Your first experience of foreign train travel

Killingworth

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1966 Victoria -Folkestone, ship to Boulogne, then special train with couchettes to Austria and, in our case, Kitzbuhel. It was baking hot and my friend and I shared a compartment with a lady and her daughter and her daughter's friend. Being gallant lads we took the upper shelves, that's what they felt like! It was stifling up there with hardly any ventilation. As we trundled across France we passed inumerable level crossings, each with bells ringing that got louder as we approached. The ladies seemed to be fast asleep, but not us. We couldn't see out the windows so had no idea where we were and hardly slept a wink.

It was a glorious evening when we arrived after a lovely sunny trip though Switzerland. After dinner we went for a walk before an early night, we were exhausted with the heat and travel from Newcastle. There was a most spectacular electric storm flashing around the mountains. When we got to our room on the top floor beneath a copper sheet metal roof it was still stifling, even with the dormer window open. Then the heavens opened and we had to close the window. The noise was incredible, and it was still hot and sticky. We didn't sleep well that night either.

To cut a long story short, it kept raining for days, roads were washed out and villages submerged. Our folks back home knew nothing about it - a foreign land. And although I took lots of photos I don't seem to have captured a train. At least this one shows a piece of rail.
Austria1966008a.jpg
 
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Struner

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As a peedie boy my father took me along to Leer (Ostfrl) - 1966. We had to get to Groningen first. Electric traction I was already familiar with. Then from Groningen to Nieuweschans on the border with Germany. By Blauwe Engel, DMUs only introduced a few years earlier. I had seen them before, but never been on one. In Nieuweschans we had to go through immigration & customs control before boarding the Schienenbus to get us to Leer. That was the major excitement of the train trip. At the time there was a turntable for German steamlocos for freight trains. The Dutch turntable had been broken up by then. The Schienenbus took us to Leer, crossing the Friesenbrücke, now sadly out of action.
But the purpose of the trip, & very much the major excitement was the sideways launching of the coaster Marco Polo, built for (interests of) a relative of ours.
We went back by car with some relatives, with whom we stayed in Groningen overnight.
(Later on, when I came to live in Groningen myself, I went to watch that sort of launchings closer to home at times, got there by bike - the ships got bigger, so twas more spectacular :lol: )

Edit: this was 1956. Apologies.
 
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Drsatan

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October 2000 from Stommeln (a village north-west of Cologne) to Cologne Hbf with my parents. We stayed with friends in the village for a couple of days. The train was four or five coaches long; I believe these were Silberling coaches repainted in traffic red. It was hauled by an electric locomotive. I vaguely remember traveling on one of the city's trams from the underground station at Cologne Hbf for two or three stops
 

beardedbrit

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1959 - Hook of Holland to Amsterdam. Don't remember much about it (was honestly more interested in the B1 heading the boat train from Liverpool Street to Harwich the previous evening).
The the following year, a school trip to France; Steam from Dieppe to Paris St Lazare, and a few days later we traveled from Paris to Wimille-Wimereux near Boulogne - electric haulage from Gare du Nord to Amiens and steam from there.

This was followed by a lot of continental train travel in my teens over the next few years, in France, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece and Italy.
 

Strathclyder

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Summer 2006, Ireland at 10 years old - a short ride from Galway to Athenry and back with my dad and two younger brothers, a quick wander around the latter was taken before the return journey. Both or either one of the trains were composed of either a Mk2 or Mk3 set of coaches; seem to remember both trains being hauled by a 201 Class (the Irish equivalent to the 59/66/67) loco, though it could've easily have been a 071 (my memory is a tad hazy lol).

My two abiding memories are me getting the living daylights scared out of me when the 071/201 blew it's horn ready to depart Athenry on the outbound train and getting my ribcage rattled when the loco accelerated out the station. I was already keenly expressing my interest in railways/public transport before this short trip; it was all but cemented by the time we got back to Galway.
 

duesselmartin

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Summer 2006, Ireland at 10 years old - a short ride from Galway to Athenry and back with my dad and two younger brothers, a quick wander around the latter was taken before the return journey. Both or either one of the trains were composed of either a Mk2 or Mk3 set of coaches; seem to remember both trains being hauled by a 201 Class (the Irish equivalent to the 59/66/67) loco, though it could've easily have been a 071 (my memory is a tad hazy lol).

My two abiding memories are me getting the living daylights scared out of me when the 071/201 blew it's horn ready to depart Athenry on the outbound train and getting my ribcage rattled when the loco accelerated out the station. I was already keenly expressing my interest in railways/public transport before this short trip; it was all but cemented by the time we got back to Galway.
2006 it would most likely have been a 201.
The 071 were in Sligo, Rosslare and freight duties then before being pushed out of Intercity by DMUs in secondary routes.
 

Lewlew

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I went on a school trip to Paris, we would usually catch the ferry from Dover to Calais. Going out we were delayed arriving in Calais due to strong winds. On the way back Calais port was closed so we got Le Shuttle back to Blighty so for me it was the small section in France before the tunnel and the French half of the tunnel.
 

Welly

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My first encounter with a non BR train was when I was 10 years old when I saw a Nohab diesel idling before departure from Esbjerg station in Denmark - alas Dad and I did not hang around to see it depart. My first ride on a non BR train was a gas turbine train from Calais to Paris Nord when I was 14.
 

Killingworth

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How could I have forgotten 1964? First independent foreign holiday to Norway. Necastle to Tyne Commission Quay then Bergen Line's Leda to Stavanger and on to Bergen. Bergen to Voss by train. An excursion to do the Norway in Nutshell Tour that took us to Flam, Myrdal and back to Voss.

I took a lot of pictures on that trip, and some included railways. Unfortunately it rained on the climb from Flam to Myrdal and it was snowing at the top, in August.

I think we took the boat train from Newcastle Central to Tyne Commission Quay. I've kept the timetable!

img828a.jpgimg916a.jpgimg921a.jpgimg826a.jpg
 

61653 HTAFC

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On a school trip to Austria in 1997, we used the train to get from our base in Kirchdorf an der Krems to the ski resort at Windischgarsten. The loco-hauled electric trains were a vast improvement on the Pacers we were used to at home!
 

beermaddavep

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My first trip abroad was to visit my young children in Germany, in the early 2000's. The ex wife had married a soldier in the SDG (smashing lad, he didn't know what he had let himself in for) stationed in Bad Fallingbostel, Niedersachsen. I was terrified of flying at the time, so I took a ferry from North Shields to Amsterdam. From Amsterdam it was an NS ICM 'Koploper' to Amersfoort, then another one from there to Groningen. From Groningen I took an Arriva Stadtler unit across the border to Leer. From there it was a BR101 hauled IC with Dostos to Bremen, a 'Metronom' 146 hauled set to Hamburg Harburg then a marvellous DB 614 set over the HeideBahn to Soltau and Fallingbostel. All in 1st class where available, and I was utterly hooked on continental travel by the end! The return was by a DB 628 to Hamburg, then the sleeper to Brussels (this was fresh air stock at the time, window open all the way), Eurostar to Waterloo, HST to Leeds then Trans Pennine home. Fabulous trip 8-)
 

Bungle158

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About 1966/7. Piraeus to Athens and back on some sort of metro type units?
ISAP is a Greek acronym for the Electric Railway of Athens to Piraeus. Older locals still call it the Elektriki. I ran a backpackers in Athens during the early 1980s and used it daily. Back then, some wooden bodied coaches still survived, very distinctive with porthole style round cab windows. Most stock of that era was however, German built EMUs of relatively modern appearance. The line was incorporated into the new Attica Metro in time for the 2004 Olympics
 

MotCO

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In the early 1980's I had to get to Argelès-sur-Mer in the SW of France, but for the timings I had, I could only get a flight to Toulouse, and then continue by train. I was travelling alone, and only had basic O-Level French.

I obviously had to get from the airport to the station in Toulouse, so assume I went by taxi. The train itinerary said I had to change at Narbonne, so I duly got off the train there, only to discover that the train I wanted was the one I had just left (or I hoped that was the case!). Fortunately it was still at the platform, so no problem there. I got to Argelès-sur-Mer expecting there to be a taxi, but if there was, it was too late, so I ended up hitching in a foreign country, late at night. It turned out fine, but I think I would have second doubts now.
 

Killingworth

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In the early 1980's I had to get to Argelès-sur-Mer in the SW of France, but for the timings I had, I could only get a flight to Toulouse, and then continue by train. I was travelling alone, and only had basic O-Level French.

I obviously had to get from the airport to the station in Toulouse, so assume I went by taxi. The train itinerary said I had to change at Narbonne, so I duly got off the train there, only to discover that the train I wanted was the one I had just left (or I hoped that was the case!). Fortunately it was still at the platform, so no problem there. I got to Argelès-sur-Mer expecting there to be a taxi, but if there was, it was too late, so I ended up hitching in a foreign country, late at night. It turned out fine, but I think I would have second doubts now.
Argelès brings back happy memories. We drove down to a gîte in a small village near there and dropped our son and girl friend at a campsite for a week. We saw them off late one night on a train heading north as they went Eurailing. Must have been about 20 years ago.
 

Polarbear

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It's really interesting to hear the stories from everyone - and some fascinating photos too!

What constitutes my first rail trip abroad very much depends on when I start. I was born in Melbourne, Australia & lived there until I was 5. I vaguely recall going to Melbourne on the suburban service & have a better recollection of a trip on Puffing Billy, a preserved narrow gauge line in the Dandenongs, to the east of Melbourne. Of course, Melbourne also has trams & there was a preserved one in a school around the corner from where we lived, which fascinated me as a toddler.

Moving to the UK in 1971, my first UK trip would have been Southampton docks to Waterloo, followed by something from Euston to Chester.

In adult life, my first trip abroad was an 8 day rover in the Republic of Ireland in 1989. Plenty of loco hauled turns & cronky old stock over there in those days. As for the European mainland, it was a trip on Eurostar to Brussels, (using the short lived HST connection to Waterloo) and a poke around Belgium.
 

Jamesrob637

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I reckon my first was Malaga to Seville RENFE , on a twisty rural line.
That would have gone through Puente Geníl, where I visited an old uni friend a few years ago. It's single track for some of its length, proving how ropey many Spanish lines were pre-AVE! Nowadays Malaga to Sevilla is only an hour by AVE.
 

route101

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That would have gone through Puente Geníl, where I visited an old uni friend a few years ago. It's single track for some of its length, proving how ropey many Spanish lines were pre-AVE! Nowadays Malaga to Sevilla is only an hour by AVE.
Yes it was quite rustic.

Come to think of it ,the first journey was a RENFE EMU from Jerez to Cadiz.
 

High Dyke

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1992 for me. A coach holiday to Valkenburg in the Netherlands, using the ferry from Dover. Travelled by train to do a bit of spotting at Maastricht. Looking at the few pictures and video I took it would most likely be a Plan T or Plan V EMU (here) providing the service. Amongst stuff seen during the bash was various SNCB loco's & coaching stock or various EMU types, working across the border to Belgium. Also seen were a couple of the NS 600 class shunting the station area, numerous NS 6400 class and even the interesting looking, now withdrawn, NS 200 class loco; not to mention various main-line locomotives.

A couple of coach tours were also taken, including a visit to Spa, Belgium - where the public road section of the famous motor racing circuit was covered. The other tour took us to Cologne in Germany. I managed to blag an hour or so at Köln Hauptbahnhof, next to the cathedral. A highlight being observing departures of the DB diesel hydraulic loco's. We also took a river cruise from Königswinter, incidentally twinned with Cleethorpes. There was opportunity to observe various freight trains passing on both banks of the River Rhine.
 

Taunton

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ISAP is a Greek acronym for the Electric Railway of Athens to Piraeus. Older locals still call it the Elektriki. I ran a backpackers in Athens during the early 1980s and used it daily. Back then, some wooden bodied coaches still survived, very distinctive with porthole style round cab windows. Most stock of that era was however, German built EMUs of relatively modern appearance.
These were built in the GDR, for the East Berlin U-Bahn, and were lent from new to Athens for some years, subsequently being replaced by a new build from the GDR in the late 1980s. Back in Berlin, they ran there until well after German reunification, but now have been sold to, of all places, North Korea, where they operate on the main line railway there.
 

JamesT

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The first I can definitely remember was as a child the family holiday including overnight Motorrail from Calais to the South of France.
Not the greatest of experiences, in a 6 berth compartment with two strangers. Middle of summer so the windows were open, felt like every time I got close to sleep the train would blast through a station with all the lights on waking me back up.
 

Gag Halfrunt

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These were built in the GDR, for the East Berlin U-Bahn, and were lent from new to Athens for some years, subsequently being replaced by a new build from the GDR in the late 1980s. Back in Berlin, they ran there until well after German reunification, but now have been sold to, of all places, North Korea, where they operate on the main line railway there.
In fact, ISAP acquired trains built in West Germany as well as the East German Typ G trains. The last East German units were withdrawn in 2004.

By the way, the Berlin U-Bahn still operates Typ G trains, although the older sub-types were all scrapped or sold to North Korea.
 

Fast Track

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1968. School trip to Switzerland - Boulogne .to .. SNCF to Basle, SBB to Berne, BLS to Brig and finally BVZ to Zermatt. A great trip for a train mad 15 year old.
Same year 1968 school trip to Davos. A few hazy memories - I remember being impressed with the height of the SNCF trains compared with the dour green Southern region commuter trains. The French trains seemed quite glamorous at the time for a 15 year old. I recall the hustle of being on Basle station as we changed trains. The mountain train up to Davos was very small and had wooden seats!
 
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First longer distance journey will have been Venezia Santa Lucia to Padova at Easter 1980 Aged 13. Holiday in Venice with my parents and we took day trips to Padua (reverting to English spelling) and Verona. Both times first class in compartment stock (still dirt cheap). Seem to recall the trains being busy, but first got us a seat.

Mum very happy because of the seat, because Venice lived up to expectations and more, and because unlike most Italian cities Venice was (obviously) not full of Vespas trying to run you down.

May well have done Paris Metro and RER journeys a year or so before, but I’m not quite sure of the date sequencing. No photos, though the journey that really needed photos was the British Military Train from Berlin Charlottenburg to Braunschweig and back in either 83 and 84 where we passed a good few 2-10-0s and rather fewer Pacifics.
 
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My oldest memory would be taking a train from Libourne (Near to St Émilion) to Bordeaux around 2010. If I can remember correctly, it would have been operated both ways by a Bombardier AGC.

I also remember TGVs going through, so this was way before the new LGV route to Bordeaux was built.
 

Nicholas43

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1958. School trip from Hove to Chesières, Switzerland. Morning ferry Newhaven to Dieppe. Alas can't remember traction to St Lazare. Couchettes Paris to Bex; alas can't remember end destination of this train. Long wait at Vallorbe at dawn, for check of our group passport and luggage. Breakfast of rolls and black cherry jam at Bex. Delighted that little train to Chesières started on street and then turned into a rack railway. Back on street Villars to Chesières. During our stay we also went on the branch to Col de Bretaye. Bliss!
 

citycat

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I made a post last year about my first ever trip on a foreign train, so just thought I’d repeat the post for anyone who missed it first time. Unfortunately, being just three months old, I don’t remember much about the journey.

My first ever trip through the Iron Curtain was in April 1960, when I was just three months old, and apparently had enough drama for my mother to rival a Len Deighton 'Funeral in Berlin' style novel. My dad was Polish and my mum was English. After I was born, my Polish grandparents were eager to see their new grandson. Unfortunately, my dad couldn't go for some work related reason so it was decided my mum would make the journey to Poland alone. She related this story to me in later years.

On that journey on the Nord West express in 1960, my mum was roughing it in the PKP seats overnight with me. She was in a compartment with five others. When the train got to Helmstedt in the early hours of the morning, the border guards from the DDR got on to do the passport check and when they got to my mum, they found some sort of irregularity with her travel documents that would require her to come off the train and get sorted in the office in the station. My mum told me that she got quite anxious and distressed at this news as she was convinced the train would leave without us and she would be stranded in Germany in the middle of the night with her baby. However, the border guards were quite insistent that she had to come into the station. One of the other occupants of the compartment, a man travelling to West Berlin, assured my mum that if the train left for any reason without her, he would personally take her suitcase off the train at Berlin Zoo and entrust it to the railway police there so she could hopefully catch up with it. Reluctantly, my mum got off the train holding me in her arms and accompanied the guards. She remembered that it was snowing heavily as they went down the platform, and some passengers were leaning out of the train windows watching with mild curiosity.

My mum was still rather distressed as they walked down the snowy platform and a railway official asked the border guards what was happening. He saw my mum's anxious state and then in broken English identified himself as the train guard. He told her that he would accompany her to the border guards office as 'the train cannot leave without me'. She said they went down a flight of steps and through some underground passages to a dingy office somewhere. Luckily, I was either sleeping in her arms or at least quiet and not crying. She was asked to take a seat while an official sat behind a desk and made a phone call. My mum remembered that it was one of those old style bakelite phones with the receiver in a large cradle and that the official had a lenthy conversation with someone while thumbing through her passport which was the old style blue UK passport, but travelling on my dad's Polish surname. Two other border guards were standing in the small office together with the train guard who I imagine worked for the DR as the train was about to enter East Germany. My mum said it was all quite intimidating, with the DDR guards dressed in their severe looking uniforms watching her suspiciously as their superior made his phone call.

Finally, the official came off the phone, reached for a rubber stamp, and loudly thumped her passport before telling my relieved mother that she could rejoin the train. I often wonder who the border official rang in the middle of the night, and where this mystery official was, who had the clout to give the authorisation for my mum to continue her journey. As soon as she was clear to go, my mum said the train guard hurried her as quickly as he could back through the passageways and up to the platform. She remembered that when they reached the platform, two men were smoking and stood chatting to another railway official and that they must've been the engine crew as the guard shouted something to them and they started to hurry off towards the locomotive. Meanwhile the train guard escorted her back down the platform to the PKP seating carriage. What my mum remembered most about that stressful night, was that quite a few passengers were leaning out of the train windows and that they started clapping as she passed by them. They were not clapping in derision of her delaying the train but clapping because she had successfully made it back ok. I guess most people taken off the train are detained and not seen again.

My mum made it back with me in her arms to the relief of the other occupants of the compartment, and as soon as she climbed the carriage steps, the train guard blew several times on his whistle and the train set off almost immediately. The man heading to Berlin told my mum that the train was delayed 23 minutes and he was convinced that she would not be coming back. He was amazed the train had been held for so long until my mum told him how the train guard had remained by her side to ensure the train would not leave. My mum was forever eternally grateful for the kindness of that unnamed DR train guard, making sure she was not left behind.

I'd like to think that somewhere in Germany, in a dusty vault belonging to the Deutsche Bahn, there is a faded train running ledger dating from the 1960's stored on a shelf, and on a page dated xx April 1960, a railway clerk has carefully made an entry using a fountain pen: Eastbound Nord West express delayed 23 minutes at Helmstedt - Passenger travel document irregularity.
 

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