Most of you know that I love train travel. I have taken Amtrak’s cross-country trains, as well as the Trans-Siberian Railway. I try to use public transportation whenever I can, particularly in Japan, Europe, and here in the U.S. Along the way, I have met some of the most interesting people. And what better way to really see the country you are visiting?
Let’s explore some lesser-known facts about train travel.
You might be surprised to hear that the US has the largest railway network in the world, and by a large margin. With a total route length over 155,342 miles (250,000km), it’s two-and-a-half times longer than the second-largest network in China. It’s the US freight rail network that makes up 80% of the staggering length while passenger rail, run by Amtrak, is comprised of more than 30 train routes connecting 500 destinations across 46 American states. Give Amtrak a try, I think you will like it!
This is the longest distance you can travel by train… Crossing two continents, the incredible journey from Porto in Portugal to Singapore is the longest you could possibly do by train alone. Covering an approximate distance of 10,000 miles (16,000km), the route leads from Porto to Warsaw in Poland before traveling east to Beijing in China. From there the journey turns south to Vietnam and reaches Singapore via Cambodia and Thailand. The full journey would cost around $7,000 and would take at least 12 days to complete.
…and the longest direct service
However, if you’re after the world’s longest direct train service, you’ll find it in Russia. With two scheduled trains, an express departing once every two days and a regular service departing daily, the Trans-Siberian route from Moscow to Vladivostok is the longest direct train journey in the world. It covers 5,772 miles (9,289km), crosses eight time zones and takes 166 hours (144 hours on the express) to complete, which is equivalent to almost a full week. The train has 142 stops and passes through 87 cities and towns. I took the Trans Siberian from Vladivostok to Moscow in 2014, and extended the trip to two weeks.
The busiest train station
Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, Japan is the busiest train station in the world with over 3.6 million passengers passing through daily (before the COVID-19 pandemic). The station has more than 200 exits and is made up of five smaller stations. Europe’s busiest is Gare du Nord in Paris, France, serving around 214 million passengers every year while Penn Station in New York City is the busiest in North America, with a thousand passengers alighting and departing every 90 seconds. (I love Shinjuku, the hustle and bustle increases my energy, and this is where the statue of Hachiko resides)
Maglev is the fastest train in the world
Traveling at a mind-boggling speed, Shanghai’s maglev (magnetic levitation) train is the fastest passenger train in the world. With a spine-tingling operational speed of 267mph (430km/h), the train connects Shanghai Pudong International Airport with Longyang Road Station in the outskirts of Pudong. Traveling at an average speed of 143mph (230km/h), the 19-mile-long (30km) journey can be completed within eight minutes. I prefer the Shinkansen trains in Japan.
I encourage you to travel by train, a decent distance, at least once in your life. You just might enjoy it!