Start planning now for a journey of a lifetime in next year's Northern Hemisphere summer, writes Anthony Lambert.
1 SWISS LAKES
(from Geneva to Brig) begin beneath the airport at Geneva and soon afford grandstand views over Lac Leman and the French Alps along its southern shore. Elegant clipper-bowed paddlesteamers furrow the waters, and the grapes that make Vaudois wines grow in profusion along the northern slopes. The walls of Chillon Castle, made famous by Byron, are brushed before the train leaves the lake and follows the Rhone towards its headwaters.
2 SICILIAN HISTORY
The train ferry from Villa San Giovanni to Messina carries through services from Rome and Naples to Palermo, including
with other portions for Catania and Syracuse. There are also day trains along the railway overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea for much of the way, serving one of the island's foremost tourist attractions, Cefalu, with its Norman cathedral and many medieval churches and palazzos. A dawn arrival at Palermo is memorable, with the city's lights sparkling and Monte Pellegrino towering over the harbour.
3 YORKSHIRE HIGHS
Reached from the East Coast main line at Darlington, the Esk Valley line begins at Middlesbrough and soon enters the
near Roseberry Topping. Every station offers wonderful walks, but most passengers head for the jewel-like fishing port of Whitby and the Magpie Cafe's legendary fish and chips. Those who are fit climb the 199 steps to the 13th-century abbey ruins with their splendid cliff views; others catch the summer steam-train service that turns off the Middlesbrough line at Grosmont for an enthralling journey over the
4 RIVIERA RICHES
For most of
, the sea is in sight from the train as it hugs the coast around the Gulf of Genoa, with some of the best views along France's Corniche de l'Esterel around St-Raphael. Though the Cinque Terre is justly famous for its villages, the train is the best way to reach rather than see them because of the 32 tunnels between Genoa and La Spezia. But it is still one of the finest stretches of coastal railway in Europe. A change of train is required at Genoa.
5 CREAM OF CORNWALL
Cornish seaside resorts can be a nightmare to reach by car. Fortunately, some of the delightful branch lines built to serve them have survived to become valued ways to relieve summer congestion. Lelant Saltings park-and-ride is on the
at St Erth and St Ives. The train from Liskeard flirts with the East Looe river all the way to the sea at Looe, serving tiny platforms along the way. Surfboards accompany many of the passengers on the trains from Par to Newquay, renowned for its beaches and their Atlantic breakers.
6 TOURING BY TRAM
There is nothing in Europe quite like the
, which runs for 68km along the Flemish coast, linking a chain of resorts between Knokke-Heist and De Panne via Ostend, De Haan and Zeebrugge. Claiming to be the longest tram line in the world, it carries more than three million passengers a year between the 69 stops and runs right along the beach for much of the way, occasionally diving inland to serve a town centre. Among the attractions it visits are Fort Napoleon in Ostend and the museum devoted to Paul Delvaux, the painter, famous for his pictures combining female nudes and railway scenes. The best beaches are around Bredene.
7 WILD SWEDEN
The summer-only Inlandsbanan service traverses what is described as the Europe's last wilderness of largely untouched forests and lakes and runs for 1067km from Mora to Gallivare. It links isolated settlements with a variety of attractions, including Europe's largest bear park, the world's longest cable car ride (more than 13km), an open-air museum of Sami historic buildings, and a hotel designed by Ralph Erskine.
8 ADRIATIC ADVENTURE
The station in Slovenia's charming capital, Ljubljana, was built in 1848 and resembles a royal palace. It is served by five or six trains a day over the mountainous line to the junction of Divaca. The train continues on a single-track line to reach the Adriatic port of Koper by a spectacular descent of almost 460m. Once part of the Venetian Republic, Koper boasts a 15th-century Praetorian Palace and a Romanesque cathedral.
9 PERFECT PICARDIE
The Baie de Somme is famed for its seafood and salt marsh lamb, and many choose the
steam railway to reach the resort and fishing port of St-Valery-sur-Somme, from where William the Conqueror launched his invasion of England. The Y-shaped route from the Calais-Amiens mainline at Noyelles-sur-Mer also serves the fishing village of Le Crotoy, where Jules Verne lived and wrote 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Among the eight steam locomotives that haul trains is one that worked on the construction of the Panama Canal.
10 CANADA'S GREAT OUTDOORS
's northerly Rainforest to Gold Rush route offers many highlights — the beauty of isolated Anderson and Seton lakes; the climb through numerous horseshoe curves out of the Fraser River Valley; the endless ranges of forested hills on the upland plateau once farmed by English aristocrats; or the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson. The route has an overnight stop in the logging town of Quesnel.