Night trains, sleeper trains, sleepers. Call them what you want. Danny and I love night trains. So when Vanessa from Nessacityblog offered to lend me ‘Night Trains, The Rise and Fall of the Sleeper‘ by Andrew Martin, I didn’t refuse.
Andrew Martin (56) is a British journalist and novellist. He’s also the son of a high placed railwaymen. As a child he had acces to (almost) free train travel in Europe in first class. As a child he undertook some epic night train journeys.
This book is about reliving them.
Back in time
Martin starts by recounting the history of night trains in Europe, especially that of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (et des grands express européens), founded by Belgian Georges Nagelmackers.
Further in the book he explains the ramifications of ‘Council Directive 95/19/EC of 19 June 1995 on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity and the charging of infrastructure fees‘, known as the Railway Directive.
In Belgium this led to the division of the NMBS / SNCB into rail operator NMBS / SNCB and infrastructure manager Infrabel.
Then he undertakes journeys reminiscing
- The Blue Train (Le Train Bleu) in France;
- The Nordland Railway between Trondheim and Bodø in Norway;
- The northern route of the Orient Express;
- The Sud Express between Paris and Lisbon in Portugal;
- The Berlin Night Express between Malmö in Sweden and Berlin in Germany.
Although it’s never really stated, Martin undertook his voyages in 2017. The writing style of he book is a mix of a travel diary with a zest of journalism and a comment of the state of railways.
This book has been written as a lament. But if it turns out that my tone is misconceived, and the European night trains will not disappear into a permanent darkness, I will only be to glad.
With discussions about air travel versus train travel in the climate change debate, this book offers a first hand account of the state of affairs in 2017.
A written previously, European railway operators need to clean up their act. In the meantime ‘Night Trains’ offers inspiration for future train journeys.