What are the Different Types of Trains in Europe?

Kristin Wood

Most trains in Europe can typically be categorized into two branches: passenger and goods. Within these two branches, there can be a variety of types. Trains might also be distinguished between local and long-distance trains. Each European country will usually create more detailed categories for their train system.

Many of Europe's passenger trains travel into multiple countries.
Many of Europe's passenger trains travel into multiple countries.

Long-distance passenger trains in Europe typically take journeys that last at least an hour and sometimes several days. Many of these trains will cross into other countries, making them a popular method of international travel. Eurostar and EuroCity are two types of trains in Europe that provide international destinations. Some types of trains might only move between two countries, such as the Cisalpino AG, which travels between Switzerland and Italy.

In many countries, especially in Europe and Japan, rail travel is still commonly used.
In many countries, especially in Europe and Japan, rail travel is still commonly used.

Many long-distance passenger trains in Europe are also sleeper trains. These trains provide beds for their passengers and typically run through the night. Some of these accommodations may offer private quarters, but other European sleeper trains have couchette cars. These trains will group four to six people into compartments with bunk beds at night. During the day, couchette compartments have bench seating.

Local passenger trains in Europe usually stay within the borders of one country. Some local train lines will only serve one city, such as the London Overground or the Paris Metro. These types of trains can provide an essential service for both tourists and locals alike in large cities with busy, congested streets.

Some trains in Europe offer tours for visitors, with scheduled sightseeing stops and meals provided. These train lines include the Golden Eagle, the Danube Express and The Royal Scotsman. When riding the Venice Simplon, passengers can choose one of the more traditional tours, or "An Architectural Feast," which focuses on European Architecture. While some tour trains will explore several countries, others will focus on only one country.

Trains in Europe are sometimes divided into different classes, not unlike traveling by airplane. Those traveling in luxury trains, or first class, will usually receive a meal during their journey and other small touches to make their travels more comfortable. On the other hand, travelers short on money can usually find cheap train tickets for their budget travel. Some international trains in Europe will offer daily, weekly or monthly passes for travelers.

European trains are also an effective tool for businesses that need to transport their products throughout the country or continent. These trains are called goods trains, and they can be divided into two main types: unit trains and merry-go-round trains. Unit trains have one starting point and one destination, while the merry-go-round train might pick up and drop off goods at several stops during its journey.

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Discussion Comments

When I was in Europe, I visited London and my friends and I either walked or took the Underground, the city's subway system, to get from one place to another. I was pleased at how well maintained the stations were, and for the most part I felt safer riding the trains in Europe than I do riding the trains in large cities in the U.S.

One of the aspects of trains in Europe that make them even more appealing to the average person is that there are such a large variety of options for buying train tickets. I guess what I mean to say is that there are so many different types of tickets.

My favorite tickets are the ones that last for a specific amount of time rather than for a specific destination. When you buy a weekly or monthly train pass you are able to save a good deal of money assuming you are using the train as your primary transportation.


I can remember traveling by train when I was a kid. In those memories I really enjoyed the ride and there were lots of interesting things to see. Because of these memories, I decided to take a 12-hour train trip a few years back. I could have flown, but I thought the train ride would be fun. Boy was I wrong. I should have taken a plane.

If you are going to take the train to travel Europe then you will definitely want one of the sleeper trains for those long trips. Otherwise you will be too tired and worn out to enjoy your trip.

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