There was an excited buzz in our corner of L’Entre Deux Mers one morning, when the local newspaper announced that a sleeping car that once belonged to the The International Company of Sleeping Cars and The Great European Express was parked for a few nights just outside Sauveterre de Guyenne, only a few kilometres from home.
Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of the owner of an old wood yard, many curious locals were able to visit, and spend time exploring the inside of the carriage, take photos, and ask questions of a local railtrain enthusiast.
We learned that this particular sleeping car was made in the late nineteen fifties for one of ten trains made to run on the Sud Express between Lisbon and Paris. Only three of these trains are left, and this car is destined for restoration in a workshop in Clermont Ferrand, to eventually be exposed in a railtrain museum in Moulhouse.
A little history
It was Georges Nagelmackers who created the most legendary mode of transport that has serviced travellers throughout Europe, Siberia and Asia, for well over a hundred years. His inspiration came from witnessing the Pullman night trains in North America. He envisaged the same for Europe, a service that was fast and comfortable for business men and travellers across the countries of Europe. On his return to Belgium he founded The International Bed Cars Company (Compagnie International des Wagon-Lits) in 1874. Ten years later came The Great Europeen Express (Le Grand Express Européen), followed by the Sud Express, the Nord Express, the Orient Express, and the Trans Siberian, and so the legend unfolded..
I invite you to climb on board and explore a sleeping car of Le Sud Express..
“Letter to Adéle from Victor Hugo”. (a rough translation)
“It takes little effort to see that the Iron Horse is a true beast. We hear his sigh at rest, his moan on departure, his gasps on route; he sweats, he trembles, he whistles, he blows, he throws sooty dust all along the way and urinates boiling water, a great racket comes constantly from his wheels, or feet if you wish, and his breath goes over our heads in beautiful clouds of white smoke that disperse through the trees alongside the route.”