© www.dover-kent.co.uk 2000 - 2016 
Home History Defence Transport Leisure Places People Words Information Contact
Dover: Lock and Key of the Kingdom

The Night Ferry

The “Night Ferry” was the first, and until the opening of the Channel  Tunnel the only, through train from London to Paris. The train was  made up of sleeping cars provided by the CIWL (Companie  Internationale des Wagon-lits or International Sleeping Car Company)  of “Orient Express” fame.   The train used the newly constructed Train Ferry Dock at Dover and  one of the three specially constructed train ferries, built by the  Southern Railway to ferry the sleeping cars across the Channel to  Dunkirk while their occupants (hopefully) slept.   The first train left London Victoria Station at 10pm on 14th October  1936 and arrived at Paris Gare du Nord at 8:55am the next morning.  The first return journey left Paris at 9:50pm on 15th and arrived in  London at 8:30 on 16th. From 15th October the service ran daily in  both directions, a return journey costing £9.20 in First Class and £7.10  in Second. The “Night Ferry” ran as usual the night of 3rd/4th September 1939,  then the French sleeping cars and their crews were returned to France  on a freight sailing and the service suspended. The three train ferries  had an active war service, as did the sleeping cars. In 1942 all twelve  cars were requisitioned by the Germans for use in Germany, from  where only seven returned. After the war the service restarted on 14th December 1947 from Paris  and in both directions the following night. In 1957 a through sleeping  car from London to Brussels was added to the train. In 1967 a through  car to Basle was also added but this was not a success and was  withdrawn in 1969.  By 1974 all of the original train ferries had been replaced with more  modern vessels. The service finally ended on 31st October 1980 with  the last departures from London, Paris and Brussels.  
Poster advertising the new service, 1936. Breakfast menu for the Dover - London journey, 1959.  One Shilling (1/-) = 5 pence.  Therefore a full breakfast cost 40p. Sleeping cars on board the ferry.  Once on board, the sleeping cars were jacked up to take the weight off their springs and then chained to the adjacent track. Sleeping cars being shunted off the ferry at Dover in 1952. Back to Railway Index