Greece // The Peloponnese //

The Kalávryta express

The 22km rack-and-pinion railway from Dhiakoftó to Kalávryta is a crazy feat of Italian engineering, rising at gradients of up to one in seven as it cuts inland through the Vouraïkós gorge. The journey can be hot, crowded and uncomfortable, but the route is a toy-train fantasy of tunnels, bridges and precipitous overhangs and well worth experiencing.

The railway was built between 1889 and 1896 to bring minerals from the mountains to the sea. Its 1896 steam locomotives were replaced some years ago – one (O Moutzouris) remains by the line at Dhiakoftó stationwith other relics, and another at Kalávryta – but the track itself retains all the charm of its period. The tunnels, for example, have delicately carved window openings, and the narrow bridges zigzagging across the Vouraïkós seem engineered for sheer virtuosity.

It takes around 45 minutes to get from Dhiakoftó to Zakhloroú (listed on timetables as Méga Spiléo), and about another twenty minutes from there to Kalávryta. In peak season the ride is very popular (there are just three to six trains a day, depending on the season), so plan to buy tickets in advance of your preferred departure (return €19; one way €9.50). Despite the short distance covered, trains on this line can be subject to the same lengthy delays (or cancellations) as their grown-up counterparts on the main lines.

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