There are two things you should know about the folks at Pacific Surfliner: the first is that we love trains. Real trains, trains in books, trains in movies, trains in songs— we love it all! The second is that we’re suckers for a good passenger experience. You know that old quote that says, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”? That’s especially true for trains. You want your ride to be comfortable, convenient, scenic; maybe even a little bit fun, if you’re feeling wild! 

All that to say, today we’re putting our two loves together by choo-choo-choosing a few of our favorite fictional trains and railroads, and ranking them by onboard vibes, amenities, experience, and more!

Keep reading for our official ranking of these 5 trains, along with some slays (things that make us want to nab our ticket), nays (things that make us want to get off at the next stop), and, of course, their final score and verdict. 



 Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson sitting in their sleeper car in The Darjeeling Limited (2007)IMAGE SOURCE: IMDb


The Darjeeling Limited is a train from a 2007 Wes Anderson movie of the same name. In it, three brothers attempt to bond one year after their father’s funeral by riding a train across India. The train becomes a sort of microcosm of the emotions the three brothers are having— one that they can’t truly escape without dealing with their feelings and relationships to one another. At the end of the film, the brothers drop their baggage and run together to catch another train— the “Bengal Lancer” — symbolizing the end of one journey, and the beginning of another. Though the Darjeeling Limited is a completely fictional train, there’s a good chance Anderson took inspiration from the real-life Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, an impossibly scenic “Toy Train” journey that takes passengers across 54-miles of narrow-gauge track from Kurseong to Darjeeling in India.



  • A journey of self discovery.

Warning: journeys on this train may cause family reconciliations and deep soul searching.

  • Plenty of room for baggage.

Those overhead luggage racks and sleeper cars hold plenty of room for all your baggage— emotional and otherwise.

  • Explore the incredible culture of India.

Crowded, colorful cities, serene countrysides, and everything in between— explore the sights, sounds, and flavors of India while you’re cruising.



  • May resurface family trauma.

Are you harboring some lingering feelings you haven’t dealt with? Not anymore! The close quarters of this train will make your hidden emotions bubble to the surface in no time.

  • Loud arguments may disrupt your journey.

Who needs all that onboard entertainment when family drama is unraveling itself right next door?

  • Train has gotten lost before.

Has the Darjeeling Limited gotten lost before? Yes. Don’t worry though— your ticket price covers the cost of unexpected detours.



So, would we ride The Darjeeling Limited? Absolutely. Its location, food, and cozy sleeper cars are absolutely the best of this list… although we may think twice about bringing family on board with us.


SCORE:  9/10 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐




The Hogwarts Express chugs over the Glenfinnan Viaduct in the Scottish Highlands.IMAGE SOURCE: Haley Plotkin


The Hogwarts Express is from the Harry Potter books and movies— the series follows a young wizard named Harry Potter as he navigates his magical education, the wizarding world, and the ever-looming threat of dark magic.



  • Roomy compartments with large windows.

Luggage racks, cushy upholstered seats, and large windows for gazing out at the Scottish countryside? Don’t mind if we do.

  • Trolley witch and buffet car.

We’ll take the lot! Chow down on a variety of treats and snacks from the Trolley Witch (the less said about her in The Cursed Child, the better) or the buffet car before heading to the Hogwarts feast.

  • Magic is allowed on the train.

You can practice your spells and charms to your heart’s content, but please refrain from turning your seatmate into a newt, if you can.



  • Muggles are not allowed.

Pack it up, non-magical folk! The Hogwarts Express is reserved for Hogwarts students and teachers only. Have you tried commuting via flying car instead?

  • Train platform is difficult to reach.

Nothing like running headfirst into a brick wall to start your magical education off on the right foot!

  • Prone to attacks by baddies.

Sometimes your ride to Hogwarts will be totally uneventful, and other times the train is dramatically stopped by dementors and Death Eaters. It’s anyone's guess which one it’ll be!




The short journey from Platform 9 ¾ to Hogwarts is guaranteed to be the most magical train ride you’ll ever take— just keep a sharp eye out for whatever threat is plaguing the school that year!


SCORE:  8/10 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Chihiro, No-Face, and Boh take the Sea Railway to see Zeniba in Swamp Bottom.IMAGE SOURCE: Not On Blu-Ray


The Sea Railway features in Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001), a movie which follows a 10-year old girl named Chihiro as she unknowingly enters a world of spirits, witches, and magic. The train scene is one of the most poignant and important in the film; as a conduit of the spirit world, it bridges the familiar and unfamiliar, for both the characters and the audience. As Chihiro discovers a world that isn’t quite her own, she must find her own bravery and perseverance in order to keep chugging along in her quest to free her parents. The real-life inspiration for the Sea Railway is said to have been the Meitetsu Tokoname Line, a railroad track that flooded after the Ise Bay typhoon of 1959; the disaster nearly submerged the tracks completely and gave the impression that the train was traveling through a kind of endless ocean.



  • Gorgeous seaside views.

Okay, an endless expanse of water isn’t the most relaxing sight for some people. However, if that kind of thing is your cup of tea?  A ride on The Sea Railway will feel like the perfect silence after a deep breath.

  • Many stops.

This train makes plenty of stops across time and space during its one-way journey. Will it stop at the one you want? Who knows! 

  • Hardwood floors and overhead luggage racks.

Get ready to ride the train to nowhere, in style! Elegantly-appointed hardwood floors and overhead luggage racks provide the perfect backdrop for any existential crisis you may have on board.



  • One-way trip.

Didn’t you read the pamphlet? Once you hop on the Sea Railway, there’s no turning back!

  • May inspire existential dread.

If you’re not ready for a train ride through the spirit realm that’ll make you question the meaning of life, the universe, and yourself, you may want to sit this one out.

  • Seats face inward.

Why would they do this? Nothing says “awkward” like having to make eye contact with a disembodied shadow spirit during your ride.



Not everyone will love this one-way train to new horizons, but for those ready to embrace the tides of change? The Sea Railway is your ticket to the great unknown.


SCORE:  7/10 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Boy stands outside his home at night in the snow watching the Polar Express pass by.IMAGE SOURCE: IMDb


The Polar Express is a locomotive from the book (and movie) of the same name. In it, a magical train takes kids to the North Pole on Christmas Eve, encountering various obstacles along the way. The locomotive embodies the holiday spirit and the power of belief— in yourself, in others, and Santa Claus, of course! The Know-It-All child (his actual name in the movie) thinks he knows trains, but various internet users have since proven his stats wrong. This little nerd says that The Polar Express is “a Baldwin 2-8-4 S3-class Berkshire type steam locomotive built in 1931 at the Baldwin Locomotive Works. It weighs 456,100 pounds and has a tractive force of 3,450 pounds. Its top speed is 70 miles per hour.” Real train fans will know that he’s wrong, and that the Polar Express is actually a Pere Marquette 1225 2-8-4 N1-class Berkshire type steam locomotive! Get schooled, Know-It-All child!



  • Stops at your house.

Did someone call for a little Christmas convenience? The Polar Express cuts down on commute time by picking passengers up right in front of their homes!

  • Free hot chocolate (with a show!).

Enjoy a steaming mug of hot cocoa with a side of dancing mustachioed chocolatiers. They’ve only got one rule: never ever let it cool!

  • Pretty holiday-themed constellations on the journey.

Who needs the Northern Lights? The present and tree-shaped constellations you can see from the Polar Express caboose shortly after catastrophically derailing are just as dazzling.



  • Cannot ride unless you are a child.

Keep it moving, adults! The Polar Express is exclusively reserved for kids who still believe in the magic of Christmas. Looks like you’re stuck leaving out milk and cookies like the rest of us!

  • Man lives on top of the train.

Surely having a man who lives, makes campfires, and skis on the roof of the train is some kind of health and safety hazard?

  • Train has derailed on ice.

It was one time! 



For kiddos brimming with holiday spirit, The Polar Express is a (sometimes dangerous) ride straight to the North Pole, and even Santa Claus himself! Disclaimer: several stars were taken off because of the train car filled with creepy broken toys.


SCORE:  5/10 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Snowpiercer— massive, gunmetal gray, and impenetrable— stands proudly against a dreary, snowy background.IMAGE SOURCE: Snowpiercer Wiki


The Snowpiercer is a train from the Snowpiercer movie, television series, and graphic novels. The story follows a class-divided society that is confined to a perpetually moving train after a failed climate change experiment freezes the world outside. For its passengers, this unending journey represents salvation and imprisonment, death and survival, hope and despair. In addition to being a striking commentary on class structure, Snowpiercer also taps into the dangers of climate change and human geoengineering. The Snowpiercer is said to be 10-miles long, made up of a whopping 1,001 cars (this number changes in the television series) — an entire self-contained society, on rails! In the story, the train was created as a luxury travel option before the environmental catastrophe. 



  • Front section has luxury cars/amenities.

Ice age luxury, brought to you by the Snowpiercer. If you can manage to get a first-class ticket, your ride on this train will be accented with visits to the onboard aquarium, swimming pool, and restaurants!

  • Train is very strong.

Like its name implies, the Snowpiercer is really good at blasting through all that pesky frozen weather. From ice on the track to impending avalanches, this train is built for endurance.

  • Views of Winter Wonderland.

Earth in the world of the Snowpiercer has been frozen over thanks to a failed geoengineering project that sought to cool the planet after global warming. Oopsie! Now the entire world is totally frozen solid. If you’re into snow-covered hills and winter wonderland sights, you may have a moderately better time on board.



  • Constant threat of internal rebellion.

This is a train where tensions run high, with constant class warfare and power struggles attempting to derail its delicate social balance. Try not to step on anyone’s toes!

  • Horrible living conditions for those without tickets.

Folks with Snowpiercer tickets are treated to a life of onboard luxury, but for those without? Life on the train is crowded, dirty, and inhumane. Two words: Protein. Loaf.

  • Does not stop.

The bad news? You’re not getting off this train. The good news? You never have to worry about missing your stop!



Even if you’re riding in style at the front section of Snowpiercer, a never ending trip through a totally frozen earth doesn’t really sound that fun to us. More protein loaves for you!


SCORE:  2/10 ⭐⭐


So, how about it— do you agree with our ranking of some of the top fictional trains and railroads? Even though these locomotives each have a special place in our heart, our favorite train is one you can actually ride— plan your ride on the Pacific Surfliner and start writing your own story!