In the 1970’s I found a journey on an InterCity train pantwettingly exciting. The big Class 45 diesel trains used to thunder through my suburban station without stopping on their route to mystical and faraway places like Bedford Midland or Kentish Town. I was so obsessed by them that I used to catch a local train to St Albans, where the big trains did stop, and then catch one of those to London, speeding back past my home on the way. I felt – as best a ten-year-old boy could – like a real explorer. To me, trains were a clever combination of acceptable schoolboy hobby and pure escapism. A man with long silver hair on the television told me that ‘This is the age of the train!’.
As a student I took advantage of the long summer breaks to explore Europe with a magical ticket called an Interrail pass. I joined the community of Interrailers sleeping on station platforms and various night trains trundling around Europe. It was pretty addictive, and I just couldn’t put my trusty Thomas Cook European Timetable down. Sadly before too long, my career got in the way and my cheap rucksack, battered sleeping mat and well-thumbed rail timetable were retired to the attic next to my train set. I no longer had enough free time to get anywhere that could bring back that long-range rail buzz. Then in 2012 I changed career and found myself for the first time with the ideal combination of resources to rekindle my love of rail adventure on an altogether bigger scale – some money in the bank, plenty of time and a large-scale 1956 edition National Geographic map.
I have completed several Trans-Siberian, Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian rail journeys from my home in the United Kingdom, reaching destinations such as Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong by rail. In 2016 I successfully completed a solo journey on the longest and highest railways in the world, to reach Tibet by train. Since then I have been exploring railways all over the world, always seeking the next great adventure.
I hope you enjoy reading about my travels and that they might inspire you to embark on your own train adventure.
Matthew Woodward @ 2019