Calais Maritime station I found my reserved
seat on the train to Basel. Some international
trains used to have letters instead of numbers
so the night train from Calais to Basel was
CB, the train running in the other direction
was BC. The carriage was in the grey livery
of Italian railways, others were green French
coaches. The compartment had seats for eight,
mine was next to the window which had a small
table under it.
was just one other person in the compartment
and I settled back for the nine hour journey.
At eight-thirty, on a Sunday evening, train
CB pulled out of the station behind a steam
engine. Steam was fast disappearing everywhere
but this loco was different from those back
home. It was oil-fired and poured out thick
black smoke which hung menacingly over the
buildings as we passed. It could have been
I would catch this train and others like it
on many other occasions, I would remember
my first ride on train CB and be prepared
for what was to come. Sunday night was the
night that everyone doing their national service
heads back to base. We pulled into Calais
Ville station and half the population of France
seemed to be on the platform. A few minutes
later and the platform was virtually empty.
The conductor had a compartment from which
he sold bottled drinks. I had planned to buy
one but he was sold out in minutes. There
would be no other chance for nine hours.
train was packed and remained so as it made
its slow journey down the eastern side of
the country through Lille, Thionville and
Metz to Strasbourg and Colmar where we arrived
at about four o'clock in the morning and the
last of the permissionaires got off to catch
the army buses to their camps in Germany.
For the last part of the journey through Mulhouse
to Basel, the train was almost empty and I
was glad to be able to stretch my legs in
the corridor and breath some fresh air from
an open window. Arriving in Basel at about
five thirty I had a welcome cup of coffee
and a ham roll in the buffet, then caught
a train to Luzern.
class 141R steam locomotive at Calais Ville