Hold Tight! - Train CB
Chapter 3
Page 14
Hold Tight!
Chapter 3
Getting Away
13 Holiday time
14 Train CB
15 Luzern
16 Four cantons
17 Getting home
1 Beginnings
2 Learning
3 Getting Away
4 Winchester
5 Freedom
6 Southampton
7 City Transport
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At 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.
There 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 an omen.
Although 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.
The 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.
A class 141R steam locomotive at Calais Ville station.
A class 141R steam locomotive at Calais Ville station.
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