If you believe Lonely Planet, travellists need to purchase tickets for specified “tourist trains” at exorbitant prices. This is not the case. You can jump onto any train and get charged local rates, although seating is not guaranteed.
I grab the 8.45am from Luxor heading up to Cairo. It costs E£52 and takes 10 hours exactly. I do lose my seat at 1.30pm, but i am invited to sit on the floor on a piece of cardboard and plyed with cigarettes, Mirinda apple soda and chips from friendly and curious locals. Positive experiences with Egyptians have been decidedly rare and it make a refreshing change.