Discover the enchanting region of Alsace by steam train on this rich tour of autumn splendour in eastern France.
Alsace borders Germany to the north and east, and Switzerland to the south. Based in the magnificent city of Colmar you’ll explore the region on privately chartered standard gauge steam trains on all of the preserved railways in Alsace and a forest railway in nearby Lorraine. There are also excursions into nearby southern Germany to enjoy and a visit to an impressive steam railway in the Black Forest. Alsace is wedged between the Vosges Mountains and the River Rhine, making it almost four times longer than it is wide. It’s a region of beautiful vineyards and produces the outstanding Gewurztraminer white wine. The area is dotted with quaint villages boasting gourmet restaurants of international fame, and charming cities featuring calm canals and medieval architecture. One of many tour highlights is a scenic lunch cruise aboard a classic motor vessel on the River Rhine in Basel, Switzerland. There’s also a visit to the Alsatian vineyard town of Riquewihr and the city of Mulhouse, with the excellent French National Railway Museum and the one-of-its kind Bugatti Museum both sited there. Thanks to the short travel distances from Colmar to all the featured attractions this is a truly relaxed tour, and the perfect opportunity to see France in a completely new way!
Thursday 10th October
London to Colmar
You travel by a Eurostar service from London St. Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord, then transfer to the nearby Paris Gare de l´Est for the onward journey by TGV express to Strasbourg, where you change onto a regional service to Colmar. You check in to your elegant, centrally located hotel on a quiet street in the heart of this picturesque town. The rest of the day will be free to explore and discover the timber-framed houses and quaint canals of historic Colmar.
Friday 11th October
Vintage tram tour and scenic river cruise in Basel
This morning you board a locomotive-hauled French Railways (SNCF) service train for the journey from Colmar to Basel, just across the border in Switzerland. You then have a sightseeing tour of this attractive city by vintage tram, which includes one of the few preserved open-sided tram trailers in Switzerland. Crossing the River Rhine by tram you’ll see the principal sights of the city, including the medieval town centre, the cathedral and the ornate city hall. Just before lunchtime you alight at the river embankment and board a vintage motor vessel for a delightful lunch cruise on the River Rhine. Your classic red-funnelled ship oozes old-fashioned charm and boasts beautiful wood-panelled dining saloons. You’ll savour a sumptuous buffet lunch, complete with dessert, as you cruise through Swiss, German and French waters. After the cruise there’ll be free time to explore the city centre at your own pace. In the late afternoon you return to Colmar by SNCF service train. (B L)
Saturday 12th October
Steam along the Rhine; visit to historic Breisach
After breakfast you travel by road coach to visit the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Rhin, located in the nearby town of Volgelsheim. This standard gauge railway operates both French and German steam locomotives and Austrian carriages with balconies. You’ll travel the extent of the 13 kilometre line from Volgelsheim to the Sans Souci Quay at Marckolsheim, where the River Rhine and canal separate. Following your trip on the railway you continue by road coach to the historic city of Breisach in Germany, on the opposite side of the River Rhine. Breisach is famous for its charming old town and impressive Gothic cathedral, both located on a scenic hilltop. Lunch will be taken at a charming German inn and afterwards you’ll enjoy free time to explore the town. Later you return to Colmar by road coach. (B L)
Sunday 13th October
Steam on the Thur Doller Railway; visit to the vineyard town of Eguisheim
This is a day dedicated to the premier steam railway in Alsace. You visit the enchanting Train Thur Doller Alsace, which operates a 13 kilometre long standard gauge branch line from Cernay to Sentheim, along the foothills of the Vosges Mountains and crossing the River Doller. The railway features a rake of authentic photogenic coaches dating from the late 19th century, the oldest operational railway carriages in France. A powerful steam tank locomotive dating from the early 20th century will haul the train. As you’ll be travelling over this preserved line on a privately chartered train when there is no regular traffic, numerous staged ‘run pasts’ will be possible. A French buffet lunch will be served at the station building in Burnhaupt, where you can also visit the shed and see the railway’s extensive collection of historic rolling stock. At the end of the return journey you travel by road coach to Colmar, taking the scenic road via the so-called ‘Alsatian Wine Route’. You’ll stop for a visit to the delightful little village of Eguisheim, one of the most beautiful and famous vineyard towns in France, before returning to dine with fellow travellers at the hotel. (B L D)
Monday 14th October
Steam in the Black Forest of Germany; visit to historic Freiburg
The German theme continues for your trip today as you visit a ‘hidden gem’ railway. The Kandertalbahn is located on the very tip of Southern Germany, near to Basel in Switzerland. The 12.9 kilometre long branch line runs through rural scenery in the Kander Valley. Your train will comprise an historic German steam tank locomotive, from the early 20th century, and matching period carriages. A buffet lunch of regional delicacies will be served when you reach the end of the line at Kandern. Photo opportunities will be plentiful during this trip. Following your visit to the Kandertalbahn you return to Colmar by road coach, stopping to visit the historic city of Freiburg im Breisgau en route. This German city is noted for its medieval university and cathedral. (B L)
Tuesday 15th October
Museums and trams in Mulhouse
Today you travel by train to Mulhouse, a city famous for its outstanding museums, especially the ‘Cité du Train’ and ‘Cité de l’Automobile’, respectively the largest railway and automobile museums in Europe. You’ll be issued with a rover ticket for the city’s urban tram network, which you’ll use to travel to the ‘Cité du Train’, the national railway museum of France and one of the largest and most amazing collections of technically unique steam locomotives in the world. The museum’s exciting exhibits have lively and engaging narrations suitable for both enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike, and a free English audio guide is available. The vast collection of classic cars in the nearby ‘Cité de l’Automobile’ also demands a visit. It contains the most comprehensive collection of Bugatti motor vehicles in the world. The remainder of your time in Mulhouse will be free to explore its medieval city centre, with both French and Swiss architecture, the pedestrianised Place de la Réunion main square, and St. Stephen’s church. In the evening you return to Colmar by service train. (B)
Wednesday 16th October
Steam at the Abreschviller Forest Railway
After breakfast you have a trip by SNCF service train to Sarrebourg, where you board a coach that takes you to the nearby forest railway at Abreschviller. Here the Abreschviller Forest Railway Association operates trains on a restored section of a logging railway that once had a track network of 73 kilometres. The 700 mm gauge railway line climbs up a wooded valley, winding its way through forests and crossing the Red Saar River on its way to Grand Soldat. You’ll travel on a privately chartered train in the railway’s only saloon coach hauled by an 0-4-4-0T Mallet type steam locomotive dating from 1906. During the journey there’ll be stops for filming and photography, including numerous ‘run-pasts’ in the dramatic landscape. At the hamlet of Grand Soldat there’s a restored sawmill operated by a water wheel, where it’s possible to watch traditional wood processing. In the afternoon your road coach takes you to Sarrebourg, from where you return to Colmar by SNCF service train. (B L)
Thursday 17th October
Colmar to London
You say a fond ‘au revoir’ to Alsace today and return to Paris by a TGV express train. You transfer from Paris Gare de l´Est to Gare du Nord and board a Eurostar service to London St. Pancras International. (B)
All prices shown are per person.
Meals included each day are shown as:
B = Breakfast - L = Lunch - D = Dinner