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Thread: London to Fort William sleeper train

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    London to Fort William sleeper train

    So this exalted forum struck me as the place where someone may have some insider knowledge on this....

    May and a group of fellow scouters are off to the Scottish highlands for a few days in August for a spot of munro bagging.

    The plan is to use the London to Fort William sleeper train there and back. So far so good.

    Problem, plenty of berths for the return leg but going up they are all sold out so we need to slum it in the reclining seats. Curses! To make matters worse.... I'm told that on the Fort William train (but not on the Aberdeen or Inverness sleepers) if you use the reclining seats you get a rude awakening at Edinburgh about 5am and get moved to do a different carriage.

    The question is, is there any jiggery pokery you can do to avoid some such early morning shenanigans? A particular area to ask for a reservation in? Or a sleeping bag in the luggage compartment or other tom foolery? Or are we just stuck with the aggravation?

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    Firstly, top plan to use the Fort William sleeper for some Munro bagging. I did just that a few weeks back and had a fantastic weekend. It's a great way to get two full days' walking in the highlands out of a weekend - though not exactly cheap...

    I'm not aware of any way to avoid the rude awakening in Edinburgh for the seated passengers. There's quite a lot of shunting around as they separate the three trains - trying to sneak into the luggage compartment certainly won't help because anyone with bikes also has to wake up and move them.

    If you're open to changing your walking plans, and there are still berths available on the Inverness sleeper, you could get out at Dalwhinnie and walk west via Ben Alder to pick up the return leg on the Fort William branch at Corrour station.

    Or just let the whisky flow on the outward journey so you're still deep in conversation when you get to Edinburgh (although in my experience any plans made at this stage turn out to be rather ambitious in the cold light of day).

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingstonCubber View Post
    Firstly, top plan to use the Fort William sleeper for some Munro bagging. I did just that a few weeks back and had a fantastic weekend. It's a great way to get two full days' walking in the highlands out of a weekend - though not exactly cheap...

    I'm not aware of any way to avoid the rude awakening in Edinburgh for the seated passengers. There's quite a lot of shunting around as they separate the three trains - trying to sneak into the luggage compartment certainly won't help because anyone with bikes also has to wake up and move them.

    If you're open to changing your walking plans, and there are still berths available on the Inverness sleeper, you could get out at Dalwhinnie and walk west via Ben Alder to pick up the return leg on the Fort William branch at Corrour station.

    Or just let the whisky flow on the outward journey so you're still deep in conversation when you get to Edinburgh (although in my experience any plans made at this stage turn out to be rather ambitious in the cold light of day).
    Cheers! Looks like we just get an early morning awakening by the sound of it.

    Re that route from Dalwhinnie... it's actually one I've had my eye on. The plan being to use the Culra and Ben Alder cottage bothies for accommodation to save carrying tents. Trouble is the Culra one has been closed due to asbestos. So I've been putting it off till it reopens. Trouble is that doesn't seem to be any time soon! A real shame as I have happy memories of sleeping there during my Queens Scout Expedition many years ago.

    The route this time is actually to jump off at Spean Bridge, walk into the bothy at the eastern end of the grey corries the morning of day 1 with the afternoon pottering around the hills east of there, crash the night in the bothy then do the Lochaber traverse with a wild camp about half way along picking the train up again at Fort William.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post
    The question is, is there any jiggery pokery you can do to avoid some such early morning shenanigans? A particular area to ask for a reservation in? Or a sleeping bag in the luggage compartment or other tom foolery? Or are we just stuck with the aggravation?
    Unfortunately not - only 4 or 5 coaches operate from FW to Edinburgh, either 2 or 3 sleeper coaches, the lounge car and the seated car which also contains the guard's van. The only other way to do it is to travel earlier, taking the day train to Glasgow and then the Glasgow-Euston sleeper.

    Seats or sleeper, though (I've done both), the Deerstalker is a *really* special train journey.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil Williams View Post
    Unfortunately not - only 4 or 5 coaches operate from FW to Edinburgh, either 2 or 3 sleeper coaches, the lounge car and the seated car which also contains the guard's van. The only other way to do it is to travel earlier, taking the day train to Glasgow and then the Glasgow-Euston sleeper.

    Seats or sleeper, though (I've done both), the Deerstalker is a *really* special train journey.
    I see, I assume it's a case of the one carriage with reclining seats being swapped for one with normal seats then? Bit of a pain but I guess can't be helped. Although the train geek in me is looking forward to watching the whole process take place!

    I've done that route before using day time trains and as you say it really is a special route. Last time was as far as Corrour to use the Loch Ossian youth hostel as a base for some walking. Again a special place to go albeit the smell from the long drop latrines there is somewhat unique!

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    To explain it a bit better hopefully.

    The Highlander is made up of 3 portions, one to Inverness, one to FW (the "Deerstalker") and one to Aberdeen. Each one consists of some sleeping coaches, a lounge/buffet car and a reclining seats car with guard's van.

    The problem is that like that, with enough sleeping coaches to meet demand, the train is too long for the longest platform at Euston.

    So, the Fort William section only has its sleeping coaches running through to Euston, and seated passengers sit in the Aberdeen (I think, might be Inverness) seated coach as far as Edinburgh. Then, during the shunt, the Fort William portion has a seated and lounge car added which sit at Edinburgh all night. (They can be a bit chilly to start with so wrap up warm).

    The reverse is done southbound - the FW seated and lounge car are removed at Edinburgh and passengers transfer to the one from Aberdeen.

    At the moment the FW seated coach is often a normal 2+2 with tables one, this is because the seated coaches are getting very old and unreliable so it's a spare one. The brand new rolling stock is arriving in a year or so, but until then it's all a bit of a 1970s theme park

    Some photos from when I've done it in the past, plus a couple of what the FW seated car will look like.

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0By...2JSSDBiZC0yTlk

    Reclining seats coach:
    https://www.seat61.com/images/CalSleeper-seats.jpg

    Normal Mk2 coach:
    http://ukrailwaypics.smugmug.com/Coa...on310704-L.jpg
    https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3360/3...8fd0ba37_b.jpg

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    Thanks Neil, that makes a bit more sense. A 3 portion train must be a pretty long one when you think about it.

    My inner train geek is also quite looking forward to being on a "proper" locomotive hauled service and not one of these soulless multiple units. They are quite a rare thing these days. The sleepers, a few services on chiltern trains and, I think, a handful of local services in South Wales are about it.

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    'sleeper' is the wrong word - I have done the Aberdeen bit a few times and you can only doze unless you are a heavy sleeper and there is a lot of slowing down and then the shunting.. You are as well in the sitting area as the sleeper is expensive. Sleeper trains on the continent however - bliss, ensuite showers, proper width beds, heating/air conditioning that's actually effective..
    'Simba'

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    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post
    Thanks Neil, that makes a bit more sense. A 3 portion train must be a pretty long one when you think about it.
    It's the longest passenger train in the country by some margin. About 15 coaches I think.

    The seated and lounge cars are Mk2 because these are 20m rather than 23m long, otherwise it wouldn't fit then!

    My inner train geek is also quite looking forward to being on a "proper" locomotive hauled service and not one of these soulless multiple units. They are quite a rare thing these days. The sleepers, a few services on chiltern trains and, I think, a handful of local services in South Wales are about it.
    East Coast Mainline, and the GWR and CrossCountry HSTs if you count a locomotive on each end!

    Also First TransPennine Express have actually ordered brand-new locomotive hauled stock believe it or not! It was the cheapest and quickest way to get additional stock as a follow-on from the Sleeper order.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomsmum View Post
    'sleeper' is the wrong word - I have done the Aberdeen bit a few times and you can only doze unless you are a heavy sleeper and there is a lot of slowing down and then the shunting.. You are as well in the sitting area as the sleeper is expensive. Sleeper trains on the continent however - bliss, ensuite showers, proper width beds, heating/air conditioning that's actually effective..
    ...abolished mostly due to being uneconomic (though there are a few left).

    The new rolling stock looks like it will surpass the European standard.

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    I went to Aberdeen from London on the sleeper, on the way to the Shetlands. I was 11. I can remember being at the train station, and I remember being on Aberdeen docks, huge jellyfish in the water, and eating chips. I remember nothing from in between. Or if I do, I don't know if it's my imagination filling in the details. I don't remember the ferry journey, another overnight I'd guess. No idea how we got to our croft on Yell either.

    Hmm, this isn't really helpful is it? Can't imagine doing that with my explorers now, let alone scout age kids. All to live in a croft for a couple of weeks, go for walks and play on the sandy beach.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil Williams View Post




    - - - Updated - - -



    ...abolished mostly due to being uneconomic (though there are a few left).

    The new rolling stock looks like it will surpass the European standard.
    we've done them - my husband is a train geek (too)
    'Simba'

    BSL/ADC Beavers.

    All opinions stated are my own.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil Williams View Post
    It's the longest passenger train in the country by some margin. About 15 coaches I think.

    The seated and lounge cars are Mk2 because these are 20m rather than 23m long, otherwise it wouldn't fit then!



    East Coast Mainline, and the GWR and CrossCountry HSTs if you count a locomotive on each end!

    Also First TransPennine Express have actually ordered brand-new locomotive hauled stock believe it or not! It was the cheapest and quickest way to get additional stock as a follow-on from the Sleeper order.

    - - - Updated - - -



    ...abolished mostly due to being uneconomic (though there are a few left).

    The new rolling stock looks like it will surpass the European standard.
    HSTs don't count! Possible argument for the 225s on the east coast or the class 90s London-Norwich but with a driver cab at the other end it's not like a proper train where the locomotive needs detaching and running round to the other end. My inner geek loves a bit of that kind of thing

    I've done continental sleepers a couple of times. Paris-Venice and Cologne - Vienna both of which were exceptionally comfortable and civilised ways to travel hat I would highly recommend. Not the cheapest I'll grant you. But going to Venice..... Eurostar to Paris, dinner in a Parisian restaurant, on the train, nice comfortable bed, breakfast brought to your cabin about 8am. Arrive Venice about 9.30am. Walk to the end of the platform, out the station and you're on the Grand Canal.

    Alternatively Easyjet from Luton.

    No contest really is there?

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    Long ago in days of yore I can recall catching the sleeper train to Stranraer (for the ferry to Larne). We picked it up at 3am from wigan north western. We got the last local train to wigan which arrived at 12.15am. it was easter time. It was my very first encounter with my favourite bench, platform 4, wooden, running alongside the (closed/locked) waiting room, wigan north western and I enjoyed a very uncomfortable, very cold, nearly 3h wait with no one around, no trains passing through to break the boredom and the very little comfort I had was not helped by the dim lights, noises and nasty smells from the factory right alongside the station.

    Those memories are as fresh today as they were back then. The long wooden bench along the side of the waiting room has gone, replaced with an equally cold red metal one. The factory is still there!

    Can’t recall anything about the sleeper train, except for the circuitous route it took (I recall it stopping at some god forsaken place called girvan) and the mercifully short crossing on the ferry.

    TM
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    Just thought I'd make a comparison between the ease of rail travel here compared to our continential neighbours.

    I phoned up at lunch time to try and book our sleeper train to Scotland. Two of us are starting from Cambridge joining the sleeper in London. Two others from macclesfield and Derby respectively looking to join at Crewe.

    It appears that over the phone this is not possible. Scotrail can only sell us a ticket for stations on the sleeper route itself. I have to go to my local station, buy the tickets and then phone them back for the seat and bunk reservations.

    Two years ago myself and Mrs Cambridgeskip travelled to Austria for a friend's wedding by train. Via the Rail Europe website (operated by SNCF, the French national operator) we were able to buy a through ticket from Cambridge to Vienna. A route involving 4 trains operated by 4 different operating companies passing through 5 different countries and got a sleeper reservation between two of them. All in one fell swoop.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CambridgeSkip View Post
    Two years ago myself and Mrs Cambridgeskip travelled to Austria for a friend's wedding by train. Via the Rail Europe website (operated by SNCF, the French national operator) we were able to buy a through ticket from Cambridge to Vienna. A route involving 4 trains operated by 4 different operating companies passing through 5 different countries and got a sleeper reservation between two of them. All in one fell swoop.
    It won't have been a through ticket, it will have been a pile of tickets. TCV through ticketing basically doesn't exist any more and hasn't for years.

    You can break a UK journey up like that too - and if you are using the Sleeper you are probably very well advised to do that as the "dedicated" seated sleeper fares are very good value compared with a regular walk-up ticket for a journey of that distance.

    So use the Caledonian Sleeper website to book the bits on that, then book the rest separately. Make sure you leave a decent connection time (the minima vary by station, but there aren't any that are more than 30 minutes unless you cross London in which case you should leave an hour).

    Compare prices first though. brfares.com is useful for finding out what the walk up fares are.

    - - - Updated - - -

    By the way - loco2.com is good for pricing up complicated international stuff. It can also do UK tickets.
    Last edited by Neil Williams; 12-06-2017 at 01:26 PM.

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