August 15th 1975

“Train journey damn boring. Nice girls at stations. Got to Copenhagen at about 7-30pm. Great Dinner”

So, after an overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland – involving something to do with pepper pots and girls – we transfer to the train for Copenhagen.

A train journey – just to remind you – which took almost 12 hours and went through Holland, Germany and Denmark.

Two-thirds of the way into the journey, the train would split up into 4 or 5 parts and be shunted onto a ferry for the 90-minute sea crossing between Puttgarden (in Germany) and Rødby (in Denmark).

This, by far, was always the highlight of the journey for me (it was otherwise a little dull for a teenager – damn boring, in fact – although nowadays I’d love the relaxation of it). For Nig it represented ‘major excitement central’. I don’t think he really believed us when we told him that the train was going straight onto the boat. I think he rather imagined we’d all get off a train, catch a boat across the Baltic Sea and then catch another train on through Denmark.

I don’t know exactly how many photos he took that afternoon, but I’ll guess he blew a couple of rolls of film or more on the loading and unloading process of the train, running from one end of our set of carriages to the other to get the best shots. To be fair it was an amazing thing to see, the echoed noises and sounds all adding to the experience.

Some of the pics he took were really good – I remember that – but I only saw them a couple of times. It’s a shame in retrospect that I never asked him for copies of his photos because this was the last time I did this journey and it would be nice to have a keepsake of the one element that – even as a kid (remember, I took this journey almost annually from the age of 6 months!) – I always looked forward to.

Flikr user “Seadipper” hopefully won’t mind me using a photo of his from 2006 which shows the back of a modern train carriage in the hold of the ferry…

I’m sure the process is now far more automated than it was in 1975 and that trains have evolved in a big way making the loading and unloading a lot easier. Certainly this photo suggests a bright and airy train deck when the reality as I recall it was a somewhat dark and dank space that smelled of oil. Each carriage had to be chained down by a huge team of workers and as they did so we would all rock from side to side. When we were suitably secured, pairs of elaborate steps had to be placed at each carriage doorway. I was always surprised to see them because they seemed to come from nowhere, presumably wheeled into place when all the passengers attention was elsewhere

It was the noise of the train moving on and off the boat I will always remember the longest though, a collection of bumps, screeches and squeals as the train wheels did battle with variations in the rails. I found this couple of you tube videos showing the process, that noise still evident…

Somewhat sadly, this relatively unique train experience is being phased out by ‘progress’. The 19-kilometer Fehmarn Belt Bridge is being built between Puttgarden and Rodby and is due to open for car and train traffic in 2018, thus ending a decades-old tradition of kids (and teenagers) squealing with excitement.

In other news “nice girls at stations” is pure teen talk isn’t it? I can’t be certain they were all “nice” but they were evidently good to look at. (As a huge generalisation I find that most Danish girls are good to look at)

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1 Comment

Filed under 1975 Diary Entries

One response to “August 15th 1975

  1. Great posts – interesting stuff.
    I wonder if Nig still has the photos?
    Maybe one day you will see them again.

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