FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Sleep(er)less in Kobenhavn

Posted in Denmark, England, Finland, Helsinki, København, London by folkestonejack on July 19, 2014

A few weeks ago Danish State Railways (DSB) announced that they are to end all sleeper trains to/from Kobenhavn in December 2014.

It is not the first cancellation of sleeper services in Europe and certainly won’t be the last, but it still saddens me as it was a journey on just such a train (via Kobenhavn) as a bright eyed twelve year old that gave me the travel bug and introduced me to the thrill of international railways. It is not a great surprise to learn that the economics no longer stack up. If anything, it is astonishing that sleeper services have survived this long against the growing market of cheap flights.

The announcement made me curious about my first sleeper experience, so I spent a quiet evening or two trying to fit together the pieces. Our journey proper began at London Liverpool Street, exactly thirty years ago, and ended in Helsinki where we spent the most wonderful family holiday. My memories are a little patchy, but I was pleased to find that I could paint a pretty decent picture of the trip from a look back at my first attempt at a diary, a large collection of ephemera and some rather poor photographs. You can see the full story at The first trip, though this probably makes for a very dull read!

1984: The thrill of international travel

1984: The thrill of international travel

I have been lucky enough to make a few journeys by sleeper since then, some on scheduled services and others on specially chartered trains. Each journey has been completely different, yet none have ever lacked in the excitement of travel – whether it be the Caledonian Sleeper in familiar territory or one of the many sleepers working through the sometimes alien landscapes of China (until the massive investment in high speed rail and domestic air infrastructure starts to affect sleepers there too).

There are a few sleeper trains I would still like to try, such as the Night Riviera to Cornwall and the Krasnaya Strela (Red Arrow) which runs between Moscow and St Petersburg. However, if the opportunities slip by then I have at least got some good memories of travelling the slow way across countries and continents.

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Home… just in time

Posted in Denmark, København by folkestonejack on May 16, 2010

In the afternoon I took a train from Helsingør to København Kastrup, figuring that it was better to be at the airport to get more information on what was happening – and be better placed to react.

On arrival I was relieved to see my flight was still showing as scheduled and my brother was helpfully updating me on the situation by text message. I had prepared a ‘Plan B’ in readiness which would have involved the overnight sleeper from København to Utrecht, a train from Utrecht to the Hoek of Holland, and then the ferry to Harwich. As it happened, I was very lucky and didn’t need to put that into operation. Passengers flying further north were not so fortunate.

In the end my flight with Norwegian took off on time and landed earlier than scheduled at Gatwick. British airspace closed about four hours after my return.

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London to Helsingborg

Posted in Denmark, Helsingborg, København, Sweden by folkestonejack on May 13, 2010

Another weekend, another country… and more locomotives!

I’m here to see Sweden’s first diesel gala, taking place in and around the Swedish Railway Museum at Ängelholm. The event is going to focus on the noisy GM diesels that I first encountered as a kid over 20 years ago, whilst travelling from Harwich to Helsinki by train and ferry. I acquired a soft spot for these diesels at that moment in time and haven’t lost that in the intervening years!

My early evening flight from London Gatwick to København Kastrup was delayed by about an hour, but as ever I immersed myself in a book (Life and fate by Vasily Grossman) and time passed. After arriving I caught a train from the airport to Helsingborg, crossing the incredibly impressive Öresund Bridge in the fading light. I finally made it to my hotel in Helsingborg by late evening.

Time for a good night’s sleep ahead of tomorrow’s early start…

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