Once there were many international trains. If you just look to the international time table of 1974 of the Netherlands (here) there were many trains going to France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia (Ljubljana). There was one which I will never forget as I was taking it many times: it was the ‘Flandres-Riviera’. This train, for the train nerds its train number was D286, ran from Amsterdam to Ventimiglia, an Italian town on the border with France. It connected the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France with the Côte d’Azur.
So basically you stepped into the train in the evening, went to sleep and the next morning you wake up seeing the Mediterranean Sea! As a child this made of course a huge impression, it was a real adventure! And I remember when waking up to be so amazed and happy to see the Mediterranean Sea! It really meant that holidays started and all the colours were amazing!
When I was looking in the family archives I discovered this movie, most possibly taken in the sixties. First footages is of a steam train between Cannes and Saint Raphaël, after a CC41 000 in Paris Gare du Nord (North Station) can be seen.
The D286 , the Flandres-Riviera, was always full of people who worked for the railways, because they had some free tickets (as below), so thy could basically travel for free.
The many travels with this train helped to develop an interest for travelling by train and especially in the history behind the railways. Back than the French orange TGV’s (the Sud-Est), a French highspeed train which started in 1981, made a huge impression. I think I was 10 when I made my first ever TGV ride between Cannes and Nice and as you can see on the photo I was happy. The ticket inspector was so friendly as you can see. What a train was that and I still love it!
Back to the Flandres-Riviera. In the current discussion about nigh trains it hurts me to see that they want to re-invent the wheel now, because all these trains were already running for a long time until they stopped running at end of nineties due privatizing and competition of airlines. I sincerely hope the D286, the Flandres-Riviera, will return one day as well all the night trains which disappeared. That they will be comfortable as they were and with a good ticket price and frequency ( and capacity) so that the international night train can become truly competitive again.