Sleeping car

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sleeping car WLABmz 72-90 of the ÖBB (July 2017), formerly Deutsche Bahn

A sleeping car is a passenger carriage that enables lying down travel. The international design designation for sleeping cars is WL from the French wagon-lit . A differentiation from the sleeping car is the couchette car , which is less comfortable and has more couches per compartment . For the use of sleeping cars, either additional fees in the form of surcharges or correspondingly higher tariff levels, which include the use of the sleeping car, are charged.


Compartment in WLABmz 173.1 in day position ...
... and in the night position with the beds folded out

A sleeping car has compartments for one to four people each. The standard sleeping cars used in Central Europe can optionally be occupied by one to three people per compartment. Some compartments can often be connected to one another in these cars . Some railways only offer compartments with one or two beds in newer sleeping cars ( Germany , Turkey ). In the successor states of the Soviet Union , compartments with two and four beds are common. Four-bed compartments can be found in newer design double-decker sleeping cars.

The beds can usually be converted into seats for daytime traffic. As a rule, each compartment has a washing facility (except for the vehicles from the former Soviet Union mentioned above ). In addition, in most cases a sleeping car has a duty room for the sleeping car attendant and one or more toilets and sometimes showers . In the luxury compartments of some modern sleeping cars, there are small bathrooms with their own toilet and shower. In special trains , such as the luxury trainBlue Train ” in South Africa , compartments (and suites ) with bathtubs are available. From an international perspective, the transition to the salon car is fluid.


Simple sleeping cars were already in existence in the United States around 1830 . In the years 1859–1863 , George Mortimer Pullman developed a sleeper car that was luxurious for the time . This was made possible by taking over the factory from Theodore Woodruff , who had already developed a sleeping car in 1857. Pullman is probably the best-known designer and manufacturer of sleeping cars, but contrary to popular belief, not their inventor.

Development in Europe until 1920

Georges Nagelmackers transferred the idea developed by Pullman to Europe after driving Pullman's cars on a trip to America, and in 1872 founded the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) in Belgium . This company operated the first sleeping car in Germany, which started on October 1, 1873 on the Berlin - Ostend route. However, it was only available to first class passengers . From June 1, 1874, a sleeper wagon ran between Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main .

The Prussian state railways taught from 1880's sleeper classes from Berlin: on Warsaw (1880), Aachen (acquired in 1884 by the CIWL) and Hamburg (acquired in 1885 by the CIWL). In 1886, the Prussian Railway Administration announced the concession contracts of the Belgian-French CIWL and took over the sleeper classes from Berlin to East Prussian border station Eydtkuhnen , as well as the courses Berlin Cologne and Hamburg and Cologne.

Up until the First World War there were only three companies operating sleeping cars in continental Europe :

Sleeping car journeys were (and are) relatively expensive compared to seated cars, because fewer travelers fit in a car lying down than sitting down and the service comes at a price. The surcharge for fare was ten before World War Mark in the first class carriage and eight marks in the second. At that time, an overnight stay in a luxury hotel cost four marks, and a mid-range hotel two marks. The surcharges were even more expensive in France , where the CIWL had a monopoly. On the Paris - Marseille route , the sleeping car surcharge in first class was 45 francs (36 marks at the exchange rate at the time).

The first CIWL sleeping cars had a steel frame with a wooden structure and teak slatted paneling. From the 1920s onwards, all-steel sleeping cars were built. Sleeping cars with different room layouts (types S, Lx , Y and Z) were built on a uniform frame with a length of 23.452 meters over buffers .

First World War and the aftermath

The network of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits was cut by the front lines during the First World War and the fleet of vehicles that was under German influence was confiscated. Mitropa was founded in Germany in 1916 from these holdings and those of the Prussian State Railways .

Third class sleeping cars were available in Germany from 1922 on the important routes from Berlin to East Prussia , Cologne , Munich and Stuttgart . Then came the universal sleeper system in which

  • With a ticket of the first carriage class and the corresponding surcharge, a sleeping car compartment could be used alone,
  • with second class tickets and the corresponding sleeping car surcharge, a compartment with two beds
  • and with third-class tickets and the corresponding supplement, a sleeping car compartment with three beds. This resulted in the design of the sleeping car with three beds arranged one above the other and a table with a wash basin inside. This arrangement, which could optionally be used for travelers of the first, second or third class ("universal"), dominated in Central Europe for more than half a century. After the old first class was abolished in 1956, passengers in the new first class could either book a single or a two-bed compartment.

From 1936 to 1980 the Night Ferry night train ran between Paris and London . For this purpose, the CIWL procured type F sleeping cars with the British vehicle gauge and folding steps.

European development after 1945

After the end of the Second World War , new, more modern sleeping cars were used:

  • In 1950 the German Sleeping Car and Dining Car Company (DSG) put 40 single-bed sleeping cars of the "Special" type into service (type: WLBs4üe-50) based on a US idea. 20 of these cars ran exclusively in the service of the US Army.
  • In 1954 Wegmann delivered a series of innovative, air-conditioned sleeping cars of the "Universal" type (type: WLABC4üm-54, later WLABmh 173) with 12 flexibly adjustable compartments for one to three beds. These wagons became prototypes of all of the following "Universal" wagons used in Western Europe (always recognizable by the "U" in the designation at CIWL). Many old sleeping cars were also converted to the "Universal" type.
  • The CIWL put the type P sleeping car into service in 1955. This car in welded stainless steel construction, licensed by the American Budd Company , had 20 nested single compartments - in this way it was possible to make a more affordable offer for single travelers. From 1992 to 1994, 20 cars of this type were modernized and converted: the 20 small compartments became ten three-bed compartments. This gave them the new designation AB30. They were then used by the railway companies ÖBB (10 pieces), SNCB (5 pieces) and NS (5 pieces). Today (2020) there are still 12 wagons in use on seasonal holiday trains, 6 of them at MSM, 4 at Train Rental International and 2 at Euro-Express.
  • From 1957, Hansa Waggonbau in Bremen built a sleeping car with only eleven universal compartments with up to three beds. This vehicle was given the designation UH (U = Universal, H = Hansa).
  • Also from 1957 the DSG put its own wagons with the designation WLAB4ümg-59 and -67 into service (later designated as WLABmh 174/175 ), built by Hansa, but with a length of 26.4 meters over buffers. These sleeping cars had full air conditioning, a small kitchen and modern rubber bead transitions. Car of this type was built in several series with minor changes until 1973.
  • From 1964, the CIWL put type MU sleeping cars with twelve universal compartments, i.e. three beds per compartment, into service. These sleeping cars can still be found in many parts of Europe today, some of them owned by the railways and some rented from the CIWL.
  • From 1968, the CIWL put sleeping car type "T2" with 18 nested two-bed compartments into operation.
  • In 1975 the type T2S followed, which was put into service by various railway companies. These cars have 17 small two-bed compartments. In 1999 five sleeping cars of the type “T2S” (all part of the ÖBB portfolio) were modernized and converted into “AB33s” with eleven three-bed compartments. Since 2005, further T2S of ÖBB have been converted into "AB32s", with two luxury compartments with their own shower and toilet being set up, 13 of the two-bed compartments remain in their original size.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, sleeping cars of the types OSShD -B as well as UIC-Y and UIC-Z were built in the GDR , which were exported to numerous countries and some are still running there today. These include re- trackable wagons for swap traffic with the broad gauge network of the CIS countries . While the DR sleeping cars built in the 1960s and 1970s were not air-conditioned, VEB Waggonbau Görlitz built an air-conditioned sleeping car in 1979 based on the UIC type Z. This car remained a one-off, but in terms of design it became the forerunner of the sleeping cars that were built in Görlitz from 1990 for the Căile Ferate Române and various CIS railways.
  • The largest series of sleeping cars ever built are the long-haul cars that the wagon factories in Halle-Ammendorf and Görlitz built in several versions from 1948 to 1990 for the Soviet state railway SŽD . In contrast to the three-bed compartments common in the European standard gauge network, these vehicles have over two- and four-bed compartments.
Signet "Trans Euro Night"

From 1971 to 1995 there was an international sleeping car pool in Central Europe. All the sleeping cars of the CIWL and the DSG (later the Deutsche Bundesbahn ) were combined in this international sleeping car pool, assigned to the railway companies and could thus be used more economically. The abbreviation "TEN" led to the unofficial name "TEN pool".

Development in Europe from 1990

After the opening of the Iron Curtain , European rail travel increased sharply in the east-west direction. The new long distances - due to the lower travel speeds on the often ailing Eastern European networks - meant an increase in long rail journeys and led to a small boom in the construction of sleeping cars. New vehicles were built for the Hungarian State Railways (MÁV), Romanian State Railways (CFR), German Railways (DB), Italian State Railways (FS), CityNightLine (CNL), CIWL , Polish State Railways and Bulgarian State Railways (BDZ).

Sleeper trains are built by Patentes Talgo . This offer its fixed train sleeping car, couchette, easy chair car and dining car , dining car and bar coach . Most Talgo trains in Spain operate as Trenhotel . The international Trenhotel connections from Spain were offered by the operating company Elipsos . Until the end of 2012 there were Trenhotel trains to Italy and Switzerland, until 2013 Trenhotel trains ran to the French capital Paris. The DB AutoZug sat Talgo trains to the timetable change in December 2009, Germany.

Between 2003 and 2005, 42 sleeping cars of the type WLABmz 173.1 designated as Comfortline were delivered to Deutsche Bahn. The SGP 400 bogies allow a top speed of 200 km / h. Three of the twelve three-bed compartments are equipped with their own bathroom; the compartments can be connected in pairs to form a suite. This type replaced all earlier German sleeping car designs. All WLABmz 173.1 were sold to ÖBB at the end of 2016 . From 2006 to 2007, the České dráhy procured twelve almost identical WLABmz 826 , which originally bore the names of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Czech Republic.

From around 2000 the railways of Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Slovenia stopped operating their own sleeping cars. The SNCF continues to use couchette cars in the Intercités de nuit , the other of these railways no longer operate their own night trains. With the timetable change in December 2016, Deutsche Bahn stopped operating its own night trains ( City Night Line ). ÖBB took over part of the train services under the brand name Nightjet , which was developed for its own sleeping car transports from Austria . In the summer of 2018, ÖBB ordered 13 new night jet sets with two sleeping cars each from Siemens

Equipment, service and fees

The compartments of sleeping cars of the CIWL, DSG and Eastern European operators, which were built from 1955, are by and large built uniformly (universal) (see above). A connecting door to the adjacent compartment can often be opened to form a suite of two adjacent compartments. DeLuxe compartments and economy compartments are offered for newer sleeping cars. The structure of the economy compartments largely corresponds to that of the universal compartments.

In addition to the sleeping compartments, the sleeping carriages contain toilets and showers for shared use, while DeLuxe compartments have their own toilets and showers. There is a duty compartment for the sleeper car conductor, in which the control center of the conductor call system is located. This is used for communication between the conductor and guest, especially for the wake-up call.

The costs for using the sleeping car service depend on the tariff structure of the respective provider. The prices can vary considerably not only between different providers, but also within a single operating company depending on the booking method (e.g. advance booking, on-train purchase, as an inclusive ticket or as an additional surcharge) and according to occupancy and comfort class.

Breakfast is often included in the fee for sleeper use. The size and choice of breakfast depends on the operator of the sleeping car. Most of the time breakfast is brought to the compartment. When a dining car is on the train, in some cases it is served there. This was especially true for the City Night Line (CNL) product group at the former DB AutoZug .

Color schemes for European sleeping cars after 1945

With the introduction of all-steel cars in the 1920s, the CIWL had introduced a steel-blue paintwork with gold-colored lettering for their sleeping and dining cars. After 1945 it kept this color scheme. The Mitropa as a competitor used a purple-red paint with yellow lettering, which was also retained after the war, also from the West German successor DSG. Some of the Eastern European sleeping and dining car companies that were founded after 1945 continued to use a blue color scheme, and some of them adopted the colors of their respective state railways.

As part of the establishment of the TEN pool from 1971, all sleeping cars were given a uniform paintwork: completely cobalt blue color, initially with a gray, later with a blue roof. The only exception was the DB, which until the mid-1980s retained the purple-red colors with an ivory-colored roof known from the DSG era, but based its addresses on the standard of the sleeping car pool. The cobalt blue paint was later introduced. Below the window, a white stripe ran around the car, complemented by fine white decorative lines above the windows and at floor level. Below the white stripe was the logo, consisting of the abbreviation “TEN” and the words “Trans Euro Nacht” (German / Dutch), “Trans Euro Notte” (Italian) or “Trans Euro Nuit” (French). The three words stood one below the other next to the abbreviation, originally in a specially drawn, somewhat angular font, later in Helvetica in bold italics. Depending on the origin of the car, the designation was written in different languages, often in different languages ​​on both sides. The TEN address was offset to the end of the handbrake, between the middle and the end of the car. The logo of the railway where the car was parked was offset in the middle of the car or at the other end of the car.

In 1995 the international pool of sleeping cars was dissolved and the cars became the responsibility of the railway companies. In most cases, the TEN paintwork was retained and only the logo removed. The end of the pool meant that the railways developed their own night train paintwork.

The German sleeping cars were transferred to DB AutoZug in 1998 and, with the exception of older cars, which were soon taken out of service, were gradually repainted in light gray with a traffic red ribbon window; this was the general color scheme for long-distance traffic at that time. (Soon afterwards, the color scheme of the cars for EuroCity and Intercity traffic was largely matched to that of the Intercity Express , which is why the traffic-red window band was ultimately only visible on cars for night traffic.) Depending on the purpose, the cars were labeled “DB NachtZug ”or“ DB AutoZug ”. These cars have been used in CityNightLine trains since 2007 and the color has been adjusted for this purpose. In the new color scheme, the red ribbon of windows no longer extends over the entire length of the car and the roof has become basalt gray instead of window gray.

Modernized sleeping cars of the ÖBB were painted agate gray with a cobalt blue window band and zinc yellow stripes over the windows in the 1990s (type P / AB30 under the windows bare stainless steel), for conversions from 2005 the ÖBB EuroCity colors are used (car body in different shades of gray with traffic red roof). From the end of 2016, ÖBB sleeping and couchette cars will be designed in night blue with a red and gray stripe, nightjet lettering and a starry sky in the upper part. The SBB used after the end of the TEN-pools the color cobalt blue with purple horizontal stripes pane and moon and stars.

The Italian Trenitalia introduced a variant of the XMPR paintwork, dark blue with a gray roof, white-blue-white-turquoise stripes in the lower area, a turquoise bias tape in the left part of the car and the inscription "Treno Notte". For the connections to France under the name Artesia , a white color scheme with blue and yellow waves in the lower area was initially introduced, since 2011 these have been operated by the Thello company and the sleeping car color scheme has been changed to turquoise with wide white diagonal stripes. A new color scheme in dark blue with red doors and red stripes under the windows was introduced in 2017 for domestic night trains (Intercity Notte).

The Belgian NMBS / SNCB introduced a dark blue paint job with a red stripe on the lower edge, but gave up operating their own sleeping cars in 2003. The Nederlandse Spoorwegen introduced their own paint scheme (steel blue with an anthracite gray roof, yellow decorative line, purple and yellow stars and the words "Slaaprijtuig"), but have not operated any sleeping cars since 2003.

The Polskie Koleje Państwowe painted their sleeping cars blue with the logo of the service company WARS . After 2001 they were still blue, but with a light gray band under the windows with the PKP Intercity logo and an orange-red stripe at floor level. For the Jan Kiepura train , a series of sleeping cars had a special paint finish in light gray with dark blue ribbon windows and the train name, which was used on some Deutsche Bahn couchette cars; Since the train was discontinued, the color scheme has been adapted to the other sleeping cars.

The Československé státní dráhy painted their sleeping cars blue with a gray roof. After its dissolution in 1993, České dráhy introduced a light gray paint with a blue ribbon of windows. New or modernized sleeping cars were painted sapphire blue with yellow city outlines and some with the Big Dipper constellation . After 2008, the current Najbrt color scheme was introduced, the window band and roof are sapphire blue, a stripe under the windows is sky blue, a stripe above the windows and the lower area of ​​the car is light gray. The Železničná spoločnosť Slovensko retained the blue ČSD paint at first painted the doors orange and partly attached to white vertical stripes. In the latest color scheme, the roof is silver, the window band is carmine red, the lower area is white and the solebar is window gray.

The Hungarian Magyar Államvasutak has been painting her sleeping cars, like most passenger coaches, azure blue with a gray roof and an agate gray band under the windows since the 1970s.

The Jugoslovenske Železnice painted their sleeping cars dark blue with two white decorative lines. In Serbia (from 2004 Železnice Srbije ), a color scheme in three shades of blue that became darker towards the bottom was introduced, which was later replaced by a color scheme in different shades of gray, which was also used on other express train passenger cars. The modernized sleeping cars at Hrvatske željeznice are light gray with a window band and apron in blue and additional decorative lines in gray and blue. The Makedonski železnici introduced a light gray paint with a blue ribbon of windows interrupted at an angle in the middle. The color scheme of Željeznica Crne Gore in Montenegro is gray-white striped with a yellow-red vertical stripe at floor level.

The color scheme of the Căile Ferate Române for sleeping cars and other international express train carriages initially changed from blue to wine red with white vertical stripes. After 2000 there was a blue-gray paint with yellow stripes under the windows, which was finally replaced by a dark blue paint with light gray window band and white stripes. Some upgraded cars are dark blue with black ribbon windows and green stripes.

The Bulgarian State Railways used the same dark red-light gray paint for their sleeping cars as for other express train cars for international traffic. Since the takeover of used cars from abroad and the procurement of new sleeping cars, a light gray paint with red stripes above and below the windows has been introduced.


Outside of Europe

Many railway companies outside Europe that operate night trains also have sleeping cars. The equipment can be very different.

With some railway companies, the sleeping car is a separate booking category, a higher class than that offered by seated cars. This is the case, for example, in Turkey , Thailand , Tanzania and Malaysia .

In China there are the sleeping car classes 软卧 车Ruanwoche (“soft sleeping car” with four-bed compartments) and 硬卧 车Yingwoche (“hard sleeping car”, large couchette with couches on three levels). Some trains have luxury compartments. To date, China is the only country where sleeping cars are offered on high-speed trains .


  • Albert Mühl: Sleeping cars in Germany: the cars and the operation from the beginning to the transition to the Mitropa . EK-Verlag, Freiburg i.Br. 1996, ISBN 3-88255-680-3
  • Albert Mühl: 75 years of Mitropa: the history of the Central European sleeping car and dining car stock corporation . EK-Verlag, Freiburg i.Br. 1992, ISBN 3-88255-674-9
  • André Papazian: Hotel on rails. Night trains in Europe . Stuttgart 2011. ISBN 978-3-613-71400-7

Web links

Commons : Sleeper  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Sleeping car  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Estler: Passenger coaches of the GDR until 1993, ISBN 978-3-613-71437-3 , page 85
  2. Sleeping car WLABme 61 50 70-80 210-8 ,
  3. WLABmz 173.1 on
  4. ÖBB expand its range of night trains in Germany , press release from ÖBB
  5. [1] ÖBB order new couchette and sleeping cars for night trains
  6. Price examples at DB AG 2010 ( Memento from January 26, 2010 in the Internet Archive )