Science Journeys – Where to find steam locomotives in the world and ride their trains

Why are we so fascinated by steam locomotives? In these parts of the world you can see one of mankind’s great inventions in action.

Railroad literally means railroad. Iron rails were already used in mining in the 17th century, with horse-drawn carts. But between 1760 and 1770, an inventor named James Watt improved a machine that turned water vapor into motion. The first locomotive rolled in England in 1804 powered by steam and since then the world has never been the same.

Trains brought a speed of transport impossible to achieve with horse-drawn carriages and became the engine of the Industrial Revolution and international trade. Cities and countries changed shape, populations were distributed along iron rails, tourism and globalization emerged.

Steam locomotives were so efficient that, in many parts of the world, they were not replaced by diesel engines until the 20th century. However, even in the 21st century, several places around the world maintain and operate steam locomotives, either for heritage tourism purposes or, in some cases, for actual transportation needs.



The UK has several historic railway lines that can be traversed by steam trains. Notable are the Bluebell Railway in Sussex, the Severn Valley Railway in Worcestershire/Shropshire and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.


Durango Silverton

The United States also has several historic rail lines, such as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad on the Colorado-New Mexico border, and the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Steamtown National Historic Site is also dedicated to the history of steam locomotives.


harz train

Germany has several operational steam railways. The Harz Narrow Gauge Railway, for example, provides regular steam services across its network.



Victoria’s Puffing Billy Railway is a historic narrow gauge railway that operates daily with steam trains.

South Africa


Rovos Rail offers luxury travel on trains pulled by steam locomotives.


Darjeeling train

Some steam services remain in India, such as the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, also known as the “Toy Train”.



China has one of the last regular commercial steam train services in the world, on the Sandaoling Coal Mine Railway, Xinjiang.

Photograph: smoky cinnamon



The strawberry train runs between Madrid and Aranjuez and offers strawberries along the way, a product of the region.

Quo Science Trips section sponsored by hyundai

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