European night trains

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European night trains

Postby CarterB » Tue Mar 28, 2006 4:50 pm

Would like to start a discussion on your experience/s travelling on European night trains.

From couchette to delux. What are your experiences/s? Any particular 'bargains' that you recommend? Any to stay away from? How about night trains to St. Petersburg or Moscow?
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Postby space_student » Tue Mar 28, 2006 6:39 pm

Night trains between St. Petersburg and Moscow are something I'm very familiar with, as I grew up in St. Petersburg and took the train to Moscow almost every school break to spend time with my grandparents. There are something like a dozen different night trains, falling into the three categories of Russian trains: firmennyi (literally "brand-name," top-of-the-line trains), skoryi (meaning "fast" or "express") and passazhirskiy (meaning "passenger," a local train making a lot of stops). Only firmenniy trains have names, and generally provide the best service.

Carriages on the night trains come in three classes: SV (first class), kupeinyi (2nd class), and platskartnyi (3rd class). All three classes provide sleeping accommodations; I've never seen coach seating on an overnight train. First class consists of a private compartment for 2 and, for St.Petersburg-Moscow trains, includes a “dinner box” of tasty foods, including caviar, waiting for you when you board. Here’s a shot I took in first class on the “Krasnaya Strela” train. We paid about US$50 per person, but I think the price went up since then to more like $80. Still a great deal.

Second class is a private compartment for four, and sometimes includes food in the price. A second-class compartment looks like this.

Finally, third class is arranged dorm-style, with no compartments but some privacy walls. Note how the table cleverly converts into part of the bed for the night.

Also, overnight trains are always equipped with a café/dining car, some quite cleverly designed:

http://www.rzd.ru/images/viewimage.html?pi_id=21950
http://www.rzd.ru/images/viewimage.html?pi_id=21964
http://www.rzd.ru/images/viewimage.html?pi_id=17560
http://www.rzd.ru/images/viewimage.html?pi_id=19682

As for European trains going to Moscow or St. Petersburg, there seems to be several options. I’m not familiar with these trains personally, but this page may prove useful:

http://www.seat61.com/Russia.htm
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Re: European night trains

Postby george matthews » Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:27 pm

CarterB wrote:Would like to start a discussion on your experience/s travelling on European night trains.

From couchette to delux. What are your experiences/s? Any particular 'bargains' that you recommend? Any to stay away from? How about night trains to St. Petersburg or Moscow?


It is some time since I took any sleepers in Europe, but when I last had an Interrail ticket taking a couchette was nearly always cheaper than staying in a hotel, or even a cheap hotel. That is a contrast from the US where sleepers are beyond my budget.

I think my last long distance couchette was from Wien to Amsterdam. (It arrived to the minute, after crossing Austria, Germany and Netherlands.)

On that trip I had taken a couchette from Krakow to Budapest, and from Praha to Katowice. Also I have taken a full service sleeper in Sweden from Malmo to Stockholm and from Stockholm to Kobenhavn. I have taken couchettes in Germany, France and Spain.

I have also taken sleepers in Britain, though not for a long time. There used to be more than there are now.

Because of the high speed network sleepers are going out. For example there used to be sleepers between London and Edinburgh, but now that times for a day train are down to about 4 hours there is less demand - and that is not strictly a High Speed Line. Some of the long distance sleepers I have taken in the past no longer run. For example Edinburgh/Glasgow to Inverness have been cancelled. The Train from Amsterdam to Vienna no longer runs. A train I once took from Brig to Paris no longer runs.

Two reasons for the decline: cheap airlines; high speed day trains.
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Postby CarterB » Thu Mar 30, 2006 9:37 am

I was not aware that the sleeper from Wien to Amsterdam no longer existed.
About 6 years ago, I too, had taken that train, (reverse direction) using a couchette, which I shared with a delightful family that were heading to Austria for a ski trip. We shared great Dutch cheeses and beers!! I have found over the twenty years of train travel in Europe, that travelling by couchette was not only a very economical way to travel overnight (as opposed to quite expensive hotels in Europe) but that I got to meet the most delightful people as well. I have never had a bad 'overnight' experience using a couchette.

Space Student: How about the trains from Berlin to St. Petersburg? Any suggestions?
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Postby george matthews » Thu Mar 30, 2006 10:55 am

CarterB wrote:I was not aware that the sleeper from Wien to Amsterdam no longer existed.
About 6 years ago, I too, had taken that train, (reverse direction) using a couchette, which I shared with a delightful family that were heading to Austria for a ski trip. We shared great Dutch cheeses and beers!! I have found over the twenty years of train travel in Europe, that travelling by couchette was not only a very economical way to travel overnight (as opposed to quite expensive hotels in Europe) but that I got to meet the most delightful people as well. I have never had a bad 'overnight' experience using a couchette.

Space Student: How about the trains from Berlin to St. Petersburg? Any suggestions?


I would check the Thomas Cook timetable, but I read in Today's Railways that the Dutch had cut back on international services. It's probaby been killed off by the cheap airlines. Or maybe it runs only in the Summer.

I believe there are still direct services from Berlin to St Peterburg.
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Last September in France

Postby GeorgeF » Tue Apr 04, 2006 10:38 am

In September, 2005, SNCF discontinued almost all traditional sleeper services which are totally internal to France. Couchettes continue to run. Two lines from Paris were kept; I think the towns involved subsidize it. International sleepers still run, too.
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Postby koen » Wed Apr 05, 2006 1:08 pm

Amsterdam to Paris (288 - 289 ) is stopped too.
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Postby george matthews » Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:46 pm

koen wrote:Amsterdam to Paris (288 - 289 ) is stopped too.

Once again the reason for that is that Thalys is now so very fast and soon to be even faster when the High Speed Line from Antwerp to Amsterdam opens either next year or 2008.

Generally, sleepers aren't viable when ordinary day trains cover the distance in up to three hours. The only people who would use sleepers in that case are backpackers (like me) wanting to avoid paying for a conventional hotel, and using a rail pass that doesn't add revenue to the train. Thus all over western Europe where there are high speed day trains the sleepers are being withdrawn.

In Britain the main remaining sleepers are from London to Aberdeen and Inverness/Fort William. It has survived when many others have gone. Hunting, Shooting and Fishing upper class types fight for the Inverness/Fort William train. Oil industry people want the sleeper to Aberdeen. The only other one is the sleeper from London to Plymouth and Penzance. On that route there is no motorway for the last section and no highspeed train for the Cornish section (track not suitable). Even so it there had to be a campaign last year to persuade the Department of Transport to continue to pay for it. The Cornish tourism people value it. The Plymouth train also carries some cars - the last remaining car carrier where there used to be several. Again, the building of motorways has reduced the need - though road congestion may be making some people wish that Motorail was still with us.

Without looking at Thomas Cook I would guess that there are still sleepers in eastern Europe, but even there the need to make the railways accountable may be causing their withdrawal. Most of those countries can't find the money to subsidise loss making services.
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Postby GeorgeF » Thu Apr 06, 2006 11:13 pm

george matthews wrote:Without looking at Thomas Cook I would guess that there are still sleepers in eastern Europe, but even there the need to make the railways accountable may be causing their withdrawal. Most of those countries can't find the money to subsidise loss making services.
Indeed. I can't find my reference just now, but I think CD (Czech Railways) ordered some new sleepers recently.

German Railways (DB) has a fantastic website at http://www.bahn.de/index.htm. Go to "International Travellers" and access their information/reservations system there. It covers much, much more than just Germany. When you first get the basic info on the trains you want, click on "Details for All", and train consist (couchette, sleeping-car, restaurant, etc.) info will be shown. Remarkable. Sometimes, even fares.

Added via edit on April 11: Finnish Railways has put into service new double-deck sleepers. See http://www.vr.fi/heo/eng/junat/junat.htm. It's in English.
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Postby someone » Thu May 18, 2006 4:27 am

Night Train services are still very extensive in Europe. e.g. following end destinations can be reached from switzerland (by may 2006):

-barcelona
-irun/hendaye
-paris
-amsterdam
-norddeich mole (german "Nordsee" coast)
-hamburg
-kopenhagen
-ostseebad binz (german "Ostsee coast, Isle of Rügen)
-berlin
-dresden
-prague
-vienna
-budapest
-graz
-ljubliana, zagreb, belgrade
-venice
-rome
-lecce

The high speed railways are poorly connected within borders, but work is in progress. it will still take some decades until every country is connected with the others over high speed rails.

furthermore you rarely see multiplenights - journey in europe. they exist almost only in eastern europe where they run e.g. from berlin to moscow (2nights) or from budapest via bukarest to thessaloniki in greece (2 nights too)
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Postby CarterB » Fri May 19, 2006 8:52 am

Other multiple night, same train trips can still be had in Europe from Frankfurt to Moscow and from Berlin to St. Petersburg.
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Re: European night trains

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Mon May 22, 2017 6:17 pm

Much has changed to the negative since Mr. Morris originated this topic. The exodus of sleeping car services appears to be much like US railroad passenger trains during the '60's.

The OBB initiative to market a number of Sleeper lines, let's just say it is like the US roads that still "put on the happy face" during that era.

TRAINS Newswire reports (paywalled):

http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/20 ... ins-doomed

Fair Use:

BERLIN — The number of passenger night trains offering sleeping accommodation operated within Europe has declined rapidly since 2010. Low-cost airlines and faster day trains are credited with taking passengers from traditional overnight services.

The European Parliament's Committee on Transport and Tourism has published a research report into the future of night train services. "Passenger night trains in Europe: the end of the line?" looks at the business reasons that have created uncertainty in many national railroad managements.

A number of night train services will have closed by the end of 2017. Germany’s Deutsche Bahn has already closed its City Night Line services and the network of France’s Intercités de Nuit has been severely reduced


The entire report in English can be linked. Use the title noted above and Mr. Google will take it from.there.
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Re: European night trains

Postby CarterB » Mon May 22, 2017 8:39 pm

Sadly, Mr. Norman, the deterioration is quite rapid and cross borders. While the OBB service at least allows overnight on several key longer distance city pairs. Many previous major city to city routes are gone. One of my favorites to/from Prague for instance. I will certainly miss traveling in Europe on my yearly trips via night trains, which, for a 'tourist' were quite economical vis a vis having to stay at a hotel.
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Re: European night trains

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Thu May 25, 2017 7:37 am

Let's say for fun, we "decide" to make a trip from, say, Salzburg to Rome on NightJet EN295 that leaves Salzburg 2200h and arrives 0925 next day.

While the one way fare of €139,00 is cheap enough (by air according to a quick Orbitz peek is €235), that is one Berth in a three Berth Cabin (higher than Couchette). Despite all the NightJet propaganda, that is the highest accommodation that can be booked on the web.

A peek at their site http://www.nightjet.com shows Single Deluxe Rooms complete with private shower, but, if what they offer on the web is last word, they sure aren't on that route.

No business traveler, will put up with that, or for that matter, certainly when compared with a backpacking millennial, will this single affluent traveler.

The railroad and Wagon-Lit "Orient Express" is gone. Away from flashy brochures and a nice livery that puts lipstick on the pig, it is simply an Econosnooze product - again on this Salzburg-Rome route.

Europeans, including business travelers, were I'd say even into the '80's, willing to have a broom closet hotel room featuring a walk down the hall to the "WC". I'd think today they expect the same amenities as does a Stateside traveler.

All told, I think the OBB managers had a bit too much Gruner Veltliner when they finalized this business plan. European Sleepers of the six bunk per cabin Couchette varietal will still be around so long as there are young people backpacking over there, but to them such a Sleeper is simply saving €€€ over a hotel.

Finally in all fairness, the Single Deluxe cabins do exist; they are presently available on the Bregenz-Vienna line, or otherwise the length of Austria.
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Re: European night trains

Postby CarterB » Thu May 25, 2017 11:47 am

I find the double or the deluxe compartments, (if you really need a shower) accommodations just perfect for overnight train travel. Use them quite often on the Hamburg-Freiburg, Hamburg-Munich and Hamburg-Passau routes, never had a problem or a bad night's sleep.
When alone, I even use the 4 bed couchettes, and are just fine for me, even at my age. Most times I even have had the whole couchette compartment to myself, and even when not, the fellow travelers have been great. (I agree, the 6 bunk couchettes are only for backpackers) All in all, still quite superior to the accommodations, ride, and connections compared to Amtrak. And if you purchase a DB rail pass here before going to Germany the cost/s are quite low. Even the upgrade costs for the compartment is very reasonable. Usually $60EU or less. Big savings over hotels there which for anything decent is $150EU or more.
Even better, you travel during the night, arrive early am, giving you a full day at destination, time for a leisurely late dinner
then back on the train overnight to home. Done this all over Germany, Austria, Czech, Denmark, Netherlands for years and thoroughly have enjoyed the experiences.
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