What Are the Different Types of Trains in Europe?

Many of Europe's passenger trains travel into multiple countries.
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  • Written By: Kristin Wood
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  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2014
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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.

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.

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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