London to Pisa (and back again), early 1980s - timetable queries

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JBinOV

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I am trying to discover the timetables and routes for a series of train journeys I made in the early 1980s between London and Pisa, back in pre-Chunnel times.


I have the precise date for one of the journeys: leaving London Victoria at around 8am on Saturday 2nd October 1982. I know I would have been at the Gare de Lyon by the early evening that day (I recall drinking coffee in the station café with four fashion students en route to the autumn shows), and I would have reached Pisa by mid-morning the following day. But my memories of other parts of the journey are very hazy.


Would the ferry journey have been between Newhaven and Dieppe?

Would I have needed to cross Paris by Metro between the Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon?

Or would the train have shunted around the city?


I made the journey several times in both directions between 1981 and 1985 and recall that the details of the Paris crossing varied from trip to trip.


I would have made the reverse, Pisa-London journey a few months earlier, probably in late July, leaving Pisa, I guess, in the early evening. On that occasion I definitely crossed Paris by Metro and boarded the cross-Channel ferry at Boulogne (finding myself alongside the Venice Simplon-Orient Express, sans passengers, as I waited in the queue for the ferry).


And I made this same journey, Pisa-London, in late-September/early October 1983; arriving at the Gare de Lyon very early the following morning, with a break long enough to disembark and go into the station before the train shunted around the city to the Gare de Nord and the next stage of the trip.


Would any forum users be able to fill in the gaps in my hazy recollections and join the dots of my journeys?

In addition to the main stations, I’d also be curious to know the names of some of the smaller places in France I would have passed. Would I have been travelling on lines originally built by English navvies (under the direction of Thomas Brassey) in the mid-19th century?
 
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D6130

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I'm very interested in your query as I made my first train journey to and from Italy in 1981, when my parents moved to Rome for my father's job and I've been going backwards and forwards almost every year since then, sometimes several times a year, by a variety of different routes. Before I put my serious thinking cap on, may I ask you a couple of questions which may or may not jog your memory a little further?

(1) Were you always travelling independently, or were you sometimes on a rail-inclusive package holiday?

(2) Did you travel overnight between Boulogne/Paris and Pisa?

(3) If the answer to the above question (2) is 'yes', did you travel in seated accommodation, couchettes or sleepers?

To get the ball rolling, your cross-channel journey may have been from Newhaven to Dieppe, Folkestone or Dover to Calais or Boulogne by ferry; or by hovercraft from Folkestone to Boulogne. By 1983, the first section of the LGV Sud-Est high-speed line from Paris to Lyon was up and running, but you would probably only have used this if you had been staying overnight in Paris or Lyon.
 
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30907

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I am trying to discover the timetables and routes for a series of train journeys I made in the early 1980s between London and Pisa, back in pre-Chunnel times.


I have the precise date for one of the journeys: leaving London Victoria at around 8am on Saturday 2nd October 1982. I know I would have been at the Gare de Lyon by the early evening that day (I recall drinking coffee in the station café with four fashion students en route to the autumn shows), and I would have reached Pisa by mid-morning the following day. But my memories of other parts of the journey are very hazy.


Would the ferry journey have been between Newhaven and Dieppe?

Would I have needed to cross Paris by Metro between the Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon?

Or would the train have shunted around the city?


I made the journey several times in both directions between 1981 and 1985 and recall that the details of the Paris crossing varied from trip to trip.


I would have made the reverse, Pisa-London journey a few months earlier, probably in late July, leaving Pisa, I guess, in the early evening. On that occasion I definitely crossed Paris by Metro and boarded the cross-Channel ferry at Boulogne (finding myself alongside the Venice Simplon-Orient Express, sans passengers, as I waited in the queue for the ferry).


And I made this same journey, Pisa-London, in late-September/early October 1983; arriving at the Gare de Lyon very early the following morning, with a break long enough to disembark and go into the station before the train shunted around the city to the Gare de Nord and the next stage of the trip.


Would any forum users be able to fill in the gaps in my hazy recollections and join the dots of my journeys?

In addition to the main stations, I’d also be curious to know the names of some of the smaller places in France I would have passed. Would I have been travelling on lines originally built by English navvies (under the direction of Thomas Brassey) in the mid-19th century?
A 1979 Cook's Continental Timetable is available at
https://timetableworld.com/ttw-viewer?token=17c41792-b8a7-4b7b-bdd7-f62682227711.
That wil give you a fair idea as long distance international services didn't change much.

8am probably meant the 7.55 Newhaven-Dieppe boat train and you would have arrived at St Lazare. That route was more direct and traditionally cheaper, and so popular with young travellers.

There were through coaches to Italy to/from Calais/Boulogne using connecting lines in the Paris suburbs, so your memory is correct.

I'll let you explore the detail (start with tables 50 and 60, cross-reference the national table numbers shown to find the smaller stations) but I can't help with French railway builders.
 

JBinOV

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Thanks for the memory jogs.

I went out to Italy in the autumn of 1981 to teach English and (1) travelled independently, and as economically as I could manage. So (3) no couchette or sleeper. I remember the trick was to eye up the other passengers before picking a compartment and try to choose one in which the other travellers might be likely to disembark in time to allow you to spread yourself out and sleep overnight on the seats. It was possible, I recall, to pull out the seats to make sleeping easier.

(2) I always spent the night on the train and, in both directions, the overnight stretch of the journey seemed to coincide with travelling through the south of France and across the France-Italy border.

The channel crossing was always by ferry. I didn't cross by hovercraft until about 1993 when I went with a car on a sleeper train to Bologna.

"È pericoloso sporgersi!"

A 1979 Cook's Continental Timetable is available at
https://timetableworld.com/ttw-viewer?token=17c41792-b8a7-4b7b-bdd7-f62682227711.
That will give you a fair idea as long distance international services didn't change much.

8am probably meant the 7.55 Newhaven-Dieppe boat train and you would have arrived at St Lazare. That route was more direct and traditionally cheaper, and so popular with young travellers.

There were through coaches to Italy to/from Calais/Boulogne using connecting lines in the Paris suburbs, so your memory is correct.

I'll let you explore the detail (start with tables 50 and 60, cross-reference the national table numbers shown to find the smaller stations) but I can't help with French railway builders.
Thanks for the timetable link. I'll try to puzzle it out. I have no recollection of arriving at the Gare St Lazare (in my memory it was always the Gare du Nord) but that may well be correct.
 

Cheshire Scot

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Between Paris and Pisa the principle overnight trains of that era would have been the 'Palatino' which left Paris early evening and took sleeping car and couchette passengers only, and the 'Napoli Express' which departed mid evening and took seated passengers as well as sleeper and couchettes and included through seated coaches (possibly couchettes too, not sure but I remember travelling in the seated portion) to/from the Channel Ports (northbound Boulogne, not sure where it was Calais or Boulogne southbound).

Northbound the Napoli Express was the earlier arrival in Paris.

Sounds like the Napoli Express might be the most likely for the OP, and particularly for the '83 return trip as described .

EDIT: Some weeks ago I posted a photo of the 'Boulogne' destination board in the Calais and Boulogne Maritime thread.
 

D6130

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As has been posted upthread by others, the Newhaven boat train departed London Victoria at about 08 00 and the connecting train from Dieppe Maritime travelled to Paris St Lazare via Rouen and Mantes-la-Jolie....along one of the earliest main lines in France, opened in 1843 and engineered by Joseph Locke with Thomas Brassey and William McKenzie as contractors. For many years this route suffered from it's 'British' loading gauge and special locomotives and rolling stock had to be constructed to fit inside its resticted tunnels and bridges. When the Paris-Rouen-Le Havre line was electrified in the late 1960s, those bridges and tunnels had to be expensively enlarged and then for a second time in the mid-eighties to accommodate larger containers to and from the port of Le Havre. The original, more direct, main line between Dieppe and Paris, via Serqueux and Gisors (avoiding Rouen) did have direct routes into both Gare du Nord and Gare St Lazare but, on the only occasion that I travelled over it on a diverted Sunday boat train in the mid-1980s, shortly before closure of the Dieppe-Serqueux section, we arrived at St Lazare.

If your main memories are of arriving at Gare du Nord you will, almost certainly, have sailed across the channel to Dover or Boulogne. You would have taken the Metro to Gare de Lyon and thence the overnight train to Italy. Some of those overnight trains still had through carriages from the channel ports to Italy, although their days were numbered by that stage. These would have been tripped round from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon via the 'Petite Ceinture' line, usually hauled by a BB66400 diesel loco. South-Eastwards from Paris you would have taken the classic ex-PLM 'Ligne Imperiale' through Montereau, Laroche-Migennes and Dijon, before branching across country through Bourg-en-Bresse, Amberieu, Culoz and Aix-les-Bains to Chambery. From here the climb into the Alps starts in earnest on the formerly third rail electrified 'Ligne de Maurienne' through Montmelian and St Jean de Maurienne to the frontier station of Modane, where the French electric loco would be exchanged for an Italian one (or two). Leaving Modane the train would climb steeply on a tight U-bend to reach the seven-and-a-half mile long Frejus tunnel under the Alps, emerging in Italy at Bardonecchia for the headlong descent through Oulx and Bussoleno to Torino. Here the train would divide and the Pisa/Roma portion would head off South-Eastwards through Asti and Alessandria to Genova, whence a succession of tunnels afford brief views of the beautiful Ligurian Riviera through Rapallo and Sestri Levante to La Spezia. The final part of the journey ran parallel with the Tyrrhenian coast, but slightly inland, through Massa, Pietrasanta and Viareggio - backed by the spectacularly-quarried marble mountains of the Alpi Apuane - before arriving in Pisa. Hope this helps!
 

JBinOV

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Between Paris and Pisa the principle overnight trains of that era would have been the 'Palatino' which left Paris early evening and took sleeping car and couchette passengers only, and the 'Napoli Express' which departed mid evening and took seated passengers as well as sleeper and couchettes and included through seated coaches (possibly couchettes too, not sure but I remember travelling in the seated portion) to/from the Channel Ports (northbound Boulogne, not sure where it was Calais or Boulogne southbound).

Northbound the Napoli Express was the earlier arrival in Paris.

Sounds like the Napoli Express might be the most likely for the OP, and particularly for the '83 return trip as described .

EDIT: Some weeks ago I posted a photo of the 'Boulogne' destination board in the Calais and Boulogne Maritime thread.
The Napoli Express sounds right. I remember that the train I took to Pisa travelled on to Rome and Naples. Thanks. Will look out your earlier post.

As has been posted upthread by others, the Newhaven boat train departed London Victoria at about 08 00 and the connecting train from Dieppe Maritime travelled to Paris St Lazare via Rouen and Mantes-la-Jolie....along one of the earliest main lines in France, opened in 1843 and engineered by Joseph Locke with Thomas Brassey and William McKenzie as contractors. For many years this route suffered from it's 'British' loading gauge and special locomotives and rolling stock had to be constructed to fit inside its restricted tunnels and bridges. When the Paris-Rouen-Le Havre line was electrified in the late 1960s, those bridges and tunnels had to be expensively enlarged and then for a second time in the mid-eighties to accommodate larger containers to and from the port of Le Havre. The original, more direct, main line between Dieppe and Paris, via Serqueux and Gisors (avoiding Rouen) did have direct routes into both Gare du Nord and Gare St Lazare but, on the only occasion that I travelled over it on a diverted Sunday boat train in the mid-1980s, shortly before closure of the Dieppe-Serqueux section, we arrived at St Lazare.

If your main memories are of arriving at Gare du Nord you will, almost certainly, have sailed across the channel to Dover or Boulogne. You would have taken the Metro to Gare de Lyon and thence the overnight train to Italy. Some of those overnight trains still had through carriages from the channel ports to Italy, although their days were numbered by that stage. These would have been tripped round from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon via the 'Petite Ceinture' line, usually hauled by a BB66400 diesel loco. South-Eastwards from Paris you would have taken the classic ex-PLM 'Ligne Imperiale' through Montereau, Laroche-Migennes and Dijon, before branching across country through Bourg-en-Bresse, Amberieu, Culoz and Aix-les-Bains to Chambery. From here the climb into the Alps starts in earnest on the formerly third rail electrified 'Ligne de Maurienne' through Montmelian and St Jean de Maurienne to the frontier station of Modane, where the French electric loco would be exchanged for an Italian one (or two). Leaving Modane the train would climb steeply on a tight U-bend to reach the seven-and-a-half mile long Frejus tunnel under the Alps, emerging in Italy at Bardonecchia for the headlong descent through Oulx and Bussoleno to Torino. Here the train would divide and the Pisa/Roma portion would head off South-Eastwards through Asti and Alessandria to Genova, whence a succession of tunnels afford brief views of the beautiful Ligurian Riviera through Rapallo and Sestri Levante to La Spezia. The final part of the journey ran parallel with the Tyrrhenian coast, but slightly inland, through Massa, Pietrasanta and Viareggio - backed by the spectacularly-quarried marble mountains of the Alpi Apuane - before arriving in Pisa. Hope this helps!
Thanks for all of this. Even if I am hazy about the earlier stages of the journey I do vividly remember those tantalisingly brief glimpses of the Ligurian Riviera as the train flashed through those tunnels. And I remember the white peaks of the Alpi Apuane, and my surprise when I learned that they were streaked white with marble rather than snow.

Thanks, too, for the information about the line's history. I came across Thomas Brassey and his navvies in the story 'Junction' in Julian Barnes's 1996 short story collection Cross Channel.

I have a further memory from 1982 to add, this time of the departure from Victoria. I recall the big depositories just outside the station, which had marvellously old-fashioned signs on their buildings and such names as Bishops & Sons and Fireproof Hudson's. Does anyone recall any others?
 
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in_luzern

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As has been posted upthread by others, the Newhaven boat train departed London Victoria at about 08 00 and the connecting train from Dieppe Maritime travelled to Paris St Lazare via Rouen and Mantes-la-Jolie....along one of the earliest main lines in France, opened in 1843 and engineered by Joseph Locke with Thomas Brassey and William McKenzie as contractors. For many years this route suffered from it's 'British' loading gauge and special locomotives and rolling stock had to be constructed to fit inside its resticted tunnels and bridges. When the Paris-Rouen-Le Havre line was electrified in the late 1960s, those bridges and tunnels had to be expensively enlarged and then for a second time in the mid-eighties to accommodate larger containers to and from the port of Le Havre. The original, more direct, main line between Dieppe and Paris, via Serqueux and Gisors (avoiding Rouen) did have direct routes into both Gare du Nord and Gare St Lazare but, on the only occasion that I travelled over it on a diverted Sunday boat train in the mid-1980s, shortly before closure of the Dieppe-Serqueux section, we arrived at St Lazare.

If your main memories are of arriving at Gare du Nord you will, almost certainly, have sailed across the channel to Dover or Boulogne. You would have taken the Metro to Gare de Lyon and thence the overnight train to Italy. Some of those overnight trains still had through carriages from the channel ports to Italy, although their days were numbered by that stage. These would have been tripped round from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon via the 'Petite Ceinture' line, usually hauled by a BB66400 diesel loco. South-Eastwards from Paris you would have taken the classic ex-PLM 'Ligne Imperiale' through Montereau, Laroche-Migennes and Dijon, before branching across country through Bourg-en-Bresse, Amberieu, Culoz and Aix-les-Bains to Chambery. From here the climb into the Alps starts in earnest on the formerly third rail electrified 'Ligne de Maurienne' through Montmelian and St Jean de Maurienne to the frontier station of Modane, where the French electric loco would be exchanged for an Italian one (or two). Leaving Modane the train would climb steeply on a tight U-bend to reach the seven-and-a-half mile long Frejus tunnel under the Alps, emerging in Italy at Bardonecchia for the headlong descent through Oulx and Bussoleno to Torino. Here the train would divide and the Pisa/Roma portion would head off South-Eastwards through Asti and Alessandria to Genova, whence a succession of tunnels afford brief views of the beautiful Ligurian Riviera through Rapallo and Sestri Levante to La Spezia. The final part of the journey ran parallel with the Tyrrhenian coast, but slightly inland, through Massa, Pietrasanta and Viareggio - backed by the spectacularly-quarried marble mountains of the Alpi Apuane - before arriving in Pisa. Hope this helps!

I also remember using the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry and connecting to a St. Lazare train that ran via Neufchâtel-en-Bray and Serqueux in the summer of 1980. Would that have been a diversion rather than the normal route then? Coming back in the other direction we went via Rouen.

I lived in that bit of Normandy in the late 80s and 90s. After the Dieppe-Serqueux line closed, there was a period of several years when Neufchâtel had a station complete with a staffed ticket office, but no trains to get on after you bought your ticket. I once managed to totally confuse the woman at the ticket office by asking for a return ticket to Neuchâtel (in Switzerland), where I had to go on a business trip.
 
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D6130

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I also remember using the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry and connecting to a St. Lazare train that ran via Neufchâtel-en-Bray and Serqueux in the summer of 1980. Would that have been a diversion rather than the normal route then? Coming back in the other direction we went via Rouen.

I lived in that bit of Normandy in the late 80s and 90s. After the Dieppe-Serqueux line closed, there was a period of several years when Neufchâtel had a station complete with a staffed ticket office, but no trains to get on after you bought your ticket. I once managed to totally confuse the woman at the ticket office by asking for a return ticket to Neuchâtel (in Switzerland), where I had to go on a business trip.
I was a regular user of the Newhaven-Dieppe ferries - and the connecting boat trains to Paris - when I lived in Lewes between 1983 and 1987 and can only remember that one occasion when we went via Neufchatel. Although that original route was geographically shorter than going via Rouen - and we ran non-stop to Paris St Lazare - I remember the Dieppe-Serqueux section already being very run-down with rough-riding bull head jointed track over which we clattered at a gentle jog (probably about 60 km/h maximum). From what I've read and also heard from ex-cheminots, that was the original Paris-Dieppe main line but, when Paris-Rouen was electrified in the late 'sixties, the Paris-Dieppe expresses, as well as the boat trains, were diverted via Rouen as, even with the change from electric to diesel traction (or vice-versa) at Rouen Rive Droite, it was quicker overall and more efficient to go that way.
 

Cheshire Scot

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Would the carriages have been Trans Euro Night ones?
TEN branding was only applied to Sleeping Cars, TEN being the sleeping car pool for most West European railways (but excluding Norway & Sweden (and Finland) although DB cars from the TEN pool did run between Hamburg and both Oslo and Stockholm - the cheapest beer I ever bought in Norway was from the DB Sleeping Car attendant as the Hamburg train pulled out of Oslo. Trains with TEN sleepers also conveyed couchettes belonging to the national administrations and in many cases also seating accommodation.

The TEN timetable listed how many sleeping cars, and what type e.g. MU, T2 etc, were provided on each train, but merely noted the provision of couchettes and did not include overnight trains with couchettes but not sleepers.
 

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