The Night Ferry

Union St

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I never thought I'd be back, but here I am, begging for your words of wisdom again. I am an author seeking help with this scenario, please.
In the summer of 1962, my character has to get from Oostende back to England in the evening. He is driving a car, but he can discard that, if necessary. He drives to Dunkirk where the train that left Paris at 22:00 should arrive at 01:40. Can he a) buy a ticket and board the train through to Victoria? and b) can he take his car onboard? I think the ferries would be either SS Hampton Ferry, SS Twickenham Ferry, SS Shepperton Ferry, MV St Germain or MV Vortigern.
 
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Union St

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No, you're correct. I've also found out that the MV Free Enterprise entered service in 1962 from Calais to Dover. The first sailing would have been 01:30 the next morning, I think. This would not have been a train ferry, of course, but they would have taken the car.
 

randyrippley

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This is a 1960s film showing cars being loaded onto one of the old train ferries Dover-Dunkirk, showing that cars WERE carried on them


I'd hazard a guess that is's the French vessel St Germain, though I'm open to correction


==edit==

this site has photos and a deck plan of St Germain

It seems she was used Dover - Dunkirk from 1959, though August-Sept 1962 she was short-term leased to Townsend Thoreson for Calais-Dover work

If instead you're thinking of one of the 1930's "ferry" sisters, this page gives a bit of history
 
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Beebman

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I've dug out my copy of the 1985 George Behrend book. The ships in use in 1962 were the Twickenham, Hampton and Shepperton Ferries plus the St.Germain. The Vortigern didn't come into service until 1969. None of the photos of them have cars visible but they may be hidden.

The train did call at Dunkerque Ville, there are timetable extracts which show that, but no fares from there are shown in any pricing documents included in the book. The nearest times to 1962 are from 1957 - the train from Paris called there from 01:19 to 01:20, just a one minute stop is shown.
 

30907

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This is a 1960s film showing cars being loaded onto one of the old train ferries Dover-Dunkirk, showing that cars WERE carried on them
That's a daytime service - were cars carried on the sailings that conveyed the sleepers, though? ISTR the sleepers and fourgons took up pretty much all the space
The train did call at Dunkerque Ville, there are timetable extracts which show that, but no fares from there are shown in any pricing documents included in the book. The nearest times to 1962 are from 1957 - the train from Paris called there from 01:19 to 01:20, just a one minute stop is shown.
In principle, though, there would have been a fare - whether it could be issued at 01.00 is an interesting question, but there must have been the occasional passenger. Maybe they would gave been issued a foot passenger ticket and told to rebook at Dover Marine - where there would have been time and an open office.

@Union St welcome back! As a matter of interest, why is your character not taking the seasonal night boat from Oostende?
 

randyrippley

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@Union St welcome back! As a matter of interest, why is your character not taking the seasonal night boat from Oostende?
Or Ostend-Harwich?
Taking into account the extra driving would DunDover actually be much quicker?

That's a daytime service - were cars carried on the sailings that conveyed the sleepers, though? ISTR the sleepers and fourgons took up pretty much all the space
Check the ships plan in the webpage I linked to before
There's a second vehicle deck for a small quantity of cars, looks like it may have been accessed from a side ramp


==edit==
This page discusses a similar second car deck or "garage" on Vortigern and confirms it was accessed by a side-loading ramp http://www.hhvferry.com/vortaftlounge.html
Looks like the garage on St Germain held 25 cars, the side-loading ramp can be seen in some of the photos on that Doverferries page
 
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Gloster

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I haven’t found the Ransome-Wallis’ book yet, but from memory there is a sidelong cutaway drawing of one of the ferries and this shows a small car garage high up towards the stern. Will have to find the book: it is one of my favourites.
 

Union St

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Thank you guys. I've been looking at some of those sites. I agree with your assessment that there were three or four ships. I see pics where they carried cars. BUT, was the concept of the Night Ferry a "direct" route from Paris to London. Of course they had to stop at Dunkirk and Dover, but could people embark or disembark there? I looked at four ways out of Belgium: Dunkirk, Calais, Hook of Holland (too far), and Dieppe (too far). He can't use Oostende because he needs to flee Belgium ASAP. But I think there was a 01:30 Townsend ferry - The Free Enterprise - that began about that time. No trains, of course. (I'm in dark mode, so I'll re-read your comments tomorrow).
 

randyrippley

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Off the wall thought...

If he's really in a hurry, wants to keep the car, but is rich enough, one option might be to charter a special flight of Channel Air Ferries from Calais or Ostend to Southend. Looks like the last departure was scheduled at 20:20 in 1962, but I would have thought a bit of cash might have produced a special flight IF the two airports worked overnight

potted history of Channel Air Ferries
includes timetables and prices
 

Gloster

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The following is really only my opinion of bits and pieces I have read over the years. As far the sleepers were concerned, I would think that it was just through journeys between the terminals: no picking up or setting down at Dunkirk. It might be possible to go on the ferry as a foot passenger and then travel on from Dover on the Ferry, which I think had a British coach attached for the use of the guard up to London. The coach lasted to the end (there were a couple of adapted BCK used), but it wasn’t for the general public in later years. Alternatively, hang around at Dover until the first train from either Western Docks or Priory. And there is always the possibility of slipping a docker or seaman a wodge of cash to get on a ship.

Have you looked at the disused-stations.org.uk website which has an entry on Dover on it?

Off the wall thought...

If he's really in a hurry, wants to keep the car, but is rich enough, one option might be to charter a special flight of Channel Air Ferries from Calais or Ostend to Southend. Looks like the last departure was scheduled at 20:20 in 1962, but I would have thought a bit of cash might have produced a special flight IF the two airports worked overnight

potted history of Channel Air Ferries
includes timetables and prices
Probably not at very short notice, as I believe that it was U.K. based, so they would have had to get a ‘plane over there. There is also the rules over crewing.

EDIT II: The company appears to have been called Channel Air Bridge until the end of 1962. There is information on the Southend Airport Aviation Database website, including timetables.
 
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There is a timetable and brochure for the inaugural 1962 season of 'MV Free Enterprise' in the following link:-

Townsend Car Ferries

She seems to have had a few prangs, however, in August 1962!

MV Free Enterprise

I think this would have been the easiest route for your hero (villain?) to escape complete with car, assuming space was available - it seems to have been a very popular service from the off.

The 'Night Ferry' was originally a through service for 1st class sleeping-car passengers only, but by 1962 'ordinary' 1st and 2nd class passengers were also accommodated. They had to physically walk on-and-off the ship at Dover and Dunkerque - at Dover there was footbridge from Marine station to the train-ferry dock. I'm not sure what the arrangements at Dunkerque Ville were - the train-ferry was later moved to Dunkerque Ouest (Gravelines).
 

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The 'Night Ferry' was originally a through service for 1st class sleeping-car passengers only, but by 1962 'ordinary' 1st and 2nd class passengers were also accommodated. They had to physically walk on-and-off the ship at Dover and Dunkerque - at Dover there was footbridge from Marine station to the train-ferry dock. I'm not sure what the arrangements at Dunkerque Ville were - the train-ferry was later moved to Dunkerque Ouest (Gravelines).
Prior to the transfer to Dunkerque West the train ferry docked at a location described in Cooks (and in a much earlier Wagons Lits guide) as 'Dunkerque Ferry'. The sleepers were detached from the day coaches at Dunkerque Ferry and shunted onto the ship, the train having made a normal traffic call at Dunkerque Ville a few minutes earlier.

Whether the booking office at Dunkerque Ville would have been open at 01.40 I have no idea, or perhaps there was a ticket office at Dunkerque Ferry.

As far as I recall the Night Ferry was the only sailing on the Dunkerque route which carried passengers but tickets could be purchased at the other ports such as Calais and Oostende so why not a Dunkerque. CORRECTION Cooks 1974 timetable states Cars and passengers can be carried on all Dunkerque Dover services (including the 'Night Ferry' so there would have been a requirement, at least at that date, for a ticket office for all sailings.

Perhaps the 'character' could mentally debate whether he would be able to purchase a ticket at Dunkerque and, for the sake of the story, such a purchase might prove to be possible, perhaps on the basis of staff at D Ville advising him to get on the train and purchase his ticket to London at D Ferry?
 
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WesternLancer

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Welcome back Union St!

The Night Ferry train service does presumably have good potential in a novel scenario (it's good because it is not well known by the general public these days, but was a rewal thing, so you get away from Orient Express type stereotypes etc etc ref the general reader).

It was not long ago that I realized it features (albeit v breifly) in The Ipcress File
see 'capture 58 image' in this then and now page

For a filmed sense of it all though I can highly recommend the British Railways film unit (BTF) 25 min film - Link Span - a few years before your scenario - 1956 by the looks of it, but close

available to view here

see esp 12 mins in ref Night Ferry - but the whole film is excellent
"that man i a bowler hat, may for all we know.......a dogged man in a mackintosh, hard on his heels...."
"....as if this magical train were about to transport them...."


Knowing your keenness for accuracy and plausible detail the film might even give you ideas for scenarios etc - since it is based on actual practice used at the time?
 

30907

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Check the ships plan in the webpage I linked to before
There's a second vehicle deck for a small quantity of cars, looks like it may have been accessed from a side ramp

==edit==
This page discusses a similar second car deck or "garage" on Vortigern and confirms it was accessed by a side-loading ramp http://www.hhvferry.com/vortaftlounge.html
Looks like the garage on St Germain held 25 cars, the side-loading ramp can be seen in some of the photos on that Doverferries page
Yes, I checked that - my question was whether the night sailing carried cars at all? It has been answered since, affirmatively.

It might be possible to go on the ferry as a foot passenger and then travel on from Dover on the Ferry, which I think had a British coach attached for the use of the guard up to London. The coach lasted to the end (there were a couple of adapted BCK used), but it wasn’t for the general public in later years.
Foot passengers were always carried: until the new berth was opened at Dunkerque Ouest, the NF carried a dining portion for the sleeper passengers from Dover, but also a seated portion of 2-3 coaches, with its own Buffet Car, for foot passengers. There was seated accommodation on the French side, too - from both Paris and Basle (train DB back in the 60s!); the latter I presume carried the Brussels sleeper.

I travelled back from Paris as a foot passenger (with an Interrail) in 1972; I don't remember what ticket I used for the crossing, but I have a receipt for 7/6 (37p by then) for a saloon berth which I probably paid for at the purser's office. I must have been feeling flush!
 

mailbyrail

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In the reverse direction, I remember about 1978 cycling to Dover to catch the night ferry. I registered my bicycle at the station but because all the luggage from London was inside a sealed through van direct to Paris, I had to load the bicycle onto the ship on the car/railway wagon deck. I don't remember how many cars there may have been, if any.
Arriving in Dunkerque I had to offload the cycle from the ship myself and on the station platform there was still no way to put my bike onto the train at Gravelines.
I ended up cycling to Dunkerque Ville on my bicycle which was supposedly registered baggage through to Paris. I was able to convince a rather puzzled parcels office that everything was in order and that my bicycle was booked from Dover all the way to Paris. Quite a test of my French language skills! I was able to join the first train to Paris and my bike was loaded by the parcels staff into the luggage van. I collected the bike in Paris with my receipt issued in Dover with no problems.
I imagine trying to book a car onboard was more straightforward!
 

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Foot passengers were always carried: until the new berth was opened at Dunkerque Ouest, the NF carried a dining portion for the sleeper passengers from Dover, but also a seated portion of 2-3 coaches, with its own Buffet Car, for foot passengers. There was seated accommodation on the French side, too - from both Paris and Basle (train DB back in the 60s!); the latter I presume carried the Brussels sleeper.
The seated portion incl. buffet to/from Dover which, on the occasions I used it, could be up to 8 vehicles continued for a period after the change to Dunkerque Ouest but was eventually replaced by an EMU connection. On the French side the full train ran via Lille where the portions for Brussels (sleepers only) and for Basel and Milano were detached.

Potentially the 'Character' might even find himself boarding the coach from Milano at Dunkerque Ville to travel to the port!
 

WesternLancer

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I never thought I'd be back, but here I am, begging for your words of wisdom again. I am an author seeking help with this scenario, please.
In the summer of 1962, my character has to get from Oostende back to England in the evening. He is driving a car, but he can discard that, if necessary. He drives to Dunkirk where the train that left Paris at 22:00 should arrive at 01:40. Can he a) buy a ticket and board the train through to Victoria? and b) can he take his car onboard? I think the ferries would be either SS Hampton Ferry, SS Twickenham Ferry, SS Shepperton Ferry, MV St Germain or MV Vortigern.
Just on the specific questions

a) buy a ticket and board the train through to Victoria?

So if he drives to Dunkirk (and abandons car) I suspect he would get on ferry and buy a foot passenger ticket for the ferry either from some sort of ticket office at the harbour, or from the purser on the ship

I say this as I am thinking only the sleeping car passengers who got on at Paris or Brussels slept through undisturbed, seated passengers had to de-train at the ports - so I assume they used lounges on the ship? Is this correct - ie there were not seated railway carriages that crossed the channel on the train ferry? @Union St probably needs to know this.

The when arriving in Dover he may be able to buy a train ticket to London and board the foot passenger carriages (non sleeper part)
(but given the inherent link between the ships and the railway in those days it may have been possible to buy a through foot passenger ticket all the way to London at Dunkirk / or on the ship)?

and b) can he take his car onboard?

From other posts this would seem plausible if I have read them correctly - space permitting (it's summer so might be busy and thus car space fully booked if he just turns up, but it's a novel so things can be allowed)
I guess he would just pay for this at the port in Dunkirk / harbourside.

There would be no railway / train element to this as at Dover he would carry on journey by car I assume (on other side of the road of course...)

Of course others who actually used the service up thread or who know more can correct my post here as I never got to enjoy the Night Ferry service, one of my train travel regrets...
 

Union St

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Wow! I just knew you guys would come through! The story is very much in the research stage. It concerns a psychologically damaged ex soldier who engages in occasional contract work for an intelligence service (perhaps). Blah, blah, blah. I felt I had to show him at work somewhere, so I chose De Haan in Belgium. It all goes wrong, naturally, so then he has to return to London quickly. Randy, your movie is very good, but no sound, right? Or is that me. It shows a closable dock gate, so it must have been Dover, I think (they needed to avoid the tide when loading/off-loading the trains). Hah! He has flown from Southend with his stolen ID19 that morning on the Channel Air Bridge. I don't believe that to be a valid return route. I don't think the story allows him maps in the car, but he is able to dismiss Hook Holland and Dieppe easily enough. I think Oostende is too close (he may have left a passport at the hotel front desk), which leaves Dunkirk-Dover which is Townsend, I think, with a 19:30 (he won't make that one) and 01:30 sailings. Even if he cannot get the car on, he should be pretty much guaranteed a walk-up/walk-on ticket, yes? The alternative is the Night Ferry, but I just cannot be sure (and could he) of obtaining a ticket? He would reach Dunkirk first, of course and the timing is about the same as Calais, so I think he HAS to make the decision before arrival. He can dump the car, if need be. It maybe safer, actually.
 

Cheshire Scot

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I say this as I am thinking only the sleeping car passengers who got on at Paris or Brussels slept through undisturbed, seated passengers had to de-train at the ports - so I assume they used lounges on the ship? Is this correct - ie there were not seated railway carriages that crossed the channel on the train ferry? @Union St probably needs to know this.

The when arriving in Dover he may be able to buy a train ticket to London and board the foot passenger carriages (non sleeper part)
(but given the inherent link between the ships and the railway in those days it may have been possible to buy a through foot passenger ticket all the way to London at Dunkirk / or on the ship)?
Correct, no seated carriages crossed on the ferry, sleepers only.

But assuming he was able to buy a ticket at Dunkerque - which I think is a reasonable assumption, he would have been able to buy one through to London.

which leaves Dunkirk-Dover which is Townsend, I think, with a 19:30 (he won't make that one) and 01:30 sailings
Did Townsend ever operate from Dunkerque? I don't know but I suspect they would have stuck with the Calais route and they later added Zeebrugge.
The train ferries (which also took cars and passengers were a joint BR/SNCF operation which later became Sealink.
 

Gloster

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It would be surprised if he had no maps at all in the car. At the very least he might have picked up a road atlas or a Michelin Map at the airport.
 

Union St

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Thank you. Sorry, I misspoke. The Townsend was out of Calais using the brand new FREE ENTERPRISE which came into service in April, I think it was. The map situation; the contract was planned for one of the next two days and came about this night purely out of happenstance. This is why his passport remains with the front desk in a hotel in Oostende. He is in trouble, and HAS to get out.
 

randyrippley

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Just when in 1962 will this be set?
Reason for asking is there was a period of around six weeks in the autumn when St Germain stood in for Free Enterprise on the Calais car traffic. I don't know, but I'd guess the new Free Enterprise had teething problems and was out of commission for a few weeks, so St Germain was leased to cover her sailings. One of the three "Ferry" sisters was usually held as a spare / reserve so could easily have backfilled on the Dunkirk route - though I don't think cars would have been carried on the railway sailings for those three
 

MotCO

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Would our hero need to show a passport to buy a ticket? If he left his passport behind, would he need to stow aboard?
 

Peter Mugridge

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Wow! I just knew you guys would come through! The story is very much in the research stage. It concerns a psychologically damaged ex soldier who engages in occasional contract work for an intelligence service (perhaps). Blah, blah, blah. I felt I had to show him at work somewhere, so I chose De Haan in Belgium. It all goes wrong, naturally, so then he has to return to London quickly. Randy, your movie is very good, but no sound, right? Or is that me. It shows a closable dock gate, so it must have been Dover, I think (they needed to avoid the tide when loading/off-loading the trains). Hah! He has flown from Southend with his stolen ID19 that morning on the Channel Air Bridge. I don't believe that to be a valid return route. I don't think the story allows him maps in the car, but he is able to dismiss Hook Holland and Dieppe easily enough. I think Oostende is too close (he may have left a passport at the hotel front desk), which leaves Dunkirk-Dover which is Townsend, I think, with a 19:30 (he won't make that one) and 01:30 sailings. Even if he cannot get the car on, he should be pretty much guaranteed a walk-up/walk-on ticket, yes? The alternative is the Night Ferry, but I just cannot be sure (and could he) of obtaining a ticket? He would reach Dunkirk first, of course and the timing is about the same as Calais, so I think he HAS to make the decision before arrival. He can dump the car, if need be. It maybe safer, actually.

Just had a thought - if he's going to ditch the car and there are people after him, why not bluff those people?

If there was a suitable Motorail type service in those days from the area to, say, the south of France or somewhere ( NB I have absolutely no idea if there was or not! ) why not have him book on it, get the car on board and make sure the staff on board see him and have reason to remember him, then moments before departure sneak off the train via the non-platform side of the train before departure and then get the ferry back to England...?
 

Union St

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You chaps really ought to write stories; you're all so devious! He has two passports, but you're right, that is a glaring loophole which I'll fix. I am now of the opinion that he will dispose of the car in either Dunkirk or Calais, not because it is 'hot' in Belgium, but it might have been seen in the vicinity. He only needs the car because he has sustained some injuries. So, my BIG question here is: what transport does he take to England? From this post, I believe the most reliable route would be Calais to Dover. He can try that 01:30 crossing (either foot passenger, or better still, the car as well). BTW, that Reelstreets website is excellent.
 

30907

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The alternative is the Night Ferry, but I just cannot be sure (and could he) of obtaining a ticket? He would reach Dunkirk first, of course and the timing is about the same as Calais, so I think he HAS to make the decision before arrival. He can dump the car, if need be. It maybe safer, actually.
Travelling as a seated passenger, there would be no issue about getting on board unless the ferry was at her registered capacity and someone noticed this (exact counting of passengers is much more recent). Obviously there's no way he could board the sleeper portion after Lille, officially.

A thought - did Townsend's carry foot passengers then?
 

MotCO

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I am now of the opinion that he will dispose of the car in either Dunkirk or Calais, not because it is 'hot' in Belgium, but it might have been seen in the vicinity.

Was it a Belgian registered or French registered car? In 1962, would a Belgian registered car in France stick out like a sore thumb?

Also, if he had no passport, how did he escape from Belgium in pre-Schengen days? Edit: presumably using his second passport.

(You realise we all expect royalties out of this :lol: :lol:)
 

randyrippley

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Fake UK passports were easy back then (Day of the Jackal anyone?) but anyone needing to travel to Israel and the Arab states would be routinely issued with two anyway
But it was possible to buy "real" Irish passports in several pubs in Kilburn, issued by staff at the Embassy (or was it a Consulate?) without recourse to any paperwork
 

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