By Mark McConville
AS BREXIT looms ever closer, stunning retro pictures have revealed how the night train from London to Paris operated when Britain wasn’t in the EU.
The incredible images show a passenger hanging his coat up in a compartment on the train, another settling down in her bed for the night and the Merchant Navy class express locomotive waiting at Dover before taking the night train back to London Victoria.
Other striking shots show the ferry boat from Dover to Dunkirk being loaded with passengers from the night train carriages, chefs in the kitchen that serves a dining car on the London-Paris night train and passengers disembarking at Gare du Nord in Paris.
The remarkable black and white photographs were taken aboard the London-Paris train service in 1952.
The Night Ferry was introduced on the night of 14 October 1936. The train was operated by Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) until 1 January 1977 when it was taken over by British Rail. Motive power was provided by the Southern Railway and later British Railways in England, SNCF in France and from 1957, by SNCB in Belgium.
When loaded onto the train ferry the train was split into sections and loaded equally on tracks on the port and starboard sides of the ship, to maintain its balance. It normally departed from and arrived at platform 2 at London Victoria where customs checks were performed.
The first class sleeping cars and the baggage vans travelled the entire journey. The English train from London Victoria to Dover, and the French train from Dunkirk to Paris Gare du Nord, conveyed normal second class carriages of their own railway. The passengers travelling by these walked on and off the ship in the standard way.
The English train conveyed one of a pair of standard Mark 1 Brake Composite carriages, which had been modified with a French-style gangway connection at one end. This provided the guard’s compartment in England and enabled the guard to walk through the train.
Until the Eurostar service began on 14 November 1994, the Night Ferry had been the only through passenger train between the United Kingdom and Europe. The carriages of the daytime Golden Arrow train did not cross the English Channel.
Plans to build the Channel Tunnel were scrapped in the 1970s on cost grounds. This gave the Night Ferry a short reprieve; a tunnel would have inevitably led to the end of conveying passenger carriages by train ferry.