Nightjet auto train

citycat

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I just took the Nightjet car carrying train from Dusseldorf to Innsbruck with the family last night and we are currently relaxing in our hotel in the Austrian Alps.

It was an interesting experience having to load the car onto the train myself. Health & Safety would have had a field day with all the metalwork to hit your head against and gaps to fall through as you climb off the wagons. I’m not complaining though.

It was also interesting to see the railway workers in orange jackets and hard hats that were securing the cars and motorbikes to the wagons, later took off their jackets and hard hats to become the sleeping car and couchette car attendants. A real team effort.

I am just curious if anyone knows, where the driver and guard crew changes are made between Dusseldorf and Munich. I tried to look but with the lack of drop down windows, it’s hard to see these days.

Anyway, very enjoyable trip. It saved a lot of driving from Holland.0F7DF85E-740A-4720-91FD-71A1852E7EB7.jpegE28A7F3A-C7B2-435D-B0E1-906C19D16FFD.jpeg763EA01E-8C43-4F46-815A-BC2EAB51BE0D.jpeg824855F5-04FF-40F4-BA9E-7D20BE0189C8.jpegF65BB8D9-B3CA-450E-A796-A488C23E003C.jpeg
 
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superjohn

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There is a lengthy stop in Nürnberg where the train meets the other NJ from Hamburg. There is an exchange of portions and the reshuffled trains then head off to Vienna and Innsbruck. There is probably a crew change there, I don’t know about elsewhere? I presume DB drivers work the train within Germany as seems to be the case with international day trains. The on board services seem to be staffed by people from the operating railway throughout though. When I travelled from Vienna to Düsseldorf last September the sleeping car attendant was the same for the full journey.
 

43096

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There is a lengthy stop in Nürnberg where the train meets the other NJ from Hamburg. There is an exchange of portions and the reshuffled trains then head off to Vienna and Innsbruck. There is probably a crew change there, I don’t know about elsewhere? I presume DB drivers work the train within Germany as seems to be the case with international day trains. The on board services seem to be staffed by people from the operating railway throughout though. When I travelled from Vienna to Düsseldorf last September the sleeping car attendant was the same for the full journey.
Not sure about crews on this, but it gets a mix of traction according to the diagrams, which may give an indication of crew changes: ÖBB Taurus Düsseldorf-Nürnberg (where train divides/combines with NJ491 from Hamburg; this loco then takes the Wien part of the two trains forward), DB 101 Nürnberg-München Hbf (having brought in NJ491), then another ÖBB Taurus drops on the back to take it forward to Innsbruck. Quite a slick operation that minimises the need for locos and crews.
 

30907

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Thanks for the report - I used DB Autozug back from France and Italy earlier this century, but I don't really any reports on NJ from a motorist perspective. We had an MPV so always got placed on the upper deck which was less dangerous to the head (but a fair way to fall!).
I hadn't realised the on-board crew multitasked: it makes good sense and must make the economics much better.
Out of interest, was departure from Duesseldorf on time, and what was the split between cars and bikes?
 

popeter45

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the health and safety aspect isn't as bad as you think
you dont drive your car onto the wagons that is done by the staff who you give the keys and they have training on working on such wagons in a safe way
passengers never set foot on the car wagons
 

citycat

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Thanks for the replies. Departure from Dusseldorf was dead on time. There seemed to be no Nightjet staff based in Dusseldorf. The train team handled the check in of the cars and bikes, then you loaded yourself while they secured the vehicles. Then as I said, they reverted to sleeping and couchette car attendants ready for departure.

There was about a dozen cars and eight bikes, mostly Harley Davidsons and Honda.

The team worked throughout from Dusseldorf to Innsbruck. I remember the lenthy stop at Nurnburg but I was too settled in my bunk to get up and watch the shunting operations.

An OBB Taurus came on at Munich as I was there to watch it buffer up to the car wagons, plus an Austrian female guard joined for the short trip to Innsbruck.

At Innsbruck, the train loco came off to be replaced by an immaculate red shunting loco which took the rail wagons round to the unloading siding. OBB rail staff were on hand to unsecure the cars and bikes. The attendants did not get involved this time and they trooped off home to bed with their wheelie cases. Our attendant told me that he did two return trips a week to Dusseldorf or Hamburg.

Yes, it was a very interesting trip. I look forward to when the train starts in Amsterdam next year, but no car carrying operations from the Netherlands I guess.
 
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citycat

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the health and safety aspect isn't as bad as you think
you dont drive your car onto the wagons that is done by the staff who you give the keys and they have training on working on such wagons in a safe way
passengers never set foot on the car wagons
Sorry, but I can quite definitely confirm that you drive the car on and off the wagon yourself. Plus, I can’t imagine any of the riders of the shiny Harley Davidsons and Honda Goldwings that were on board, being happy to allow a member of staff to ride their expensive machines.

I am ex railway so I was quite happy to clamber around the wagon, but I noticed the more elderly drivers struggling a bit with the narrow catwalk.
 
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popeter45

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Sorry, but I can quite definitely confirm that you drive the car on and off the wagon yourself. Plus, I can’t imagine any of the riders of the shiny Harley Davidsons and Honda Goldwings that were on board, being happy to allow a member of staff to ride their expensive machines.

I am ex railway so I was quite happy to clamber around the wagon, but I noticed the more advanced in age drivers struggling a bit with the narrow catwalk.
my apologies
its whats they do with the autotrain in the US and though i had seen similar videos of the nightjet so assumed so
 

30907

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the health and safety aspect isn't as bad as you think
you dont drive your car onto the wagons that is done by the staff who you give the keys and they have training on working on such wagons in a safe way
passengers never set foot on the car wagons
That's how SNCF used to do it. The advantage was that you had some flexibility dropping off and picking up your car. Indeed, once they switched to sending passengers on daytime TGVs, you could leave your car a day in advance and pick it up a day after.
Czech and Slovak railways follow the German/Austrian model.
 

citycat

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That's how SNCF used to do it. The advantage was that you had some flexibility dropping off and picking up your car. Indeed, once they switched to sending passengers on daytime TGVs, you could leave your car a day in advance and pick it up a day after.
Czech and Slovak railways follow the German/Austrian model.
I have to say it’s very tight driving onto the rail wagon, and you are just centimetres from the metalwork making contact with the body of the car. There’s very little wriggle room for making a mistake so I wouldn’t fancy driving an expensive Mercedes, Audi or big SUV on board.

I guess that’s why the OBB check in attendants were extra thorough in going around your vehicle and noting any scratches on their clipboard before you loaded the car.
 
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jamesontheroad

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Thanks for sharing. The only remaining country with a more extensive motorail network in Europe is, I think, Finland. They have enclosed wagons for the cars, and I believe that loading is done by staff. I’m mighty jealous because, living across the water in Sweden we have no equivalent service - and this is a very very long country!

Here’s a link to information about VR’s car carrying trains in Finland:https://www.vr.fi/cs/vr/en/car-carrier-train-services
 

duesselmartin

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over head power is switched off during loading and and acusting warning plus flashing lights when power is switched on again.
At least how it is usually done in Düsseldorf.
The old ramp at Wien Westbahnhof was so steep, many drivers did fear it.
 

MarcVD

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Sorry, but I can quite definitely confirm that you drive the car on and off the wagon yourself.
When there were still autotrains in Belgium, drivers were expected to bring their cars on the wagons by themselves, but an SNCB employee was available to do it for people who were afraid of it.
 

Jamesrob637

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I'd drive my own vehicle on - someone else may not necessarily know the dimensions. I'd rather see people around though knowing there would be somebody within shouting distance if something went awry.
 

citycat

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How was the sleeping accommodation?
To answer your question, although the coaching stock is nicely painted up in the Nightjet colours, giving an image of the old CIWL livery, the inside is quite tired looking and still has the red colour scheme of the former DB NachtZug. The couchettes were comfortable enough but if you're a light sleeper, you'll probably get very little sleep what with the various stops during the night and the general jolting of the train. I didn't notice anything at the lenthy stop at Nurnberg for the shunting operation. It was all quiet as the air conditioning went off until we got the new loco and I think we just stood still as the Vienna cars were taken off and the cars from Hamburg were backed on. I was too settled in my bunk to get up and watch the operation unfortunately.

I looked all around but could not find any charging sockets in the compartment, though I may have just missed them. It wasn't important as we had portable battery packs for the mobiles and kid's ipads.

There is a toilet at the end of the coach, and also a seperate spacious wash room near to the attendant's pantry where you can clean teeth, with several bottles of mineral water on a shelf if you don't want to use the train water.

The best thing about the journey though was leaving our home near Utrecht around 5pm, with just a two hour drive to Dusseldorf arriving just after 7pm. We checked in and loaded the car, left our stuff in the compartment apart from valuables, and still had time for a nice dinner in one of the station restaurants before departure at 20:54. After a night on the train, we woke up to brilliant sunshine and the Austrian alps as we enjoyed our continental breakfast served by the attendant, and after reclaiming the car, were in our hotel by 11am with the feeling we had hardly driven at all. So there is definitely advantages to the overnight trains and I'm glad OBB started the move to bring them back. I just wish there was still a night train from the Benelux to the South of France, especially a car train back to Frejus again. Now that would be brilliant.
 
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citycat

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As an epilogue to this thread, I'll talk about the return journey to the Netherlands.

Initially, the outward train journey was part of our holiday to Italy and Croatia, driving back to Holland at the end. However, Covid 19 mean't our holiday being put back to next year. Unfortunately, our train tickets could not be cancelled as the train was still running so we decided to use the train tickets and just have a short break in Austria instead.

I did not fancy driving back through the night with the kids, so I investigated taking the train back. The train was fully booked for sleeping accommodation and for the car, but there was still a seating compartment available for exclusive use of the family, for the bargain price of 71 euros total for my wife and three kids for a distance of roughly 800kms. I would rough it and drive the car back to Dusseldorf overnight to pick them up in the morning. It would be a Top Gear style challenge (if anyone has watched the motoring programme on tv). A race between the car and the train. Who would get from Innsbruck to Dusseldorf first?

On departure day, we spent the morning and afternoon on a nice family walk in the sunshine in the Austrian alps, taking Sound of Music style photos of each other with the lovely back drops. The hotel had allowed us a late check out for no charge. Around 4pm, we set off for Innsbruck Hbf, stopping at the IKEA store for a pre departure dinner. We arrived at the loading area for the cars where my wife and kids got out with pillows and blankets to use in the seating compartment. The OBB rail staff were a bit confused as they thought I was loading the car. I explained that I had no ticket for the car, and jokingly offered the Turkish rail worker 40 euros in the top pocket of his orange hi vis if he could sneak the car onto the wagon. He shrugged his shoulders and politely said sorry. All the cars had to match the manifest he was holding. I said no problem, I was only kidding. It was hard though seeing the other cars driving onto the wagons and me knowing I had a long night ahead of me.

I kissed my wife and kids goodbye at 20:15 (the train left at 20:44) so I had 30 minutes head start. I had arranged with my wife that I would maybe drop in at Nurnberg during the 90 minute stop and say hello, depending on my progress. I drove out of Innsbruck and headed to the motorway. I had put Dusseldorf into Google Maps but hadn't looked at the route in full detail. It took me to the motorway, and then 30 kms further, it took me off at a junction signposted Reutte. As I drove further on, I realized I was starting to climb and was heading for a mountain pass (Ferhne Pass if anyone knows it). It was too late now so I just carried on. The pass was about 60 kms long and very beautiful as the sun was starting to set over the mountains. When I eventually traversed the pass and crossed the German border, I looked at the map and was dismayed that I didn't seem to have covered much ground and I was sure the train must be in front of me now despite it having to go via Munich first, whilst I could cut a corner and bypass the Munich area.

To cut a long story short, despite the unexpected mountain pass crossing, I pulled into the parking area of Nurnberg Hbf at 00:47, and I was on the platform in time to see the Nightjet pull in at 01:16. I walked up to the designated seating car and found the compartment of my family. You can pull the seats across in the compartment to make beds so my kids were spread out asleep in a jumble of blankets and pillows. My wife came out into the corridor and we chatted quietly before I headed off onto the next leg. I was dying to stay behind on the platform to watch the shunting taking place but I had to get down the road.

I headed back to the autobahn after filling up the petrol tank at an all night station, and followed the route down towards, Wurzberg, Frankfurt, Koblenz and Koln.

So, I am going to leave you with a question now. Did the car or train make it to Dusseldorf Hbf first? Just make a post stating the train or the car. Don't cheat by going on Google maps and comparing the road distance with the online schedule of the train. Just make an off the cuff guess. I will just say that I maintained a steady speed of 100kmh (62mph) throughout the journey from Innsbruck (mountain pass excepted), roughly the speed of the train so I wasn't blatting it down the no speed limit autobahns all night. Make a guess and I will reveal who the winner was.
 
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30907

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The car, comfortably. The Rhine Valley line is slow and the schedule is padded.

PS going via Reutte would be much nice than following the rail route round.
 

citycat

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So, one vote for the train, one vote for the car.

Well, 30907 got it right. The car indeed won comfortably. I pulled into the loading area at Dusseldorf Hbf at 06:20, and the Nightjet pulled in at 09:23, giving me almost three hours to have a snooze on the back seat of the car.

The family had a mostly comfortable night, but couchettes are definitely the more comfortable option for the train. Here are some photos after arrival, including an advertising livery on one of the carriages.

The train loco came off but there seemed to be a delay in shunting the wagons into the unloading area where I was parked, so we walked to the car which was surrounded by the waiting passengers waiting for their cars and bikes, probably wondering how this Dutch plated car appeared to be unloaded already, not knowing I had driven in.

Anyway, an overall good experience with Nightjet. Nothing bad to say about it.

If you go to Simply Railway on Youtube, he’s done some interesting videos featuring Nightjet.

85CEADA1-EE61-4C6C-BDAF-0708946FE9E7.jpegB1467B28-8510-482C-BF31-EB76DCF9CDD4.jpeg1AA67DDD-53D4-4B4E-857C-451FAF1EF28C.jpegB4A10547-43E7-4D81-8D76-328AB82D29FE.jpegA918D032-5616-41BE-AFEF-1D02E9EB8CB4.jpeg65AAF22F-4529-43F4-BAE8-72174A043FDA.jpeg8929877F-76DC-4164-87A0-B870D4E82B26.jpeg0F77AE30-000B-4589-AB0B-F27CC98463ED.jpegBBDA2838-DC2A-4088-9470-22418FA8E6B3.jpegB7C1188C-530B-4C46-BC97-FAEFACC936DB.jpeg
 
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TDMB_1907

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Really interesting report - great to see a first hand account of the car vs. train comparison. Definitely made me consider the auto-train for my next journey to Austria.
 

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