Our Story

Owen & Eleanor Hardy

It all started in 1970, when Owen (CEO & Founder of IRT) was an exchange student in Hanover, Germany. Every day, he rode the tram to school, and every day, he fell more in love with the rails.

Pretty soon, he was riding on trains and trams all over Europe.

For Eleanor (IRT President), it started when she was a nanny traveling with a family through Europe — often by train.

In 1977, the two met as newspaper reporters in Charleston, SC, moving to Louisville, KY to work for the Courier-Journal and Times newspapers.

Owen & Eleanor Hardy at dinner

The Start of Society of International Railway Travelers

In 1983, Owen left the newspaper and began a lifelong dream of publishing The International Railway Traveler (IRT), a bimonthly journal, from the bedroom of their apartment.

Several years and two children later, Owen and Eleanor — in response to IRT reader requests — began organizing rail trips instead of just writing about them.

The world’s first travel agency dedicated solely to first-class and luxury trains, The Society of International Railway Travelers, was born.

Owen and Eleanor never looked back.

Over the years, IRT honed its speciality and now focuses solely on luxury-level journeys.


Joining Virtuoso

IRT joined Virtuoso — the exclusive invite-only luxury travel consortium — in 2011, which allowed them to further deepen their connections with luxury travel partners all over the world, and provide special benefits and perks to IRT guests.

“We are the luxury rail experts,” Eleanor says. “And we’re the only such agency within Virtuoso. We’re committed to providing the kind of care one would expect from a friend.

“We already knew the best trains, by traveling hundreds of thousands of miles to investigate and report about them.”

“But now, through Virtuoso, we offer a portfolio that’s icing on the ‘train cake’: the best hotels, cruise lines and tour operators and safari partners to complement our trains.”

Respond to your call of the rails.

Entrust your valuable travel time and dollars to the best in the business: The Society of International Railway Travelers!