There are famous bridges and tunnels that allow trains to travel across the sea, but there are only a handful of places where the train gets shunted onto a ferry. It sounds like something out of a child’s toy train set, but actually it’s for real.
There are only two routes left in Europe where this engineering spectacle takes place. There was, until 14 December 2019, a third between Hamburg in Germany and Copenhagen in Denmark however, sadly, it has been retired. This fantastic route once transported train travellers onto the ferry, which then took them across the Fehmarn Strait between Puttgarden in Germany and Rødby in Denmark.
Now, you will still be able to take a train between these two countries, but it will take an overland route via Odense and across the Storebælt Bridge. Until a tunnel is built across the Fehmarn Strait that is, but that is at least a decade away.
The two journeys that are still in operation where you can do this track to ship trick are between Italy’s mainland to the island of Sicily, and from Germany to Sweden. The former is one of Europe’s best kept train secrets, the train being shunted onto the ferry at Villa San Giovanni on the mainland then off again at Messina on Sicily. The train will then take you all the way to Sicily’s capital in Palermo, which means that you can travel direct by train from as far as Rome to Palermo which takes around 11 hrs, sometimes for less than the price of dinner out.
The Germany to Sweden ferry train makes up part of the Berlin to Malmö train journey, a sleeper train which only runs in the late spring and summer and which is shunted onto a ferry to cross between Sassnitz in Germany and Trelleborg in Sweden. We don’t sell this ticket so you need to buy it directly from Snälltåget, the Swedish rail operator.
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