After writing about the upcoming low-cost trains, we will now be writing about the other end of the spectrum, the little that remains of luxury rail services. Throughout Europe there used to be a vast network of sleeper services with luxury coaches and exotic sounding names like “Orient Express” and “Nord Express” all operated by the CIWL (Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-lits) which was founded by the Belgian Georges Nagelmackers in 1873. After the Second World War with the rising amount of car ownership and flights, the business however went into a decline and the night trains where taken over by the railroad companies themselves in 1971. To improve the marketing of night services in Europe they were all classified under the name of EuroNight (EN) in 1993, and for some night services this name is still used.
In 1995 the German (DB), Swiss (SBB CFF FFS) and Austrian (OBB) railways set up a joint venture under the name “City Night Line” and they introduced brand-new so called hotel trains even equipped with some luxury cabins with their own toilet and shower in the cabin (a first in Europe). In December 2016 however the German Railways decided to stop offering overnight trains and City Night Line ended operations.
The Austrian Railways already the left the City Night Line joint venture a few years earlier and operated their own night trains under the EuroNight brand, partly with very old coaches dating back as far as 1955.
When the Germans stopped their night train operation in 2016, the Austrian Railways decided to take-over some of the routes and the newest coaches to modernise their fleet and launch a brand new night train offering under the name of NightJet (NJ).
Nightjet route Network
Currently NightJet offers an extensive network of night trains, mainly to, from and through Austria with its main operational base in Vienna. While most trains are operated by equipment and staff from OBB and Newrest (their Service partner, formerly CIWL) some trains make use of equipment and staff of foreign railways.
|NJ 246/247||ÖBB||Vienna – Linz – Innsbruck – Feldkirch – Bregenz|
|NJ 414/40465||ÖBB||Villach – Bad Gastein – Innsbruck – Feldkirch|
|NJ 466/467||ÖBB||Vienna – Linz – Salzburg – Innsbruck – Zurich|
|NJ 464/465||ÖBB||Graz – Leoben – Innsbruck – Feldkirch – Zurich|
|EN 414/40465||HŽ (Nightjet Partner)||Zagreb – Ljubljana – Villach – Feldkirch – Zurich|
|NJ 471/470||ÖBB||Hamburg – Berlin – Frankfurt – Freiburg – Basel – Zurich|
|NJ 490/491||ÖBB||Vienna – Linz – Nuremberg – Hanover – Hamburg|
|NJ 40490/40421||ÖBB||Vienna – Linz – Nuremberg – Frankfurt – Cologne – Düsseldorf|
|NJ 420/421||ÖBB||Innsbruck – Munich – Frankfurt – Cologne – Düsseldorf|
|NJ 40420/40491||ÖBB||Innsbruck – Munich – Nuremberg – Hanover – Hamburg|
|EN 462/463||MÁV (Nightjet Partner)||Budapest – Vienna – Linz – Salzburg – Munich|
|NJ 40233/40294||ÖBB||Vienna – Villach – Bologna – Florence – Rome|
|NJ 233/235||ÖBB||Vienna – Villach – Verona – Milan|
|NJ 237/236||ÖBB||Vienna – Linz – Salzburg – Villach – Udine – Venice|
|NJ 1237/1234||ÖBB||Vienna – Villach – Bologna – Florence – Pisa – Livorno|
|NJ 295/294||ÖBB||Munich – Salzburg – Villach – Bologna – Florence – Rome|
|NJ 40295/40235||ÖBB||Munich – Salzburg – Villach – Verona – Milan|
|NJ 40463/40236||ÖBB||Munich – Salzburg – Villach – Udine – Venice|
|EN 50463/498||HŽ (Nightjet Partner)||Munich – Ljubljana – Zagreb|
|EN 60463/480||HŽ (Nightjet Partner)||Munich – Opatija – Rijeka|
|EN 406/407||PKP (Nightjet Partner)||Vienna – Ostrava – Katowice – Warsaw|
|EN 50406/50402||PKP (Nightjet Partner)||Vienna – Ostrava – Krakow|
|EN 60406/60444||ZSSK (Nightjet Partner)||Vienna – Poprad – Košice|
|EN 50467/50466||CD (Nightjet Partner)||Zurich – Feldkirch – Linz – České Budějovice – Prague|
As of December 2018 there will be a new nightjet from Vienna to Berlin via Krakow in Poland. There have been some reports of OBB wanting to expand the Nightjet network with a possible train to Amsterdam, but this will not be before 2022 when their new trains will be delivered.
Service On Board
The service you receive while travelling on Nightjet services is quite extensive for a train. Every sleeper and couchette coach has a service member responsible for providing you with everything you might need and of course all necessary bedding is provided in your cabin. When boarding in a sleeper you get a sparkling wine, an evening snack, a bottle of water and towels and soap provided at your bed while in a couchette you just have a bottle of water provided upon boarding. In sleeper, couchette and seated coach you can always order some snacks and drinks from a menu.
in the morning a breakfast is offered, you can select the evening beforehand from a menu what you would like to eat, sleeper passengers get 6 complimentary choices and couchette passengers get 4 complimentary choices while you can always add some extra options at €1 per option.
Types of accommodation
The top of the bill is of course the sleeper coach, being the most expensive but also the most comfortable and privative option. While all coaches are fully airconditioned there are several different types in operation, offering slightly different amenities.
The most widely used coach on OBB Nightjet services and all CD services is the Comfortline. These are the newest coaches in the fleet, originally delivered to DB and CD in 2004 and the DB ones taken over by OBB in 2016 when CNL services where ended. These coaches are some of the only coaches operating in Europe with potable water, so you can safely drink from the taps in these coaches as these are equipped with a water purifying system. Another unique feature is the hotelcard system in use for locking your door, meaning you can walk through the train with a safely locked compartment door, something which is not common on European night services.
These coaches have 3 bigger Deluxe compartments located in the middle of the coach, all equipped with an ensuite bathroom. The Bathroom is tiny with a toilet, shower and washbasin crammed in, but perfectly useable for your morning shower. The compartment can be used for up to 3 persons and can be connected to the next door compartment to create an even bigger compartment for up to 6 persons. Of course there are a number of power plugs and light options scattered throughout the room, there is even the possibility of setting up an automatic alarm and a direct intercom with the service member compartment. There is plenty of luggage storage space available, with the entire area above the corridor ceiling to your disposal.
The remainder of the coach is filled with normal compartments, very similar in lay-out to the Deluxe ones with also providing space for up to 3 passengers. Contrary to a Deluxe cabin these do not have an ensuite bathroom but instead have a washbasin with hot and cold water in the cabin, there are 2 toilets for communal use in the corridor as well as a communal shower at 1 end of the coach.
Double Decker sleeper
The double decker sleepers are slightly older, delivered in the early 1990’s as part of the original City Night Line fleet. They have the oddity of having cabins on both upper and lower levels, both accessed from a side corridor with steps up and down to the cabins. There are not a lot of these coaches in operation so you can only find them on the Vienna <> Zurich and Berlin <> Zurich routes.
The Deluxe rooms on these coaches are the biggest and most luxurious ones you can find, all located on the upper level with big panoramic windows. They have 2 beds in one corner, a table with 2 comfortable armchairs in the middle and a closet right next to the entry to the ensuite bathroom at the other end. The bathroom is surprisingly spacious for a train equipped with a spacious sink and mirror area, a toilet and a shower with a glass door. There even is a hair dryer provided here. The only oddity is that the only useable power plug in the room is here in the bathroom.
The normal rooms however are rather small, mostly on the lower level and basically only offer 2 beds and a sink in the corner with hardly any luggage storage space. There are 2 communal toilets at the end of the coach, but no showers.
Other railway sleepers
On some services the sleeping cars are provided by the Hungarian (MAV), Polish (PKP) and Croatian (HZ) railways. These are mostly older coaches only offering standard compartments for up to 3 persons with a washbasin in the room and communal toilets in the corridor. Only some of the Polish coaches offer a few Deluxe compartments with an ensuite bathroom and TV set as well as a communal shower at one end of the car. Also the breakfast service on these coaches tend to be less elaborate than the OBB ones as you typically only get a hot drink and a pre-packaged filled croissant.
Even though there are several types of couchette coaches in operation, they all offer very similar equipment. All are air-conditioned and have curtains and locks for your privacy. You can book them in either a 4 or 6 persons compartment, but except for the number of guests travelling in them they are exactly the same. They have 3 foldable beds at either side of the compartment, which can be lowered to sit down during the day and folded out when sleeping overnight. There are toilets and washrooms at both ends of the coach, with some coaches having a handicapped accessible room and toilet at one side. Obviously they are the cheapest and most basic sleeping accommodation you can have, but still far better than sitting all night and ideal for families travelling with children.
Most seated coaches are traditional compartment coaches as used in day trains as well, they are configured with 6 seats in small compartments, offering a little recline . They have air-conditioning and power points in all compartments and the lights can be dimmed to get some shut-eye. Toilets can be found at both ends of the coach, not that there is no complimentary food and beverage so you either need to bring everything with you or buy it from the on-board menu. As you cannot properly lie-down they are not recommended to use if you like to have a proper night of sleep but they can be considered if you are on a tight budget and really want to travel as cheaply as possible.
On some trains there might be open-coaches instead in a 2-2 configuration, these offer no privacy at all and of course for safety reasons lights will be on all night long.
On some Nightjet services you can still load your car and take it with you on the train. This offers the possibility of covering a lot of kilometres overnight and you can arrive fresh and rested at your destination to start your road-trip discovering a new part of Europe.
Over the years I used a number of sleeping trains throughout Europe and I always found the OBB EuroNight and NightJet services the best there are and hopefully I’ll get to travel on them some more in the future. For sure they are a recommendation for anyone still wanting to taste the last bit of old-style railway travel, but don’t be cheap make sure to splash out on a sleeper so you can have comfortable and relaxing experience and you will enjoy every minute of it.