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?
Posted by Wrinkled Weasel on Friday, October 09, 2009