June 2022. Making the best of four weeks off, after the Mediterranean cruise for Danny and Mexico for Timothy, we organised a train trip in England. On the menu: Bletchley Park, the night train to Penzance, the Dartmouth Steam Railway and the Isle of Wight. On the last day, we roamed around London to sample the Elizabeth Line.
After our bog standard trip on Eurostar from Brussels to London and our short visit to Bletchley Park we crossed London on the way to Paddington station. In the morning we had already dropped our bags there at the left-luggage office, to avoid having to lug them around all day. Before we picked our bags up again we had dinner in a Peruvian restaurant in the recently redeveloped docklands around the canal just north of Paddington. It was an ok meal, not as special as we hoped when we booked it.
Heading back to the station we picked up our stored bags and walked across to the other station for the GWR First Class Lounge. As we were booked in a sleeper cabin on the famed Night Riviera overnight train we were allowed access to it, to wait until boarding of our train would start around 22:30.
The lounge consists of two main areas. The first is the more modern main area in which you enter the lounge having some different seating options and some work desks, as well as the bar area where you can get some drinks and snacks.
The drinks and snacks on offer where rather basic, with just some coffee. Tea, water and juices on offer and some crisps and cookies. The second area was the former royal waiting area, dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria. This is a much nicer, more classic decorated waiting area in which we elected to sit down.
Power plugs could be found scattered around the lounge, but you do have to look for a place close to them as not all seating has access to power plugs. The lounge also offers two toilets.
The first sleeper trains on the Great Western Railways out of London Paddington where first introduced back in 1877, and the name Night Riviera was given to the sleeper train running all the way from London to Penzance. The latter is the last remaining sleeper train on the Great Western network and one of only a handful of sleeper trains left in the United Kingdom (The others are all branches of the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Scotland).
Today the train consists of a Class 57 locomotive (originally built as a class 47 by British Rail from 1964 to 1967 and refurbished between 1998-2004) and a rake of mark three coaches (built between 1975 and 1988, completely refurbished for the Night Riviera service between 2017-2018). Leading our train was 57604 ‘Pendennis Castle‘ in a special retro livery.
The first coaches provided a goods area to store bikes and a number of seats for people opting to travel on the cheaper seated tickets overnight (not recommended). It is followed by a lounge car in which you can order some drinks or snacks and have a place to sit outside of your sleeper compartment.
The remainder of the train is made up of identical Mark 3 sleeper cars. At one end of each coach you have two toilets next to each other. There is a very narrow corridor along the side of the coach in which the doors to all cabins are located.
All cabins have two beds, a lower and an upper berth. We booked two single cabins as they are quite tight, to provide us with some more room each, meaning only the lower berth was made up for us.
The cabin is small and cosy but beautifully refurbished and offers a contemporary boutique hotel style. Both power plugs with USB plugs, an attendant call button and light controls are offered for both berths. There are two hangers on the wall in a small closet to hang up some stuff.
Each cabin also has a sink with both warm and cold water, in typical UK fashion it’s a separate hot and cold tap.
A towel and soap are also provided in each cabin. The cabins can be locked from both inside and outside thanks to a hotel keycard system. Upon boarding the key is located in your cabin, when deboarding you have to drop it off in the container located at the end of the coach.
There is a small fold down table located in the back rest in the middle of the bed, which can be used to have your breakfast in bed in the morning.
After boarding the attendant comes around checking your tickets and explaining everything about your room. She also noted down our breakfast order, we could choose between a number of items like a croissant, some porridge or a bacon roll and at what time we would like to have it delivered. She then also requested at what time we like it to be delivered and whether we would like a shower in the morning in the lounge in Penzance. As we very much liked to have a shower in the morning she made reservations and provided us with a time slot.
After all the administration was finished we turned in for the night as it was already quite late at 23:00 UK time or midnight Belgian time. The train had a very smooth ride and very comfortable bedding so I had an excellent night’s sleep.
In the morning the attendant knocked on the door with the breakfast at exactly the time it was ordered. I had some tea with a bacon roll and enjoyed it while lying in bed and looking out of the window, enjoying the Cornish landscape.
All to soon we arrived into Penzance, final stop of the train as this is where the UK ends. We had a swift deboarding and headed for the sleeper lounge in the quaint little station of Penzance.
The lounge offers some seating where you can wait for your shower time slot and offers some more tea, coffee, juice, water, crisps and cookies. The attendant in the lounge really loved her job and made us feel like we were just visiting at some distant relative.
The shower suites where big and well equipped with a toilet, a washbasin and a large walk-in shower. There where toiletries in large reusable containers and they actually smelled rather nice. A GWR green towel was also provided, which is a nice touch to have it in the company colour.
After a nice and refreshing shower Timothy realised he left his passport and house keys on the train. Of course we immediately went outside hoping to be able to grab them from the train. Unfortunately it was already being shunted back to the depot. Luckily the extremely friendly customer service agent in the station immediately assisted us by phoning a colleague in the depot and an hour later we could pick up both passport and keys.
The friendly and professional staff really saved our day.
All in all we had a fantastic trip, all GWR personnel was extremely friendly, customer focused and caring. They all clearly loved their jobs and it showed. The GWR Night Riviera offers a fantastic product, despite being run with older equipment. If you ever intend to travel between London and Cornwall we can highly recommend it. In my opinion Nightjet could learn some stuff from this operation.
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Thank you, Danny, for this very informative, helpful post! —Bobbi
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You’re welcome 🙂
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