About a new Trains book you'll want before you go to Europe

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Some 26 years ago, in an act of desperation, a sheltered American who’d never been overseas but was about to take his first European vacation called a well-traveled magazine editor in Vermont for advice: I’d signed up for a group tour of UK and the continent, but I still want to try to strike out on my own to see some of its railroads. I have two free days in England, the possible safest environment for a neophyte. I was nervous. What should I do? Where should I go? Mark Smith, editor of the late Locomotive & Railway Preservation magazine, unflinchingly suggested that I take my two free days and visit one of the best railroad museums in the world, the National Railway Museum in York, and one of the country’s oldest and best preservation railways, the Blue Bell. Mark was right. I had a blast at both. I pledged to go back to explore more.

Now, five European trips later, all of them in the last 10 years (the delay much to my disappointment), I happily look forward to another trip across the pond to explore Europe and its railways. They never fail to surprise and delight, and it helps me to put American railroads in perspective. Thanks to our books department and Trains columnist and author Brian Solomon, we now have an indispensable tutorial for the first-time traveler and a great resource and inspiration for the veteran. “Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe” provides 415 pages of great photos, history, and highlights to for 17 countries.

I’ve been looking forward to this guide ever since Associate Editor Brian Schmidt suggested the project. For many Americans, European railways are still a mystery, but they don’t have to be. In the Rick Steves-era of informed European travel, a resource like this with its focus on railroads is essential. I just got the book plopped on my desk earlier this week, and I have only had a short time to flip through it once and make a quick review of my three favorite countries, Great Britain, Germany, and Switzerland.

Each of the three countries gets about 40 well-deserved pages. Brian explores England, the birthplace of railroading; its great network; the stunning arched bridges of the Settle & Carlisle; London’s multitude of great stations; the Tube. In Germany, Brian extols the virtues of the Rhine River Valley, Berlin’s magnificent stations, and the incomparable Harz, a steam lover’s paradise and the best guess as to how the Rio Grande narrow gauge would look today if it had survived and been modernized. He shows us Switzerland’s best routes to the top of Europe, suggests Gotthard Pass (the old line) and the Glacier Express, among numerous experiences (If you want to join our September 2018 Swiss tour from Trains and Special Interest Tours, sadly, we’re sold out; that’s the bad news; the good news: We’re developing plans for another Swiss tour in 2019.)

So, here’s to Randy and Tom who took Brian’s work and made it into both useful and beautiful volume that everyone who has an ounce of curiosity in them needs. Here’s to Brian who used his great powers of observation and his years of experience in Europe (he lives part time in Dublin, an easy jumping off point) to create something amazing. And here’s to European railways that I’ve come to know, and to those yet to be explored. I’ll be back.

Order a copy of Brian Solomon’s Railway Guide to Europe from us at https://kalmbachhobbystore.com/product/book/01304

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