Isle of Man Steam Railroad is Britain's longest narrow-gauge steam line  that still runs withoriginal locomotives and carriages. Take a trip back in time and experience train travel as it would have been in the 19th and 20th  centuries.
Linking the island capital of Douglas with Port Erin, the Isle of Man Steam Railwaytravels 15 milesthrough idyllic countryside as well as the spectacular southern coastlineand is the perfect way to explore the compact and bustling Isle of Man.
1 tour available including the Isle of Man Steam Railroad
Featured tour:Vintage Railroads of the Isle of Man  6 days from $1,065

Ffestiniog Railroad, Wales

Porthmadog to  Blaenau Ffestiniog

The Ffestiniog Railroad started carrying passengers in 1865, making it the first narrow-gauge railroad in Britain to do so. The railroad stopped carrying passengers in 1939, shortly after the outbreak of World War I, but was reopened for passenger travel in the 1950s thanks to a group of railroad enthusiasts.  

Traversing 13 miles over the beautiful expanse of Snowdonia National Park, the Ffestiniog Railroad is a highlight of any visit to Wales. The full route of the Ffestiniog Railroad runs from Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog and passes through the valleys of the Welsh Highlands, coursing through undulating heathland and sparse wooded copses.

1 tour available including the Ffestiniog Railroad
Featured tour: Railroads & Castles of Wales 6 days from $1,155

Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland