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Photos Show What Train Travel Used to Be Like and What It’s Like Now

Photos Show What Train Travel Used to Be Like and What It’s Like Now

The rail passenger experience has changed greatly over the years.

In modern times, trains tend to be functional with the benefits of modern technology.

Photo by Rail Photo/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)

From basic beginnings, trains quickly became a relatively glamorous form of transport, with plenty of amenities if you could afford it.

To show the differences over the years, we rounded up photos from the early 19th century through today, to see how train travel has changed, and what lies in store for the future.

This pioneering engine has since been preserved, and rail enthusiasts can still see a full-scale, replica model of the first train.

A man holding a shovel sitting in front of an old locomotive.

A full-scale replica of Locomotion No. 1 at the Beamish Museum in North-East England.

Photo by Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Locomotion No.1 was carefully preserved after being retired from service and has been housed in various transport museums in and around the northeast of England, currently residing at Locomotion (formerly The National Railway Museum Shildon). A full-scale replica can also be seen at the Beamish Museum in northeast England. 

Steam trains began to operate worldwide in the ‘Golden Age’ of train travel.

A late 19th/early 20th century steam train.

This steam train in Piedmont, Italy is typical of the trains that were seen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Beppeverge / Getty Images

As rail travel developed into Europe and across the United States, a “Golden Age” of trains arrived, with railroad companies vying for business.

Engine speeds increased, and various flagship services offered increasingly alluring levels of luxury that would stretch well into the 20th century.

Many historic stations are architectural wonders that are still appreciated and used today.

The Antwerp Central Station interior.

Central Antwerp Station in The Netherlands, which originally opened in 1905.

Jakraphan Inchukul/Getty Images

Large, elaborate train stations became a sign of prestige for cities, and many enjoyed grand architectural flourishes, some of which can still be appreciated today.

Almost all of the world’s oldest operating train stations are from the 1830s in England, and many are still used, such as Liverpool Lime Street and London Bridge.

Vitebsky Railway Station in St Petersburg, Russia, is also from around this time, opening in 1837.

Many European stations retain charming original features in ticket offices and departure lounges.

The  interior of Cartagena Railway Station.

The ticket hall of a train station in Cartagena, Spain, dating back to 1903.

Eve Livesey/Getty Images

Original fixtures and fittings in older stations were built to last, and especially in Europe, travelers can often still see historic ticket booths, waiting rooms, and facades.

Iconic stations include the gothic architecture of London’s St. Pancras International, the Art Deco and Spanish Colonial chic of Los Angeles Union Station, and the baroque grandeur of Metro Station Komsomolskaya, Moscow in Russia.

Train ticket prices have changed considerably over the years.

A ticket seller taking automatic train reservations.

A customer buys a ticket for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1950.

Bettmann / Contributor/Getty Images

If you wanted to buy a ticket from Seattle to Chicago in 1912, it would have cost you $75 one-way for a sleeper car.

This is the equivalent of around $2,000 of modern-day buying power, adjusted for inflation.

These days, Superliner Roomette tickets on the Amtrak Empire Builder for this same route start at around $900 for a private sleeper room (or around $450 per person, based on double occupancy.

Special seats are available on some train routes with outstanding views.

A man looking out of the  sightseer lounge car on a train.

Amtrak’s Superliner Sightseeing Lounge.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Along scenic coastlines on seven routes in the United States, some Amtrak trains have observation cars with floor-to-ceiling windows and special sightseeing seats that are positioned to take full advantage of the passing panorama.

You can view the Rocky Mountains from the California Zephyr, for example, or the Cascade Mountains on the Coast Starlight route.

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