Things I miss Number 37

Regular readers of this blog may have detected a nostalgic turn. It's just the way I feel now.

This time it is the Night Ferry.

29 years ago, in late October, I boarded the Night Ferry - the Continental Sleeping Car train that departed from London Victoria each night, bound for Paris and Brussels. At Dover, it was loaded onto a ship and unloaded at Calais or Dunkirk. By a complete stroke of luck and serendipity it just happened to be the last one, ever.

I was greeted by the carriage conductor who led me down the corridor. It was cloaked in the smell of perfumes, French cigarettes and fresh linen. The main luggage was sealed in the fourgon and I carried the rest into the cabin. There was a sink, with a self-emptying potty underneath it, a cupboard with two glasses and a carafe, on which was engraved the crest of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits et des Grands Express Européens.

There was a communicating door with the next cabin. Underneath the bed was a life-jacket. Fat lot of good it would have done if the ship had gone down - the wagons were well below the waterline. It was a genteel way to travel, one that promised the kind of excitement you would associate with "The Riddle of the Sands" or an early James Bond tale. One could imagine how, after the War, Churchill had the train stop specially at his local station to take him across the water, or The Burtons (Richard and Elizabeth) would settle in to the comfort of a double cabin and order champagne to be brought. Perhaps the odd spy would make a discreet visit under a false identity. That was the kind of train it was.

The idea was revived sometime later; a through train from Glasgow to Paris was planned to the extent that the rolling stock had been built and fitted. Labour cancelled it. They really have no imagination, do they?


capslock said...

I'm going to have to go to Specsavers. The writing is too small for me to read.

WW said...

sorry,Capslock - try pressing "Ctrl" and "+". That should big up the type.

capslock said...

That's better ta. I've not heard of the night ferry before.

strapworld said...


when a young copper, yonks ago, we used to search the 'sleepers' which had been cleaned and prepared ready for the customers.

It was quite normal to find at least six 'men of the road' enjoying, what they hoped would be, a night of luxury!!

Hope you are not itching now!!

WW said...

Nice to hear from you Strappy. And Yuk!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

As you may know, the Night Ferry was peculiar in that, yes, as Strapworld says, it was searched by the Police, who also maintained a presence, in the form of a Sargeant on the platform, before departure. The platform at Victoria was also off limits and there was a Customs Officer who checked the passports, which were then placed in envelopes, sealed and placed with the Chef du Train. This was in order to facilitate the border crossing without disturbing the sleeping passengers.

banned said...

I think that might have been the night train that I caught twice from Victoria in the late 1970's. I can't remember it being loaded onto the ship but I do know it took me, uninterupted to Kandersteg ( Switzerland ) which is where I wanted to go, before continuing on to Milan.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Banned. It must have been. There was no other. I know the Night Ferry briefly ran to Switzerland, but I didn't know it went to Milan. Somehow, you managed to sleep through the Ferry bit, which is more than I did. The French shunters seemed to delight in making the experience of off loading as bumpy and as noisy as possible.