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
at Dover and one of the three specially
constructed train ferries, built by the Southern
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was withdrawn in 1969.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.