The world's newest luxury train journey gallery

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A Tourist waves an Australian falg as he looks out of the window of a luxury train at a station in Tehran after arriving in the Iranian capital from Budapest.

Tourists walk on a platform at a station in Tehran after arriving in the Iranian capital on a luxury train from Budapest.

Tourists look out the window of a luxury train at a station in Tehran after arriving in the Iranian capital from Budapest.

The tourists from Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Denmark, Britain, Australia, Spain, Singapore and Turkey spent two weeks visiting Tabriz, Zanjan, Yazd, Isfahan, Shiraz before arriving in Tehran for their flight back to Istanbul.

A tourist waves from the window of a luxury train at a station in Tehran.

Tourists from Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Denmark, Britain, Australia, Spain, Singapore and Turkey spent two weeks visiting Tabriz, Zanjan, Yazd, Isfahan, Shiraz before arriving in Tehran for their flight back to Istanbul.

A conductor stands in front of a historic steam locomotive as it pulls the luxury Tehran-bound train into Nyugati Terminus in Budapest.

The Tehran-bound train departing Nyugati Terminus in Budapest.

The rail rhythm: The luxury cars have been retrofitted from historic models to reflect times gone. A passenger sits in the restaurant car.

Lunch is served aboard a historic Tehran-bound train.

Passengers enjoy piano music in the bar car as the Tehran-bound train leaves Budapest.

A table set for lunch aboard the historic Tehran-bound train.

All aboard: Passengers survey the offerings aboard a historic Tehran-bound train.

Lunch is served aboard a historic Tehran-bound train as it leaves Budapest.

The train will take two weeks to wind through the 7000 km journey across the Balkans, the Bosphorus and eastern Turkey to arrive in Iran.

The train will take two weeks to wind through the 7000 km journey across the Balkans, the Bosphorus and eastern Turkey to arrive in Iran.

The two-week trip sets back each participant at least £9000 ($A16,355)

Taking a break: A train engineer enjoys a cup of coffee in front of an historic steam locomotive of a Tehran-bound train in Nyugati Terminus in Budapest.

A train engineer loads a historic steam locomotive with coal as it pulls a Tehran-bound train into Nyugati Terminus in Budapest.

A train engineer looks out of a historic steam locomotive as it pulls the luxury Tehran-bound train into Nyugati Terminus in Budapest.

The train, a set of luxury cars retrofitted from historic models to reflect times gone by, will take two weeks to wind through the 7000 km journey across the Balkans, the Bosphorus and eastern Turkey to arrive in Iran.

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A luxury train connecting the capitals of Hungary and Iran left Budapest for the first time on Wednesday, with 70 passengers set to cross the Balkans, the Bosphorus and Kurdistan on the way to Persia aboard a set of deluxe railcars.

The two-week trip sets back each participant at least £9000 (NZ$18,063) and some as much as £25,000 including full service with private bathroom, a sightseeing program and the beautiful scenery that rolls leisurely by for about 7000 km.

The tickets for the first train sold out in 10 days, said Tim Littler, the founder of tour operator Golden Eagle, adding he planned four more trains to make the trip next year.

"There is a huge vacuum in the tourist industry for people who would like to go to Iran, but want to do it in comfort and safety," Littler said while aboard a pre-war sleeper as a steam locomotive pulled the cars through the Hungarian plains.

"The train offers both of those things," he added.

"Luxury train travel sells for about US$1000-to-US$2000 (NZ$1255 to NZ$2510) per day, and this trip is in that price range."

The train may carry more wealth than the annual economic output of some of the places it crosses, but he said that has almost never posed security problems in Golden Eagle's adventure destinations.

"We had more problems in Russia when we started 25 years ago," he said.

"We went into areas where people were literally starving and we arrived in an opulent train full of caviar and sturgeon and fine wines."

To make sure absolutely no problem arises, some countries offered extra assistance, he said.

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The Iranian government, which has announced it would spend heavily to develop its tourism industry, said it would put military marshals on the train.

The core of the service is four cars that another British businessman, Howard Trinder, bought from the Hungarian postal service and retrofitted into luxury sleepers at a cost of about 250 million forints (NZ$1.3 million) apiece.

Budapest is the starting point of the trip because that is where the train is based.

"We built the four deluxe cars which I funded and marketed them to the UK," Trinder said, nursing a glass of beer in the bar carriage as he waited for his first lunch on board.

"Tim came up with the idea (of Tehran) ... My first answer was no."

But that no turned into a yes after a long conversation.

Once the company cleared a string of problems - including ensuring power supply through a custom-built generator car, securing permits in five countries and fighting off sanctions against Iran (using an Australian affiliate) - the train was finally attached to an old steam locomotive.

Historic railcars, including the former carriages used by Hungary's Communist political elite as well as the newly retrofitted dining cars, were attached to the train, 13 cars long in all.

With a loud hiss and a tall plume of steam and smoke, the train pulled out of Budapest Nyugati Terminus and headed east.

Australian winemakers Dianne and Giorgio Gjergja leaned back in their compartment to enjoy the autumn scenery and a cup of tea.

"We are relaxed into the rhythm of the train," Dianne said.

"It is wonderful. Service is excellent. We can't wait to get into Iran. We have seen the other destinations and will enjoy seeing them again, but Iran is exotic. I am very excited."

Reuters

 - Reuters

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