Tim's passion for rail travel dates back to 1958 when, as an eight year old school boy, he and his friends would visit Altrincham railway station to watch the procession of steam hauled Express trains which at that time were being diverted through Altrincham on their journeys to and from London and the south. In January 1963, aged twelve, Tim took over the operation of Altrincham Grammar School's Railway Society and in February ran his first bus tour to Crewe locomotive works.
Combining his knowledge and passion of rail with his enthusiasm for travel he successfully operated his first rail tour carrying 350 passengers from Manchester to Edinburgh on 23rd April 1966. Three other tours followed in quick succession – Manchester to Holyhead, Kings Cross to Newcastle and St Pancras to Altrincham. The latter two of which included the use of the 'Flying Scotsman' locomotive.
On leaving school Tim joined the family wine business, Whitwhams, becoming Managing Director in 1975. During this time the company established a world wide export business, purchased a fine wine negociant business in Bordeaux, and also in 1988 established the world record sale price for a single bottle of wine - £125,000, which was only beaten in 2010.
With rail and travel still close to his heart, in 1989 Tim formed GW Travel Ltd. The name retained a link with the family firm as GW stood for Gerald Whitwham – who founded the company in 1788. Wine and travel operated in tandem for the next few years. GW Travel Ltd concentrated on providing specialist steam tours in Eastern Europe, and when Russia finally opened its doors to foreigners in 1992, Tim began operating rail tours through the Caucasus and Crimea. It was during this time that Tim met Marina Linke, who was working for the North Caucasus Railway. Marina was instrumental in building the business into what it is today, firstly as Operations Director and later as Managing Director, before her untimely passing in early 2021.
In 1996 they started running tours over the Trans-Siberian Railway which culminated in the contruction of the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express by Zircon Corporation and Vagon RemService. GW Travel Ltd operated the very first private Trans-Siberian Express tour on 25th May 1996. This train was hauled entirely by steam, using seventy two locomotives, travelling over 13,000 kms in 28 days. Breaking new ground in Russia, this initial tour was the first of many and laid the foundation for Golden Eagle Luxury Trains to become the leading worldwide long distance luxury rail tour provider.
Recognising the increasing worldwide demand for luxury rail travel, the portfolio was extended and in 1999 it ran its first private train tour in China. This was followed in 2004 by a Trans-Canadian tour and more recently, in 2006, with pioneering tours to Lhasa, travelling over the world's highest railway line, and India, between Bombay and Calcutta. In 2008, we completed our first Cape to Cairo journey by private train and luxury jet.
In 2007 a long-held ambition was achieved with the launch in Moscow by HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO of the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, the first privately-owned, fully ensuite private train in Russia.
In June 2012, GW Travel changed its name to Golden Eagle Luxury Trains Limited to better reflect its core business.
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