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August 4, 2021
'Palace on rails': World's first private luxury train concept

‘Palace on rails’: World’s first private luxury train concept

(CNN) — Long distance rail travel looked like it could be on its way out just a few years ago, but a lot has changed since then.

The classic style of traveling is now having something of a revival, as travelers look for more environmentally friendly ways to see the world.

Various new trains and routes are currently in the pipeline, including Italy’s “Dolce Vita train,” set to run 10 routes through the country’s most well-known landscapes, and Midnight Trains, an upcoming network of overnight services from Paris to 12 different European destinations.

However, French designer Thierry Gaugain plans to take the rail travel experience to a completely new level with his latest concept, a private luxury train made to measure for one lucky, and very wealthy, owner.

Gaugain, who has worked with renowned designer Philippe Starck across countless projects, is known for his impressive yacht designs, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ 80-meter vessel Venus, but this is his first attempt at conceptualizing a train.

Described as a luxurious “palace on rails,” the 400-meter long train will be made of 14 cars and glass so technologically advanced that it can switch from opaque to complete transparency.

‘Palace on rails’

A rendering of the G Train, a new luxury private train concept from French designer Thierry Gaugain.

Courtesy Thierry Gaugain

“This train is envisioned for one unique owner,” Gaugain tells CNN Travel. “It’s not a public train, or a passenger train.

“The owner we envision is someone who is aware of the uniqueness of this train and understands that we are not just talking about transportation. It’s about travel, not how fast you get from point A to point B.”

Gaugain feels that travel has become more focused on speed than the actual journey, and he sees the G Train as a mode of transportation where those on board can have just as much, if not more, fun on the way to their chosen destination.

“Travel is not about speed,” he says. “It’s about taking the time, because time is the only treasure we have.”

And it’s not just the exterior of the train that can be transformed at the flick of a switch, passengers can also change “the interior ambiance of the train in whichever section they are.”

If they want to ensure the outdoor surroundings, they can switch to transparent mode, but if they want to create their own views, they can change the glass to opaque and create pretty much any view they want.

“The train is a stage,” explains Gaugain. “You can change the light, the season or the pace in order to change your relationship to time.”

While a luxury train might not seem like the most obvious transition from motor yacht designs, Gaugain believes the idea first came to his mind when he was a child, explaining that trains have always fascinated him.

“There’s something fantastic about trains,” he explains.”There are a lot of romantic ideas attached to them.”

Time to slow down

Rendering of the G Train concept courtesy Thierry Gaugain

Guests can change the interior, or exterior surrounding of the train at the touch of a button.

Courtesy Thierry Gaugain

But Gaugain had one particular person in mind when he envisioned the G Train, billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs.

“When the idea came to my head, I was thinking of her as a potential user,” he admits.

He has yet to find a customer and admits he may need to find “someone as crazy” as himself to buy the train. It will likely be at a cost of around $350 million and the project will take at least two and a half years to build.

“Maybe the person who buys the train will start a new chapter of their life,” he says. “Because we [travelers] are constantly in a rush.

“We need some time to slow down for inner travel to understand where we’d like to go and to understand our desires.”

With space for around 18 overnight guests, the G Train is set to run at 160 kilometers per hour and will be adapted to run on railways across the Americas and Europe.

Gaugain has brought a number of experts, such as Swiss train builder Stadler, glass manufacturer Saint-Gobain, UK engineering firm Eckersley O’Callaghan and security company Marine Guard onboard to ensure that the design is “feasible.”

“Such a train is very complicated,” he explains. “Because there is no train that runs on all the tracks around the world that complies with all the systems.”

Enjoying the present

Rendering of the G Train concept courtesy Thierry Gaugain

The G Train will have a garden on board that allows passengers to “explore different atmospheres each time.”

Courtesy Thierry Gaugain

The G Train can be split into two if those onboard decide they want to go off in different directions.

Passengers enter via the welcome hall at the center of the train, which leads to its main residential area that includes the owner’s accommodation and entertainment space, as well as an area for special guests, a social room, as well as Grand Salon that’s specifically designed for receptions.

Guests will also have access to a “secret” garden, while the wings of the train can be folded down to devise alfresco terraces, where parties can be held, or even onboard concerts.

The G Train can be split into two if those onboard decide they want to go off in different directions.

The concept comes as overnight / long distance rail travel resurgence continues, with Austria’s OBB announcing a collaboration with Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, France’s SNCF and Swiss Federal Railways to launch new “Nightjet” routes, along with a sleeper train between Zurich and Barcelona, in the next four years.

Renewed interest in train travel has been closely linked with concerns about the environment, as travelers become more aware of their carbon footprint.

Gaugain says he’s not surprised that things are moving in this direction, and predicts that trains will be even more popular in the years to come.

“The train isn’t an object from the past,” he says. “Trains are meeting the present right now. Sustainability is one major reason.

“There is nothing more sustainable than trains when it comes to traveling objects. The plane is way behind, and other means are very energy consuming.

“It [trains] will become more and more a vehicle for the future. And what we have in mind with this train is to make a vehicle for the future. A marriage of extreme luxury and the best technology.”