Part 2 of the Great Rail Adventure

The last you heard was about our late arrival at the Paris Nord train station. In the "City of Lights" we were to change trains for our onward journey to Augsburg.

Paris Gare du Nord Front

Paris however is another one of those cities in which trains leave from different stations depending on which destination and in which direction they are going. The reason for this is a generally the fact that during the early days of railroading the trains were run by private companies, who each built their own rail terminals in the cities. London is another good example for this. There of course you have, among quite a few others, London Paddington with trains generally bound for the western part of the country. London Kings Cross trains tend to go north along the east coast of England and London Waterloo services generally cover the south western part. Even Washington DC had this difficulty until Congress mandated that all railroads had to come into just one terminal in the city. That is why Union Station was built and why it was named Union Station

In our case the train from Paris to Augsburg was going to depart from Paris Gare de l'Est. So we all piled into the small bus provided and got to Paris Gare de l'Est in just a few minutes time.

Our "transfer" busOn the way to Gare de l"Est

Paris Gare de l"Est Front

Our onward train was scheduled to leave at 15:25. So we all had about two hours to kill before the departure. Since my second hobby after trains is eating, Michael and I decided to try out a brasserie in the station neighborhood. It was quite good and not expensive at all. The place was not particularly heaving for lunch, but I did get a chuckle out of watching two elderly French ladies at the next table go through two small pitchers of wine without much ill effect, except to periodically nod off for just a few seconds without seemingly missing a beat in the conversation.   

In due course we got back to Gare de l'Est. The departure was still a few minutes off, so I took the opportunity for a walk around the station and to take some photographs. 

Gare de l'Est Concourse

Gare de l'Est Departure Monitors, train to Augsburg is on top left.

Two generations of TVG train sets. On the right an older single level TGV. On the left a one year old double decker TGV set.

"Our" TGV, a "Train à Grande Vitesse Duplex", owned by SNCF.

The run to Augsburg is part of the service from Paris Gare del'Est to München Hbf. It operates several times a day in both directions and the equipment used are the Duplex TGVs. This is a joint venture between SNCF (the French railway) and Deutsche Bahn (the German railway). You will find both a German conductor and a French conductor on board. The service personnel generally speak both languages. 

From Paris the train takes the newly opened high speed line towards Strasbourg. The design speed on that stretch is 350 kilometers per hour (218 miles per hour). Service speed however is about 300 kilometers per hour (187 mph). 

Monitor inside our TGV coach, indicating speed and route stations.

The new TGV highspeed line to Strasbourg comes to within about 30 kilometers of the city, whereupon the train continues on the "regular" track to the Strasbourg station. SNCF is in the process of finishing the highspeed track into Strasbourg within a year.

The track itself is incredibly smooth. One hardly realizes that the train set is travelling a bit over 300 kilometers an hour. The points/turn outs are of such huge radii that one does not notice any track changes at all. Of course, being from the US, I am just in awe at the smooth ride. On Amtrak's NorthEast Corridor the track is so bad that one gets thrown from one side of the carriage to the other.

Unfortunately I can not say much good about the TGV train sets themselves. Wether single deck TGV or the new Duplex TGV, I have never liked them. OK, they do ride well due to the use of "Jakobs trucks" on the train sets.

A "Jakobs truck/bogie" on a Duplex TGV set.

But I really dislike the interior design. Even in First Class the coaches are cramped. The seats are not comfortable at all. And then there is the one thing that absolutely drives me crazy: some of the seats are not aligned with the windows. So some poor schmuck has to sit there for 6 hours looking at an interior train wall. Not good at all! Finally, SNCF has decided to do away with the dining car section on these trains. So, like in our case, for six hours there is no decent food to be had. This is France for heavens sake!

Cramped upper deck in First Class on a SNCF Duplex TGV

After the station stop in Strasbourg the train quickly crosses the Rhine river into Germany. There the train does slow down to "only" 250 kilometers an hour (156 mph). Apparently Deutsche Bahn (DB AG) was unable to find the space to build a completely new high speed line. Really not surprising considering how densely populated this part of Germany is. Instead it was decided to upgrade the existing line to a line speed of 250 kilometers an hour.

We finally did arrive at our destination, Augsburg Hauptbahnhof, at 20:56 hrs, right on time. It was a short walk from the station to the hotel. Check in was fast and easy, and after having a beer in the lounge I just went to bed. It was going to be a short night and an early morning.