On the sleeper to London

I wrote in a previous post to the problem of catching sleep being like catching a train at night. On Wednesday I had the chance to try out the sleeper train itself on a journey to London. There’s something that is still romantic about catching a sleeper from a deserted rural station in the Highlands and knowing that you’ll be getting off in the morning in the centre of London. I met a colleague who was travelling with me at the station at the late hour of half-past-ten and we waited in the silent darkness, with only the sound of light breezes in the trees, until at last we could hear the sound of the engine coming down the track from Fort William. We boarded the sleeper and found our compartment, which is astonishingly small for two people, and got ourselves sorted out. Off to the lounge for a beer and to enjoy the Christmas decorations, which added to the romantic feel of the journey. And then to sleep; or at least to try to sleep. It’s a very strange thing, trying to sleep on a train in a bunk with the constant noise and rattling over points. I think I was on the cusp of falling off when we arrived at some marshalling yard near Edinburgh and our train was joined up with those coming from Aberdeen and Inverness and a new engine was joined. The shunting staff seemed to be quite unaware of the possibility that there might be people asleep and carried on their conversations in normal shouts and calls. Mind you, if that hadn’t woken us, the collision of the various elements of the train would have done. So, a long night, but I must have fallen off at some point because was woken by the alarm clock in time for a shave before getting a sleeper breakfast (tea, croissant, muffin and muesli in a pot with sweetened yogurt) and the arrival in London.

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