New Trains. Night Trains. No Trains.

 Comes now Eurostar announcing that they’re ordering a whole new fleet of trainsets which will go into service at the end of next year. The new equipment will run at sustained speeds of 320 km/hr (200 mph) which is almost 20 mph faster than trains they’re now operating. The design work, inside and out, was done by Pininfarina, an Italian firm with a big reputation earned for their design work on high-end automobiles. The new equipment will allow Eurostar to expand service to a number of French cities including several in the south of France. (And, by the way, can you believe it’s been 20 years since the Chunnel was opened?)

In the meantime, here in the U.S. of A, Amtrak has filed a complaint with the Surface Transportation Board because the on-time performance of the Capitol Limited … uh … Oh, never mind. It’s too depressing.

 I’ve written about this before, but there are new reports from Europe about more of the so-called “night trains” perhaps being phased out. There are plenty of trains operating at night, of course, but this term refers to trains configured with berths for people to actually sleep in. These trains also — typically and traditionally — have had restaurant cars. Clearly, they’re more expensive to operate and that is certainly a big factor in the considerations. But it does seem to me — a focus group of one — that there are still a lot of people who would be willing to pay, and pay well, for this kind of service. I certainly am.

In fact, I’m working out an itinerary for a trip to Italy in June and am going to include an overnight train from Venice back to Paris. The company operating the train is thello (not sure about the significance of the name). The ultimate authority on these things — Mark Smith, the Man in Seat 61 — gives it a kind of so-so review, but there is just something about having a meal in the dining car and traveling overnight on the train in a real bed that just can’t be topped.
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In February, I’m taking VIA Rail’s wonderful trans-Canada train from Vancouver to Toronto because I have always thought it would be a totally different experience to take that ride in the middle of winter.  Once that part of the trip is over and I’m in Toronto, I’ll take the Maple Leaf to Buffalo and connect there with the Lake Shore Limited back to Chicago. It has not escaped my notice that, two days ago, because of heavy snow, Amtrak temporarily stopped operating trains in New York State between Albany and Buffalo. Specifically which trains? Why, the Maple Leaf and the Lake Shore, of course!