Please sign in to post.

Hate the TGV. Any slow trains left?

Are there anymore "slow" trains that go through the small towns in France, or tours that do? Great Britain still has them through rural Scottland, Wales, etc. TGV isn't a real train-its a wingless airplane, crowded, uncomfotable, and the view is worse than an airplane.

Posted by
4684 posts

There are but it will be much, much easier to find information if you can read a bit of French. Look for "TER" (train express regional), which is the French brand for local trains outside big cities. The main website is www.ter-sncf.com but it is not in English. You don't get discounts on these by booking in advance, though. One issue though is that long-distance routes are often broken up into shorter local journeys and they are deliberately timed so that you can't easily make connections to do long-distance journeys that SNCF would rather you did by TGV. If you want a "traditional" long-distance journey, there are still a few trains from Paris to Toulouse via Limoges, although this route is being run down as the south-west TGV gets extended. Or try Paris-Caen.

Posted by
2829 posts

Ah, the nostalgia buffs... Maybe people should consider an ocean liner trip across the Atlantic as well. What bothers me is not the query about scenic train journeys, but the "hate the modern thing" tone. Europe (France) is NOT a giant theme park. France is NOT bound to keep on crappy transportation because spoiled tourists want "a good view" or "a quaint experience". Moreover, I really don't see why a TGV, which is all-seater, all-reserved, could be more crowded than regional trains that have smaller and narrow seats, and may carry people standing. What is a "real" train? A choo-choo steam train crawling at 40mph under best conditions, without air-conditioning so you can arrive full of dust on your clothes in your destination? Once again: there is no problem looking for scenic slow train journeys, but there is no need to bash the TGV as if it were an essential evil joy-kill for the average spoiled tourist. Obviously, travelling at speed of 140, 170mph means the human eye just can't process images in the near vision field fast enough. Blame human biology and genes for that.

Posted by
2048 posts

I actually found the "wingless airplane" pretty entertaining. Apparently OP travels on nicer airplanes then I do. I fly just about every other week and I would LOVE to have TGV option in the US. Just SO much nicer then airline travel. No Thousands Standing Around (LOL!), the ablity to walk around, more space etc...

Posted by
3005 posts

6 hours on a TGV in 2nd class is pleasant. 6 hours on a plane in coach is terrible. The seats are larger, you can easily get up, walk around, and hang out in the bar car whenever you want. And when you arrive at your destination, you are often in or near the center of town as opposed to 30 km away at an airport. I plug in my smart phone, surf the internet, have a self-catered picnic - all things that are a little difficult to do on an airplane. Admittedly 2nd class TGV may not be as nicer as the newer versions of ICE or RailJet trains but even on a crowded train it's not horrible. And for all those non-existent views, I managed to spot quite a bit of wildlife on my last trip to Paris, including the symbolic stork you see everywhere on merchandise in Alsace! But if you want slow connections on slow trains, Provence has plenty. Or come to Germany and enjoy the RegionalBahn trains, they take you everywhere. I still prefer an ICE train when it's affordable/available.

Posted by
2916 posts

There are also differences in TGVs; some do indeed zip through the countryside at lightning speed, but others are more like express trains that skip a number of stations but still travel slow enough on most stretches that you can view the scenery. We recently took a TGV from Bordeaux to Paris, and it didn't seem very different from regular trains we've taken in France in past years, except maybe for only making a few stops. On the other hand, on a TGV we once took from Montpellier to Paris, much of the countryside was a blur.

Posted by
13026 posts

As for slow regional trains serving the smaller towns, come to northern France, Pas-de-Calais and the Somme area, to towns/cities like Amiens, Cambrai, Beauvais, etc. and you find the slower trains. But, between taking a slow train Paris-Arras, ca.,2hrs and a TGV for 40 mins, I'll take the TGV. True, the TGV sometimes seems like a blur, rode the TGV last summer Paris-Perpignan, 5 hrs, wanted to see more of the countryside as it began heading south, it was fast. I can see why the TGV 2nd class for 5-6 hrs is not really desirable. Given that and an ICE 2nd class for 6 plus hrs, I'd take the ICE anyday...more comfortable, easier to fall asleep, spacious. Those trains closest to trains from yesteryear to satisfy the nostalgia yearnings in my opinion are the EC night trains. They don't go as fast, and you're sitting in that six person compartment for 10-13 hrs. They remind me very much of the trains in W. Ger. in the early '70s, except for the fact they have been refurbished and equipped for the convenience of travellers with the electronic gear, lap tops etc. But, then the real nostagic seeker riding the rails would have none of that electronic gear along anyway, just as it was back then.

Posted by
8700 posts

If you don't read French, you can get timetables for regional trains on the English version of the German Rail site. In the booking area on the home page click on "Local transport." With regional trains you can buy a ticket from point A to point B, get off anywhere along the way for a few hours, and continue on to point B, all on the same ticket.

Posted by
8 posts

Andre Why are you so hard on me? Spoiled tourist? Why visit Europe speeding from one big city to.the next? I learned long ago city jumping is not thy way to really see a country or meet the people. How about we get together when I pass through? We could share a doobie and you could pose for pics standing in front of a windmill in your wooden shoes! :-)

Posted by
4374 posts

Oh, boy...here we go! Lemon meringue on the table to your left, custard pies to your right... Those who don't want to play - get your plastic drop-cloths on! For The Record, I want the 'choo-choo'...to go just as fast or slow as I want. They do in MY world...;-)

Posted by
2829 posts

John, my apologies if I sound too harsh. I didn't want to offend anyone! My only un-spirited observation is that the overwhelming majority of those who live in Europe see trains as a mundane thing to have. One that should be efficient, fast and modern as anything else in life (telephones, TVs, cars, house appliances etc.) Imagine if I went to Nebraska (actually I lived nearby for a period, in Laramie WY) and complained that: " I hate I-80. It goes too fast when driving, we can't the Praire farms with cowboys moving cattle, there are many big rigs and I want to go west on the Oregon Trail horse riding because that is the true American thing to do!". I bet many people from Nebraska would not like such comments. I know people in Laramie didn't liked the recent foreign arrivals (which were many thanks to the local university) expecting to find Old Wild West or complaining people there were not "typical Mountain types". ================ This being said: one must decide if transportation in an Eurotrip is just that - transportation - of if one wants to plan it as part of the journey. IT usually doesn't go ok to mix both. Also, one should note TGV is a train type, which can run also on non-high speed line. And there are other non-TGV trains which can run on high-speed lines. Compare it to distinguish whether a road is or not an Interstate and whether you car is or not a SUV.

Posted by
91 posts

Spoiled tourist? No, just a traveller who likes to see places he/she is going through! Places that add to my knowledge. In decades of European train travel, I've been everywhere and on every type of train - from slowest to fastest. But on a TGV train last year, I couldn't even read station signs to realize where I was - or where to get off! It was not why I travel through Europe. Nothing to do with nostalgia - I just like to see what's there. Isn't that why most people travel? Sure, fast trains are great for businessmen or people in a great hurry. But for most tourist? No, thanks.

Posted by
209 posts

I understand John completely. And yes it was necessary for himto explain why he wanted an RER train. If he hadn't sure as shooting someone would have lectured him about how he could get TGV tickets cheaper than he thought. I had similar feelings about my first hydrofoil ferry from Seattle to Vancouver. It was much more like a plane than a boat- fast and efficient but not the least bit romantic. We have an old narrow gauge train about two hours from us that takes tourists from Mt. Hood City to Mt. Hood and back. We go on it occasionally usually with visiting relatives. Last summer we got reservations way in advance to take the Silverton Durrango train which is not only a narrow gauge, but still burns coal. It was grand. I've taken a similar tourist train in Wales. There were British tourists on it too and with good reason. The difference is whether one is traveling for the journey or to get from point A to point B with a minimum of fuss and time. It's not just true of trains. We thought seriously about taking a ferry rather than Eurostar to get from London to France just for the experience. I think my daughters still wish we were taking the ferry at least one way, and in my heart of hearts so do I. The difference applies to roads too. At home I take the interstate when the point is to get there. On vacation I look for the old highways, especially the ones designated scenic. And the highways are still there and still marked scenic because we understand the difference between transportation and travel. We may also choose not to TGV from time to time in France.
But that carries no hint of a suggestion that we think European commuters should be condemned to the RER only that as long as the RER is there we may want to use it for the journey. I wouldn't want to get rid of the interstates. I need them. But I'm glad there are still highways.

Posted by
2829 posts

High-speed trains are usually a replacement for short-haul flights. But, again, people are free to chose whatever transportation they deem fit. Most people don't care about what is between the origin and the destination. As for reading station names, get a GPS of a Smartphone with offline maps (both are cheap and have other uses even for those nor using cars) and you can suddenly check not only the location but also the speed. I think this is like the situation of people who say they will not take subways or underground trains in Europe, but prefer trams and buses even if slower because they can see the city from the window. I will never understand these people but, hey, to each one its own travel pleasures. Just don't bash modernity (fast trains) as if it were only for "heartless corporate businessmen" or as if travelling on old regional trains made any trip better than other by definition (like those claiming to be superior because they use trains instead of cars to commute and 'pollute less'").

Posted by
8 posts

I see your point Andre, and the difference in attitudes towards trains in North America and Europe is 180 degrees opposed. Here, the airplane is the rule for a trip considered too far to drive and train travel is more of a novelty outside of densely populated urban areas. Europe has an extensive rail network; US and Canada have a bare- bones skeleton system. I would guess the majority of American tourists previously have never riden a train beyond commuter/transit, and think being able to run around Europe by rail is pretty cool. Europe looks very different and interesting compared to the US. I love to watch from the train as this scene rolls by, and not be in any hurry. Then there's the trips through Switzerland, the Glacier Express, etc.; remote parts of Scottland and through Wales on a slow train along the Irish Sea coast that doubles as a school bus between the small villages. I might hop off at one, find a room (there's always something not too far from the station) and spend the evening at the town pub visiting with the locals who are always friendly and enjoy talking to a "yank". This is the type of experience I was looking for in France.
There have been a couple posts with suggestions I'm going to check out. Thanks for being a good sport about the "wooden shoes" comment-just my warped sense of humor slipping out. John

Posted by
2847 posts

Since andre is actually Italian, he probably got a good chuckle out of the "wooden shoes" comment. No way you would know that, since he lives in the Netherlands (and speaks perfect colloquial English thanks to his residence in the US for a time.)

Posted by
11450 posts

John, I understand what you mean to some degree, but not everywhere is that scenic,, for instance from Paris to Nice on a TGV is just over 5 hours, who knows how long it would be on a slower routing /train.. and the "breadbasket" of France isn't that scenic,, not compared to Switzerland or Wales I imagine. So for some routes faster is just fine for me.. but agree for some other routes a more leisurely journey.
I will argue that TGVs are not more crowded, since everyone must be assigned a seat, as opposed to some trains and journeys where there could be standers.. and the TGVs I have been in are super comfy!

Posted by
4374 posts

Yea! We get to EAT the pies ;-) I hear ya, John! Because we basically have no train travel in the USA, we want The Whole European Train Experience!!! And why not? Oftentimes we get it, but some of it isn't so scenic. If only we could speed up most of the arrivals/departures around the stations themselves... I'd like a two-track system: slow for the times I'd like a leisurely roll through the pretty parts (or not-so-pretty parts), and the jet train for when I just want to get from A to B, like probably most of the Europeans. What I truly mourn is the disappearance of the 6-person compartments (wiping a tear). They felt sooo much more civilized. Now, I feel that we DO sit in a (nicer) airplane tube - staring at the seatback in front of me. Yuck. Hate it. Some of you messy eaters may want to keep your dropcloths on...

Posted by
13026 posts

John, If you take the IC trains in Germany (day), the compartments with 6 seats are still there, to appeal to the nostalgic tick, similar to the EC night trains...just as it was 40 years ago.

Posted by
4374 posts

Fred, good to know! I despise airline seating; have I mentioned that? ;-)

Posted by
18389 posts

Today I went from Prague hl.n. to Bad Schandau, near Dresden. The train I used was an EC (EuroCity) from Vienna to Berlin. Our car had compartments. I shared a 2nd class compartment with 4 college girls :o) .

Posted by
2829 posts

As for the train seating, compartments are virtually gone from every new train. DB placed a huge (1500 train cars) order of new IC-X trains that will replace older fleet. There are 3 major reasons why compartments are out of fashion on new trains (I'm not considering sleepers or the likes): 1 - less seats can be fit in the same space. 2 - it is more difficult to fit compartments with modern super-efficient climatization, wi-fi, LCD panels conveying travel information etc. And all modern trains have this as ubiquitous features (each compartment would have to have micro-managing of temperature, its own LCD panel etc.) 3 - safety: with far less railway personnel on-board and greater reliance on cameras, open-saloon arrangements are easier to survey with cameras (most people still don't realize newer trains have cameras all over the place). ================= Personally, I dislike compartments very much for 2 reasons: unless I'm alone or only with other people on my travel party in the compartment, it is awkward to have just 2 or 3 (instead of dozen) strangers around you, especially when it comes to leg space; and you lack any visual opening to the other site (on the corridor)

Posted by
13026 posts

I can see the validity of the safety argument for these new IC-X trains. Still, I'm banking on DB taking its sweet old time and procrastinating in making this fleet of IC-X operational. The night train I took from Frankfurt Hbf-Vienna two years ago was an EN (OeBB) with six seat compartments.

Posted by
3005 posts

" I learned long ago city jumping is not thy way to really see a country or meet the people." Yes, because Paris is not "real France" and Berlin is not "real Germany" and I guess New York isn't "real America". Well, not to Bill O'Reilly, I guess. And the people who live there I guess don't exist or count either as true examples of their nationality. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the world's population resides in cities. Hey, if you don't like to visit cities when you travel, that's fine. But this attitude is just ridiculous. Personally, I see the appeal of slow traditional trains for short, scenic trips. But for me, when I vacation time is as important as money (and time is money of course) and I don't want to spend more time in transit than I have to.

Posted by
8 posts

New York is a great city, unique in many ways so as not to be typical of the country as a whole. Sixty per cent of the people in the US live in communities under 50,000. I don't think there is one place in any country you could call "typical". I'm amazed when people visit Australia, go to Melbourn, Sidney, etc. and think the've seen the country. What a waste of a long plane ride. I shouldn't be critical. It's your vacation and you should do what you enjoy, not what someone else thinks is the "typical" thing to do. I like a little adventure, the unexpected, discovering, meeting new people....you know, those things you try to avoid in a big city. Bill O'Rielly? Good Irishman; glad to hear he's popular in Germany!

Posted by
1010 posts

My husband and I went on a TGV three years ago and loved every minute of it. It certainly wasn't crowded. We had great views the whole time. The seats were very comfortable. I don't know why anybody would complain about this modern form of transportation. Maybe they should just stay home and not be so negative about these cool trains.

Posted by
8997 posts

Not all TGV lines have views. I was on one line several years ago that was built into a trench. Every now and then it would pop up to the surface and you would see something for a few seconds and then back down to trench level. It might as well have been in a Chunnel.

Posted by
2847 posts

We have ridden trains with 6-person compartments in Italy as recently as 2010. This was an IC train and we were traveling in First class. It was a bit crowded with 6 people (all slender) and luggage.

Posted by
18389 posts

I've been on quite a few regional trains in the last two weeks. All but one had aircraft type seating. The one regional train with compartments was a Czech Rail regional train with, get this, an eight person compartment (fortunately there were only three of us in it). However, a couple of days ago, I was on a very modern looking EuroCity train going from Prague to Berlin, and the coach I got on had compartments. I shared one with four females, three of them American college students.

Posted by
18389 posts

I've been on quite a few regional trains in the last two weeks. All but one had aircraft type seating. The one regional train with compartments was a Czech Rail regional train with, get this, an eight person compartment (fortunately there were only three of us in it). However, a couple of days ago, I was on a very modern looking EuroCity train going from Prague to Berlin, and the coach I got on had compartments. I shared one with four females, three of them American college students.

Posted by
18389 posts

"people who say they will not take subways or underground trains in Europe, but prefer trams and buses even if slower because they can see the city from the window." I was just in Prague, where is stayed south of downtown, near a Metro line. I said to my host that I was going to take the Metro into town, and he recommended that I take the tram because I could see more of the city that way. Part of the experience in Europe is seeing things, the way people live, etc. If you are going to spend all your time in a tunnel, what's the point? Going by tram is educational. You get to see what a transportation system CAN be.

Posted by
18389 posts

Somehow, riding around in an enclosed steel box doesn't seem to me the way to meet people (except by contact). Put me in a 2nd class compartment with 5 Germans anyday.

Posted by
3005 posts

A lot of the RB trains I've been on - which is what Lee apparently primarily travels on - do have compartments. Which I hate, by the way, but i'm glad someone enjoys them. Back on subject.. In general I just disagree that there is one way to meet the "true people of whatever". New York is just as representative of the US as Rapid City, South Dakota. Same for cities in Europe. Plenty of the smaller towns and countryside can be jammed with tourists as well, anyway, particularly if you only go to places in the Blue & Yellow book. There are advantages and disadvantages to ALL modes of transport, and personal preference is something that of course should be taken into consideration. To me, however, sweeping statements that cities aren't where the "real people" are or taking fast trains or driving you won't meet the "real people" (again how do people think Europeans get around? Or live? The majority of Western Europeans are urban dwellers and they take fast trains and cars for long distances!) ironically displays a sort of tourist mindset where Europe is a nostalgic theme park as opposed to a place where people go about their lives. If you prefer slow trains, take 'em where you can. My husband is a train nerd and likes to ride on trains pulled by old steam engines when scenic routes do so. But he doesn't make inaccurate statements about the comfort of high-speed rail travel, either, because he recognizes the important function high-speed lines serve.

Posted by
28145 posts

I'm trying to think of a compartment that seats 6 (bench seats? 3 seats opposite 3 three seats. Armrests between. Both sides recline a little. One side can fold flat. I spent entire summer pulling the opposite one (or two if I could get away with it) flat and mine with the back at 45 degrees, makes a great impromptu bed sort of space. Then switch off the light, pull door closed and be obstructive and noisy if somebody tried to come in. Didn't meet many to talk to at night, saved the talking for the daytime. That was 1971. Those carriages are still running around in some places. Had one last year - short trip and didn't sleep. I was too busy watching the games the school kids got up to.

Posted by
13026 posts

Yes, that's a very accurate description of a compartment in which the seats with armrests which can be put into position or pulled up...exactly as it was in 1971...and I'm glad the IC trains still have them...so far....much prefer them to riding in those RB trains. They're the worst, let's say, the least pleasant of the DB trains. Sitting in a six seat compartment, I don't think I have ever run across Turks, or had them come in where I already was. I would say it's rare to see any Turks on trains. The other types...Europeans, backpackers of any nationality, Americans, Asians, Africans, etc. you see on the DB, especially the further south you go. The best chances for running into seating occupied by Germans is to go where the above listed don't go, such as from Neumünster to Kiel, or Schwerin to Rostock, or better still, Berlin-Frankfurt an der Oder.

Posted by
8 posts

I've alway been a little intimidated about driving in Europe. Hard to relax and take in the sights when trying not to get lost, Itseemsnot understanding the signs, staying on the correct sldeof the road! More so when traveling by yourself. It seems you can take a train to about anyplace, then there's the rail pass. I usually get a two week first class pass, a real bargin; might use for 10-12 rides. One of my travel rules: Try to never be in a hurry, to go someplace, or to leave. We only come this way once- from an Eagles
song

Posted by
8 posts

" cities aren't where the "real people" are.................... ironically displays a sort of tourist mindset where Europe is a nostalgic theme park as opposed to a place where people go about their lives." Sarah, I didn't say that. I said it's easier to meet people in a smaller community. I recall in a certain large European city asking people for directions- it was like I was some kind of pervert; no one would even make eye contact. Same thing happens in New York. You are right, I do have a tourist mindset-I'm a tourist! Europe is a nostalgic, historical(and many other things) place-which attracts tourists. We don't visit to watch "people go about their lives". What's your point? Someone please tell me what the "yellow and blue book" is?

Posted by
2829 posts

I can understand the rationale of people who like compartments. But maybe, as other things, is a preference that - safety and efficiency factors I already pointed aside - is strongly generation-related. I dislike compartments for two reasons (besides acknowledging safety/efficiency arguments): (1) they are uncomfortable when more than 50% full. I already dislike facing seats (2 rows facing each other with a table between them), and compartments make it worse: you can't stretch your legs without risking stumbling upon your fellow passenger legs, meaning you must travel with legs retracted (and occasionally deal with the passenger feeling ok to take upon your personal space with THEIR legs) (2) they provide incentives for people to starting small talk, as some humans (of all regions of the World, I guess is genetic) are wired not cope with a situation of few strangers around + long situation duration time without an irresistible need to talk about irrelevant things I don't and won't care about. I hate small talk when travelling on a train/plane because I'm usually multitasking and all I care is my laptop/book/magazine, but I also dislike fending off small talkers.

Posted by
3005 posts

I actually confused RB trains with IC trains - I guess I tend to lump all non-ICE trains together. It's IC and Eurocity (and CNL) where I've been in compartments. Which I hate. I hate RB for long trips even more. I agree completely with Andre's assement of compartments. I can be a very nice and social and outgoing person - at a restaurant, or a bar. I often wind up talking to locals both here and when I travel. But I don't like being "forced" into it which a compartment always feels like, as there's no way to escape (well I guess if you don't have seat reservations you could get up and leave but that seems rude). I've talked to some nice people in compartments, true, but just as often they've been smelly, hot, and cramped when there's 5-6 people in them. The worst is when I missed my TGV train back to Stuttgart from Paris due to a Metro breakdown. Had to wait for 2 hours at Gare d Est and then 11 hours in a totally full compartment, including a Canadian girl who wanted to sleep on the floor. They turned out the lights at 9:30 p.m. I ended up spending the bulk of the time sitting next to the bikes on the floor reading and I payed over 100 euro for the privilege. Might have soured me on compartments and slow train travel in general.

Posted by
13026 posts

Given a choice in Germany, I have as a general rule: avoid the RB, esp with luggage. I'm not going to waste my Pass day or part of it on a RB when an IC with the 6 seat compartment serves the same route and may be half an hour or so faster. When a route is served only by the RB, then you just put up with it. The 8 seat compartment I did see in Poland in July of 2005 when riding from Poznan (Posen) to Torun (Thorn)... the terminus was Olsztyn (Allenstein), don't remember if it had armrests or not. On that leg seven occupied that compartment, almost a full house.

Posted by
8 posts

What was the logic behind the compartment for day travel? It never was used in the US to my knowledge. Are there still sleeping cars in Europe where sleeping berths in a compartment are sold individually, so you get to sleep with with strangers? This would eliminate the "small talk" problem some have. Replaced with snoring maybe? Australia still did this last time I was there with 2 and 3 berth rooms sold as 2nd class sleeper space. They didn't mix the sexes however. I've been on European trains and had to sit at a table with strangers a number of times, Can be a little akward and uncomfortable, no leg room, etc. OK for a group, but seems there are way more than necessary.