European Rail Timetable - there's nothing like it

European Rail Timetable - there's nothing like it

Going back as far as 1873, the European Rail Timetable has been the bible for keen rail travellers. Its history is extraordinary, and the publisher’s dedication to train travel and railway timetables knows no bounds.

The European Rail Timetable (ERT) is, in fact, like Christmas all year round for train lovers. Not only does this historic publication tell you about nearly every train you can get across Europe, it also gives a summary of the latest new routes, has fantastically detailed train maps and covers the whole continent of Europe.

The ERT even has Christmassy colours, having been printed in a paperback bright red cover for just about as long as glitzy Christmases have been a thing, with gorgeous train images added from time to time, such as the latest one. The ERT has, in fact, been doing its magical rounds since Victorian times, first published in 1873 and then every month without a break, the exception being during the Second World War when publication was suspended for the duration.

The Thomas Cook legacy

The founder of the European Rail Timetable was a pretty historic figure in himself, one of the early pioneers of leisure travel, Thomas Cook. In fact, the ERT was originally called the Thomas Cook European Timetable until publication was taken over by an independent group, created especially to keep the Timetable on track when Thomas Cook’s publishing plans hit the buffer. Thus the change in name to European Rail Timetable, although longtime rail enthusiasts still hold on tight to the Thomas Cook name. Not surprisingly, as it really has been a long tradition, with only six editors in chief since it was founded, including the current one.

Even though there are now only six ERTs published in print (twelve online) every year, it still continues to thrive. Perhaps because it is exactly this timeless, traditional aspect of trains, timetables and routes that travellers love the most. The fact that people have been taking the train from, for example, Paris to Marseille since 1856, through the Austrian Alps from Innsbruck to Landeck since 1884 and London to Bath since 1840 when Great Western Railway (GWR) started its exploration into the west. All feats of railway engineering of their time. For years, holidaymakers heading west to the likes of Torquay, Newquay, St Ives or as far as Fishguard in Wales would have consulted the Timetable. And clearly many still do. We certainly do.

What's coming up in the ERT

The upcoming ERT is like a goods wagon full of gifts for keen rail travellers. Here are just a few of the goodies inside: there's the new sleeper train between Brussels and Vienna. Leaving Brussels at 18.04 and arriving in Vienna 08.27, this new service starts 20 January 2020, Mondays and Thursdays; a new service between Vienna and Bolzano; new direct services between London, Inverness and Aberdeen on board LNER's impressive new Azuma trains; a speedier service between London and Cardiff shaving off about 15 mins; and a new direct train service between the historic German cities of Dresden to Rostock, via Berlin. This extends to the seaside town of Warnemünde in May 2020.  

So, if you are a keen 21st century rail traveller you can consult the European Railway Timetable, published in Oundle, Northamptonshire (ironically not on a rail route), in various ways. You can subscribe annually to get it in print or digital format, or just buy a bundle of four seasonal editions. While you are at it, you might as well treat yourself to their fold out European railway map. Open it and just breathe in the legacy of this great institution. Some would say it smells almost like Christmas.

For more information, see European Rail Timetable. Many thanks for kind permission of images of ERT from European Rail Timetable. 

Other blog image credits top to bottom: Swiss viaduct istock ©Oleh_Slobodeniuk, Taking the train at Christmas iStock ©Manuel Faba Ortega

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