Cinema fell for railway ever since the Lumiere Brothers 50-second Arrival of a Train at Ciotat Station terrified and blew the minds of its audience in 1896. This explains why trains are now used as an enclosed stage set featuring a moving scenery, a built-in plot driver, a perfect replica of the cinema experience. Unlike classic cinema like a journey to the centre of the earth or a hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, many of our favourite classic locomotive cinema moments are still available for us to experience.
Here are some film train rides to try:
1. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Film: Murder On The Orient Express (1974)
This train route from Paris to Istanbul became the most popular of all ever since Sidney Lumet's 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christies classic Whodunnit. The most fascinating thing about this train ride is that it has all the key moments of this train movie recreated, including the plot point and passing scenery, the enclosure, and he heavy does of grandeur that best describes the film itself.
The impressive detail of the train ride featuring the Victorian carriage interior was brought to life by Elstree Studios, with location shoots coming to play in recreating the snowbound stop in Eastern Europe – which was originally filmed in the Jura Mountains of France. This was a much closer to the original than the latest remake – the 2017 version which was shot in New Zealand, or the attempt by James Bond's trip on the Orient Express in 1963 From Russia With Love, which was shot in Argyll in Scotland.
The train service began operation in 1883, and was at its peak period during the time of Christie's novel, surviving all kinds of obstacles of politics and war until the 1960s. The train ride is still in operation today embarking on its the annual trip from Paris to Istanbul, and also offering shorter trips between Verona, Venice and Berlin.
2. Mombasa to Nairobi
Film: Out of Africa (1985)
In the opening sequence of Out of Africa you can hear the method-Danish voice over of Meryl Streep's character Karen Blixen tell us ‘I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.’ as she surveys Kenya's Rift Valley from the rear of the chuffing steam train.
The Chinese built equivalent of the classic cinema train, called the Madaraka Express, is not as romantic as the 1913 version. Also, the route is on the other side of the Hills. But you still stand a chance of spotting some wildlife including zebras and elephants through your window.
3. Around Rajasthan
Film: The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
The Darjeeling Limited (2007 This train ride is inspired by the film The Darjeeling Limited (2007) - a story about three brothers who embarked on a journey across the Rajasthan province in India in a colourful train, which was decorated to emulate the rich lifestyle of the local juggernaut. Movie director, Wes Anderson insisted that they shoot film while the train was in motion, allowing him to use the original backdrop of the province in the movie.
As you watch the movie, you will see vistas of the Thar Desert, as well as Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur. The closest this real train ride gets to the fictional counterpart is the Palace on Wheels which departs Delhi and embarks on a tour of the state for a week, with its cabins decorated and designed to recreate the royalty of the once princely state.
4. The 20th Century Limited
Film: North By Northwest (1959)
The 20th Century Limited is an iconic train that ran from New York Grand Central Station to Lasalle Street Station in Chicago. If you look close enough you will discover that Wes Anderson's train was named in homage to the iconic train. This train was the star of the moment in cinemas. The train also made an appearance in Alfred Hitchcock's North b Northwest, featuring a scene where Cary Grant orders a Gibson cocktail with Eva Marie Saint in the dining carriage.
A replica of the 20th Century predecessor of the steam era was starred in the 1973 film, The Sting. However, the modern version of the train had been put out of service, and the closest that we can get to the real thing is the Lake Shore Limited, which runs between Chicago's Union Station and New York Penn Station.
5. The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway
Film: Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (1969)
If you are a huge movie buff, you already know how much cinema is obsessed with the railroad, whether it's fighting on top of a moving train or shootouts in the train cabins. In this Newman and Redford's great buddy movie, there is a lot of action on the great American railroad, but this time they are high jacking trains and robbing them on the preserved Colorado route, which is nearby their base in Wyoming.
This particular railroad, also featured in the 1989 Indiana Jones and the last crusade and 1956's Around the World in 80 days, has been around since the gold rush of the 1880s and has been in operation ever since.
6. The Flying Scotsman
Film: The 39 Steps (1935)
Another train ride that has a heavy cinema adaptation is The Flying Scotsman. Alfred Hitchcock was already staging his accidental film heroes on famous trains even before North by Northwest (another train film). In The 39 Steps (1935), Alfred Hitchcock allows his accidental hero Richard Hannay sink so low as to lead the audience on to think that he is guilty of treason or murder.
The Flying Scotsman serves as the stage for Hannay's escape where he startles a blonde in one of the train's compartments, forcing in a kiss on her as a way to fool the cops who were after him. While the modern Flying Scotsman will take you on a tour from King's Cross to Edinburgh Waverly, you can still soak in the original experience as the train tours the country. There is also an annual trip that takes in the bridge.
7. The Hogwart's Express
Film: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001)
Every Harry Potter fan has fantasised about being enrolled in Hogwarts and boarding the Hogwarts Express or disappearing into thin air in an alley. This is a testament to the influence that this franchise has had on the populace since its first instalment in 2001’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. London’s King's Cross Station is a famous departure point for many great journeys in cinema.
In 1971’s Get Carter, this is where Michael Caine catches his train home to Newcastle at the start of the film. The station is also home to the Hogwarts Express which makes use of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, on the West Highland Line to Mallaig in Scotland – with its terminus at Hogsmeade Station, Goathland on North Yorkshire Moors Railway. You can also book a trip on the Jacobite through West Coast Railways.
8. The 60163 Tornado
Film: Paddington 2 (2017)
Another film where trains have served as the centre stage is Paddington 2 (2017). The film features a double-train chase sequence which is quite thrilling. The movie is extremely entertaining with great critic reviews for its impressive cinematography and plot.
The Nidd Gorge Viaduct played an important role in the train chase scene – where both trains came to a sudden halt, although, the sequences were filmed in Ullswater Lake District. You can board the 60163 Tornado, a train pulled by an engine just like the one in the scene, and relive parts of the train chase experience.
9. The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway
The Railway Children (1970)
The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway is another heritage railway in Yorkshire, which was home to the ‘Great Northern and Southern Railway featured in the classic, Victoriana. The railway line was closed in 1962 but was reopened by enthusiasts who wanted to revive the trains, track and Oakworth, which served as the stage for cinema's emotional reunions.
The site was also used in Paperchase, the tunnel where young Jim injures himself. Ever since its revival, the train has been featured in many films from BBC’s Peaky Blinders to Yanks (1979).