• European Night Train Study

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by VPayne
The Adobe document referenced in the link below is a summary of a study done on the night train market in Europe. While I can't agree with the six bed compartment car that they propose as and optimal day-night car I think it is somewhat interesting as it shows how to market sleeping car travel over 500 mile distances. I do however wonder if the prices they referenced are the averages for both room accomodations and lessor options. Please forgive me if this seems a little off topic, I simply thought that it would be of interest.
Virgil Payne


  by John_Perkowski
Well, first of all,

Historic standard designs of European sleeping car service include:

1) The standard 6 person 2d class compartment. Here the room makes up into 3 tier racks on each side. No facilities; they are all down the hall.

2) Various bedroom designs. My personal favorities is the MU or Modern Universal. Pretty much equivalent to the 13DBR car of streamliner pre WWII era. Facilities (to wit a sink and a urinal sized chamber pot), along with 1, 2, or 3 racks ... 3 racks are always sold at 2d class RR fares, 2 and 1 at first class.


  by CarterB
Having ridden the 'nachtzugs' frequently in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Czech Republic over the past 13 years, I can attest to the convenience, time/cost factor, and comfort of same.

While the '6er' couchette or liegewagen configuration is a bit much for most American travelers, it is quite popular with European young people and families. I prefer the '4er' which is the same basic 'bunk' configuration but 2 + 2 configuration, and at only about $25-35 upcharge over your rail pass, quite a bargain. You DO sleep in your clothes with other travelers, but I have never had anything but a pleasurable experience. I find that most main train stations have very clean and modern 'wash rooms' where you can freshen up, shave, and even take a shower in complete privacy and comfort. So, 'getting ready for the next day' has never been a problem.

The 1st class cars offer everything from a single BR up to Deluxe (very expensive) which is similar to our Deluxe rooms on Amtrak, though many of the cars are duplex (up/down) configurations.

All in all, night train travel in most of Europe has an accomodation for every budget and/or comfort level. Very efficient timetables and basically you can leave from about 11pm any major city, arrive 7am-10am any other major city. Exceptions of course, would be going from say Lisbon to BudaPest, which is more than just an overnight trip.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Even if this topic is moved, regardless of where it goes at this board, we can still have interesting discussion regarding such.

No question whatever, even though Europe still has a reasonably impressive sleeping car network, the "writing is on the wall". The Sleeping Car is far more "in the picture" with Amtrak than it is with any European railroad. I'm certain the percentage of Sleeping Car miles to Train miles on Amtrak is far higher than on the "European System".

I cannot hold out any "expert" credentials on European rail travel insomuch as I "havent been over" since 1990 (not a boycott; just no reason). But as I recall, the consist of Wagon Lits (First Class sleepers) were getting 'rather thin" even back then. Case in point: Paris 'Est - Frankfurt/Main Hbf overnight had only one WL in consist.

Mr. Morris has repeatedly noted at this Forum that he is quite agreeable to a "sleep on the cheap" be he "over here" or "over there". At one time, I believe he had much company amongst Europeans, but I believe that company is rapidly diminishing both as high-speed systems are developed and Europe becomes 'Americanized' i.e. America has/does it so should we.

The open Section was essentially a "dead dodo" over here at WWII's end. this was when, let's say, the intercity train still had twenty years to live (excepting government fiat, of course). Lest we also forget, Pullman tried out a three tiered Section sleeper during the Depression without success. But in summary (exceptions of course) the "standard' over here became a private room with "facilities". Those roads that acquired open Section cars after WWII largely withdrew those cars until such time that they could be converted to other configurations (coaches in the case of MILW, UP, and the CZ partners).

Europeans, especially Eastern Europeans, were more receptive to accept the discomforts of "Section", read Couchettes, after WWII and even until the collapse of the Soviet bloc. This was simply because they had no choice. Now they do and, consequently, there will be less need for a European sleeper system with any class of service.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Thu May 06, 2004 10:16 am, edited 2 times in total.

  by David Benton
theres a few benefits that sleeping in a compartment has over sleeping in coach . Major one is that you are lying down , sleeping sitting up for 8 hours is uncomfortable . Second i think is noise , unless your unlucky enough to be with a snorer , it is quieter . third , the compartment has a door and seperates you form corridor traffic , not much fun trying to sleep in a aisle seat when somebody bumps you on thier way to the toilet . fourth , you are more likely to strike up a rapport with your fellow compatmenters , much the same as the dining car . while i have had a bad experience ( someone spilling hot coffee on me from the top bunk ) . the few times i have used compartments have been very enjoyable .

  by mattfels
All good points, particularly the one about corridor traffic. 2 quick responses:
  • Sleeping sitting up is indeed uncomfortable. Superliner coaches do, however, recline fairly far, and the rows are spaced on 50"-52" centers. So there's lots of room to stretch out.
  • In coach, if you're next to a snorer, you can escape, with the conductor's help.
Still, I'm with Mr. Norman on this one: Sharing compartments with strangers, for an American train service, is a pure nonstarter. Americans are mad for privacy. Solo commutes, 8-foot fences, home theaters . . . personal sleeping compartments.

  by Rhinecliff
I'm with Mr. Fels.

Overnight train travel is arcane enough by today's transportation standards. Semi-private componant to the mix would not, in my opnion, be a big enough draw to justify the allocation of resources that would be necessary to bring them about.

Americans demand privacy when they travel. Mr. Norman has set out what I consider to be gold standard model for eastern long-distant fleet expansion. I am personally unable to improve upon his longstanding proposal.
  by VPayne
I guess somehow this topic ended up in this forum even though I thought it would be interesting to discuss some of the points brought up in the Adobe document as they apply to Amtrak's overnight service. But I must concede that it is a little off topic. Did anyone read the Adobe document? I thought that it was interesting that DB NachtZug has shown positive results even if face of the low fare air carriers in the last 18-24 months. Of course the only direct corollary to US travel patterns is over 300 to 500 mile corridors. The fares per mile are no doubt a little bit higher but probably not too high when compared to US norms. Of course to operate in a 300 to 500 mile corridor the cars must be used for 8 or 10 hours during the day, as the report states, to achieve good equipment utilization.
I suppose when I get back to the states, I am in Japan now, I will publish a concept for a Penn Station compatible sleeper, 14'-8" height, that sleeps 36 in twelve double rooms and 12 single rooms or alternately 33 with a mini-lounge suitable for coffee-breakfast service at the vestibule end. A split level loft arrangement would allow for the double rooms to have separate bath-shower facilities while the single room would have the bath-shower in room. I am shooting for a 38" wide x 80" long bed in both the singles and doubles. If I publish the above concept will all refrain from off topic comments in the thread and agree to actually look at the Adobe drawings and the text description?
Virgil Payne

  by CarterB
There is a problem with the www.actima.de/nighttrain.pdf in that you only get to view 9 of the 133 pages. Suffice it to say, in my experience, the nachtzugs are well patronized in all classes from liegewagen to DeLuxe.
One of the main reasons, is that in Europe you can literally plan a trip from your doorstep to that of where you want to travel. http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en
Therefore, rather than schlepping to the airport, you literally walk to the nearest Ubahn or Tram, transfer across platform to the S bahn and again across platform at the Hauptbahnhof to an nachtzug and so on.

I have found the seamless and 'no wait' rail/light rail travel to be quite efficient and at any level of comfort or cost you desire. An example, I walk 5 minutes to the Norderstedt Richtweg Ubahn at 21:20, transfer at the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof at 21:57 to a nachtzug that leaves at 22:07 and arrive at 07:05 am in Munich.

  by draintree
For what it's worth, I was in Italy last year and the couchettes seemed to be extremely well patrionized.

Less well patronized was the night train from Bari to Reggio San Giovanni. There were no sleepers but I had a six-passenger compartment all to myself and was able to lay down.
  by VPayne
Well, since the topic is in this forum I guess I will ask if anyone thinks that the typically 80cm, 31.5 inch, wide beds provided in some of the newer room cars in Europe is wide enough. I think CityNightLine http://www.citynightline.ch/kategorie/deluxe.cfm and the Talgo sleeper are examples, I am not sure about the WLABmz 173.1. I would love to see the rest of the report but I think it was held back to keep some of the information private. My thought is that 36 inches to 38 inches is resonable, while of course the Pullman Company Roomette of the past used 42 inch wide beds if I am correct.

  by CarterB
I have ridden the City Night Line and Talgo night trains many times.
For the 'couchette' or "liegewagen" classes, the Talgo can't be beat!!
Basically it is a upper/lower berth configuration (similar to the Pullman section) berths are narrow but certainly adequate, and quite comfortable. I go out of my way to use the Talgo trainsets whenever I can.

The deluxe accommodations are quite nice, every bit as so as the Superliner deluxe and the shower is separate.

  by John_Perkowski
Granted my travel is dated...

But I had no problem sleeping in a liegewagen (couchette) from the Kaserne ramp to Grafenwoehr. The mattress was comfortable enough :)

As for the sleeper cars, I would take them in a heartbeat over an Amtrak enclosed section... oops, Standard Bedroom.