Sign of the Times: Rail Travel ‘Bible’ Is No More.

For a long time, people into train travel – specifically European train travel – have relied on the European Rail Timetable, published monthly by the venerable travel company, Thomas Cook. It’s a monthly compendium of European train schedules and travelers have been relying on it for a long time … in fact, for a very long time. The very first European Rail Timetable appeared in August of 1873. Sadly – although it’s also a bit like arriving at your final destination spot on time – the August 2013 edition will be the last. Thomas Cook bigwigs say it’s because of an “ongoing transformation” of the company’s business.

For every one of those 140 years, veteran travelers wouldn’t dream of planning a European tour without spending hours consulting this publication. It’s equally true that many thousands of copies have been sold every month to people who have never traveled to Europe and who doubtless will never get there.  No matter. Those folks spend hours leafing through the pages creating imaginary rail itineraries and enjoying every minute of it.

(OK, from London, through the “chunnel” to Paris for a couple of days, then an overnight train to Vienna. Three days there so I can see the famous Lipizzaner horses perform, then on to Budapest before returning to London. Hmmmm. I can’t go that far without seeing Prague. What’s the best way to get there? Before I get to Vienna? Or on the way back from Budapest?)

See? That was the beauty of this train travel bible. You could pick it up, start carelessly leafing through the pages and, before you knew it, you were checking to see if there’s a restaurant car on that overnight train to Vienna. A month later, when the newest edition of the European Rail Timetable arrived in the mail, you immediately looked to see if the departure time for that overnight train to Vienna had changed.

I suppose once again the internet’s to blame. It takes some hunting among a number of different web sites, but the information is all there … somewhere. So we no longer really need Thomas Cook’s European Rail Timetable.

I suppose not. But I still want it.