Introduction/History:

The 52-passenger Clásico El Transcantábrico train, which traverses Northern Spain, started in 1983.  Its launching was one of the first stories in The International Railway Traveler, founded the same year. The train set has six sleepers, each with four double compartments with ensuite facilities. Train operator Ferrocarriles Españoles de Vía Estrecha (FEVE), which means Narrow-Gauge Spanish Railways, gets a bouquet of thanks for its excellent management of this train.

In May, 2011, a new luxury service, called Gran Lujo, was inaugurated. It features all Preferente Suites, which are each half a train car. These cabins are about 129 square feet. This can make a huge difference to travelers requiring more space and private lounge area.

The Preferente Suites have a double bed, long sofa, flat-screen DVD, computer for your private use (wifi when in stations) and lots of storage in closets, under the bed, and under the sofa. The Gran Lujo train takes only 28 passengers, and thereby offers a much more intimate travel experience. Alternatively, these cabins can accommodate three persons.
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Accommodations

On the Clásico Train: All compartments have private, ensuite toilet, sink and shower (with sauna-hydro massage), mini-bar, closet and desk. All rooms have double beds (not queen size); some also have an upper twin-sized bunk. Overnights are spent in quiet sidings. This is a narrow-gauge train; therefore, the sleeping accommodations are diminutive. You may sleep better if you choose a room with a fixed bunk bed in addition to the double bed. However, for taller couples, we highly recommend that you each get a room on board. Single supplement would apply. Air conditioning and heating are individually controlled.

On the Gran Lujo Train: All compartments have private, ensuite toilet, sink and shower (with sauna-hydro massage), mini-bar, closet and desk.  Each has double bed (a few with twin beds), long sofa, lots of storage, flat-screen television and computer with wifi access while in stations. The Gran Lujo suites are approximately 129 square feet. Air conditioning and heating are individually controlled. This train will only take 28 travelers.

Dining

The focus of this journey is fine dining and learning the culture of Northern Spain through its food and wine. Most of the dining is in restaurants, not on the train. All meals and wine are included. El Transcantábrico has four public cars where you can sit and relax, enjoying the scenery, chatting, reading, or playing one of the many board games provided. There are two handsome salon cars, where a buffet breakfast is served, as well as a bar car and pub car with dance floor, where entertainment is provided each evening.

Lounge Cars

El Transcantábrico has four public cars where you can sit and relax, enjoying the scenery, chatting, reading, or playing one of the many board games provided. There are two handsome salon cars, where buffet breakfast is served, as well as a bar car and pub car with dance floor, where entertainment is provided each evening. Sometimes, it’s live Spanish music. Other times, it’s recorded. But many nights, there’s a party going on. If you have the stamina, join in! Note that drinks served outside of meal times are additional.

Other

Power is 220 volts. All off-train sightseeing, which is a major component of this train program, is in a luxury bus and is included in the price. Traditional gratuities to train staff are not included.   IRT couples loved the large, spacious comfort of the Preferente suite. Although all sightseeing is done in several languages, on the Gran Lujo train, IRT guests on board the summer of 2012 reported very few other English-speaking guests. Thus, if you don’t speak any Spanish, you will have a tough time having fun with other guests — one of the delights of train travel.

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The narrow-gauge El Transcantábrico has been operating in Northern Spain since 1983. FEVE
The narrow-gauge El Transcantábrico has been operating in Northern Spain since 1983. FEVE
El Transcantábrico Clasico cabin.
El Transcantábrico Clasico cabin.
El Transcantábrico Clasico cabin layout.
El Transcantábrico Clasico cabin layout.
El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo cabin.
El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo cabin.
A major plus for any train is windows that can be opened, even if only partially, as is the case with those on El Transcantábrico. Pictured here is IRT Society President Eleanor Hardy. Owen Hardy, IRT
A major plus for any train is windows that can be opened, even if only partially, as is the case with those on El Transcantábrico. Pictured here is IRT Society President Eleanor Hardy. Owen Hardy, IRT