• Germany/Belgium/France

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by gibg
I had occasion very recently to ride from the Frankfurt Flughafen (Airport) station to Paris, via Cologne. I rode the Deutsch Bahn ICE train from Frankfurt to Cologne and had hoped to ride the new high-speed (300 km/hr) line (55 minutes), but the line was closed that day and the ICE traveled the old route, up the Rhine, via Coblenz and Bonn. It's an incredibly beautiful ride, with everything from castles to fascintaing river traffic -- but the elapsed time was 2 hours, 25 minutes instead. The restaurant car was not open as it was mid-morning. The ICE train is extremely comfortable and seems to be mostly patronized by businessmenen, each with a laptop. Speeds were probably close to 160 km/hr. I was in first class in the last car, which meant I had a wonderfully unobstructed view from the rear. (The engineer sits behind a glass partition in both directions, allowing passengers to literally "look over his shoulder.")

Having missed my Thalys connection at Cologne, I went into the Deutsch Bahn travel office where an extremely pleasant agent moved me to the next Thalys (they operate every 2 hours). It wasn't long before I was on the platform (the Cologne station has stairs up to each platform, but also next to the stairs is a moving belt on which to place your luggage!). I was in first class on the Thalys, which provides not one but two (!) meals at the seat between Colgne and Paris (a 4-hour trip). The first - a salad, dessert and beverage - is served between Cologne and Brussels; and the second - a sandwich, dessert and beverage - is served between Brussels and Paris. The Thalys make stops at Aachen, Germany, and Liege, Belgium, before Brussels.
At Brussels, it is combined with the Thalys from Amsterdam. The "joining" is remarkable in that the Amsterdam section is already in Brussels; and the Cologne section just pulls up behind it, and voila! they are one train. The operation takes about 3 minutes. Each train is identical, with power on each end of each train -- so there is no passage from the Amsterdam section to the German section.

Then it's off for Paris on the high-speed tracks which join the TGV/Eurostar tracks just south of Lille. It's 85 minutes from Brussels to Paris. I was on the right side, which meant that I saw every passing train because of the left-hand operation -- and there were many! There seemed to be a fast-moving TGV or Eurostar every few minutes. There are no curves or crossovers on this line, and when lines converge, they do so with an extremely gradual curve and an overpass.

All in all, a wonderful ride, and we pulled into Paris' Gare du Nord right on the dot!