The couchette and sleeping cars for the Brussels – Liège – Berlin Moonlight Express

Bed and seat.

Moonlight Express, a new train operator from Belgium, announced a night train service from Brussels and Liège to Berlin. The Moonlight Express is expected to start in April 2022. But with which rolling stock?

The term rolling stock in the rail transport industry refers to railway vehicles, including both powered and unpowered vehicles, for example locomotives, railroad cars, coaches, private railroad cars and wagons. A connected series of railway vehicles is a train. 

Night trains and sleeper trains are hyped. Night trains mix nostalgia for the olden, simpler days with forward thinking. Can we we really keep flying to destinations nearby? 

But obviously as train conductors, as train enthusiasts and as avid night train users, we wonder which rolling stock these night trains will use. A new enterprise such as Moonlight Express can’t afford to buy existing coaches or ordering bespoke and tailor-made sleeper cars. Fortunately, there are already existing options. 

RDC Deutschland

Moonlight Express announced teaming up with RDC Deutschland for its rolling stock. Its entity RDC Asset GmbH has an array of coaches on offer. 

“RDC Asset GmbH, based in Hamburg, Germany, is a subsidiary of Railroad Development Corporation (RDC) founded in 2019. The company specializes in vehicle leasing (dry lease, full service) and vehicle management (ECM I-III).The available fleet consists of seating cars (200 km/h), lounge cars (200 km/h) as well as the largest night train fleet in Germany consisting of couchette cars (160 – 200 km/h) and sleeping cars (160 – 200 km/h). All carriages have power sockets or USB charging options and can be equipped with WLAN on request.”

Couchettes & sleepers

Of course you can sleep on a seat. But if you want to lie down, you have two basic options.

Mark Smith, better known as The Man in Seat 61, describes a couchette. “Couchettes are basic padded bunks supplied with rug, sheet and pillow which you arrange yourself. There are six bunks per compartment, but on many routes you can pay a little more to travel in a less-crowded 4-berth compartment. By day, a couchette compartment is an ordinary seating compartment, with three-a-side bench seats facing each other. At night, the bunks are folded out. Each berth has its own reading light. There are washrooms and toilets at the end of the corridor. The sexes are normally mixed in couchettes as you do not normally fully undress, but on many routes women can book berths in a ladies-only compartment. Couchette cars come in many different designs, all based on the same format.”

On sleeper compartments, Smith says: “A sleeper is the most civilised, comfortable and romantic way to travel. European sleeping-cars are hotels on rails, with compact, carpeted bedrooms with proper beds freshly-made up with mattress, sheets and blankets or duvet. There’s a washbasin, towels and toiletries provided. For evening or morning use, compartments usually convert to a private sitting room. On a handful of routes (for example, on Nightjet sleeper trains) you can opt for a deluxe room with private shower and toilet.”

On offer

Moonlight Express already indicated wanting to only offer lie-flat sleeping options. This means couchettes and sleepers.

RDC has quite a few options on offer. 

The Type 70-90 MUn sleeping car, for instance. “The cars can be used internationally according to RIC standards and are compatible with 1000V, 1500V and 3000V traction current systems. All compartments have power sockets. WLAN can be ordered additionally. The modern kitchen has a microwave, a refrigeration system for gastronomic trolley and a supply of coffee, tea and cocoa specialties. The RDC Asset has all four vehicles of this type that have ever been built. The vehicles are currently being refurbished and will be available expected Q2/2021.”

Q2 or second quarter could be just in time for Moonlight Express’ maiden voyage. Also, As Moonlight Express has stated it wanted to focus on experience, one can expect offering this deluxe sleeping option.

The Type WLAB 7171/AB 33 sleeping car.

The Type 248.1/3 / Bvcmz couchette car.

The Type 248.5 / Bvcmz couchette car. “We offer an optional conversion of the companion compartment to a galley with microwave, a refrigeration unit for gastronomic trolley and a supply of coffee, tea and cocoa specialties.”

The Type 249.1 / Bvcmbz (handicapped accessible) couchette car. “hese cars are especially suitable for people with reduced mobility with a special entrance, compartment and toilet.”

Danny travelled on these coaches when they were owned by the Austrian Federal Railway operator ÖBB. That’s where he took the photos used in this blog post. 

Catering and party

Louis Lammertyn and Louis De Jaeger from Moonlight Express have stated they want a premium experience on board. Meeting people, good food and why not a party? 

The Type 266.9 bistro car can fit that bill. And the Type WGmz party car is a club on wheels. 

Did you know the NMBS / SNCB has such cars? They are still active. They were on display at Het Spoorwegmuseum in Utrecht

In conclusion

Moonlight Express has quite a few options to choose from. We’re curious to see what rolling stock will line up, in which colours, in April 2022. 

Further reading

Related posts

Rear lights.

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