10 years ago…

Switzerland 07 283

BB15024, Paris Nord, 02/09/17 (JW)

This relatively unremarkable photo of BB15024 on the blocks at Paris Gare du Nord was taken 10 years ago this week – Saturday 2nd September 2007.

What makes it noteworthy is that I didn’t intend to be there. In fact, I didn’t even intend to be in France. This train was the Hamburg-Paris overnight, which after five consecutive overnights mainly chasing 218s in Germany, I was using as my taxi from Hamburg to Brussels, for my pre-booked Eurostar back to Waterloo, home for a de-rance and then a ticket for Aston Villa v Chelsea… What could go wrong?

Anyway, a DB class 101 powered us south from Hamburg to Dortmund, where I ensured I was awake to see 363 128 shunt our portion onto the coaches from Berlin. We were then 120-powered via Mönchengladbach to Aachen. I again ensured I was awake to see not only our relieving Belgian loco (2705) but also our banker, which was the big Ludmilla 241 805 (ex-232 284) and to walk to the far end of the train to enjoy the Kolomna sounds as it gave us a good shove up to Aachen West. After grabbing a bit of a cat nap, I again made sure I was awake at Liège to see 1954-built 2229 buffer up to the rear of the train to bank us away. I then got my reading book out as we sped west through the darkness, to make sure I was awake to get off at Brussels…

…I woke up to the sound of a loud “clunk”. My book was was on the floor, broad daylight illuminated the compartment and the word “Quévy” was sitting outside the window… Bowled!! The clunk had been the shackle as 2705 was removed at the Belgian/French border – I’d slept completely through Brussels and out the other side. Not stopped at a platform, I was unable to get off, and was then trapped seething on board the train as BB15024 backed on, to take us non-stop the last 150-odd miles to the French capital. My move was in tatters and it was only through the booking office staff taking pity on such gormlessness that I got home via Eurostar with minimal issues.

I missed the Villa win 2-0 though!

In retrospect, it saddens me most that such traction variety that we took entirely for granted is now a thing of the past. In one seat, over the course of only a few hours, I was powered by 7 different locos – from modern high speed electrics, to elderly post-war machines, to 4000hp freight diesels, to shunters. Even some of the route that my overnight traversed is no longer used by passenger trains. Banking and shunting locos remarshalling passenger trains are virtually unheard-of in Western Europe these days.

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