The Night FerryBack to Forum
Anonymous31 Jan 2016
I risk dating myself seriously with this, but it was a truly memorable way to travel. You boarded the train at Gare du Nord around 9 pm if I remember correctly and settled into your sleeper. By the time I did this trip the dining car to Dunkerque had been discontinued, but drinks could be ordered in your cabin. The sleeping cars were shunted onto the ferry and early the next morning you were in Dover with the sun rising and the most magnificent English breakfast as you tootled along to Victoria. It was the ultimate civilized method of travel – no wonder it was a favorite of the Windsors when they sneaked back to Blighty!31 Jan 2016
The Golden Arrow was the prestige daytime train while the Night Ferry was its overnight equivalent.
Sadly the Nightstar trains (which were similar in concept to the Night Ferry) which were supposed to operate through the Tunnel, to Belgium, France, Holland and Germany never entered service.
Taxpayers’ money was used to construct a number of hotel-standard Nightstar coaches. But they ended up in storage and were eventually sold to the Canadians.31 Jan 2016
I can also remember that service and took it many times, but in the back of mind I also recall taking the train from London to Paris via Newhaven and Dieppe?31 Jan 2016
I agree Peter, there are still night train services on the continent serving many city pairs, so why not Edinburgh, Birmingham, London etc to Paris and further afield overnight?31 Jan 2016
The difference is the services on the continent operate mainly within Schengen area hence do not have the border issues to deal with.
Stations like Birmingham and Edinburgh don’t offer segregation for cross-border services meaning people would need to disembark somewhere for border controls (I believe on the Lyon-London service everyone has to get off in Lille).
In fact with the great European experiment fading fast and border controls popping up in many countries the logistics seem quite challenging.31 Jan 2016
Simon, i remember when Schengen didn’t exist customs and immigration would pass through the train or the conductor would collect the passports and deal with border formalities while you slept.
Sadly that’s probably no longer possible today!1 Feb 2016
Thanks for the link AMcWhirter – there is also the book The Night Ferry
which gives the history in more detail. One of the cars is now restored in the York museum. There were several ways to Paris and Newhaven-Dieppe was one, but only the Night Ferry had the through sleeping cars.1 Feb 2016
LP – yes I agree that wouldn’t happen now, certainly not to and from the UK. The immigration issue across Europe is so big that no-one would take the risk of a train full of migrants heading through the tunnel without proper checks.1 Feb 2016
Get them in one train, easier targets 🙁1 Feb 2016
LP – Quite correct. Newhaven-Dieppe was a recognised rail-ferry route between London and Paris. There were boat trains running to Newhaven and Dieppe.
SimonS1 – Under Tunnel rules all passengers must be immigration/security checked on each side of the Channel. Lille is used only for trains to the UK because passengers taking Eurostar from the UK are checked at St Pancras.
Also Lille is not used for those Eurostar passengers heading to the UK from Brussels/Paris as these stations have their own immigration/security checks.
UKBA refuses to fund immigration/security checks at mainland European points other than the ones currently used.
Lille is used only when passengers are travelling from other points on direct trains from mainland Europe. For example, departing Marseilles or Lyon and it’s expected to be used when Amsterdam-London services start in 2017. (The original start date of December 2016 has been put back as we have reported).
It would be possible to operate sleeper trains from the UK regions to Brussels/Paris but there would have to be security checks in place at the UK regional departure points.
But another problem (for Nightstar trains running to/from UK regions) is that a special fleet of trains would have to be built to meet the demands of the European loading guage which is more generous than that in the UK.
As mentioned above, a special fleet was in the process of being constructed and were being tested on the ECML (usually under cover of darkness). But commercial services never started.
I suspect this is one reason why the Night Ferry disappeared. The special Wagon-Lits coaches were adapted to the UK guage and were in need of replacement. In addition, the train ferries themselves weren’t exactly up-to-date either (if my memory serves me correctly).1 Feb 2016
Your memory serves correctly Alex. On the night train at least you could sleep through the crossing, though all the shunting and coupling did their best to wake you up.
On the day crossing you went into the ferry and passed time on the deck or wherever. I recall that even back in the 70’s the ferry was a bit tatty and faded especially when compared to the ferries on the Dover Calais and Ostend routes.1 Feb 2016
It definitely was a noisy process getting the cars on board and chained down, but great fun and as I was a student in France at the time it did not bother me if I missed some sleep There was also something quite romantic about Platform 2 at Victoria with its’ illuminated sign for the service.1 Feb 2016