The Caledonian Sleeper – A Sleep on a Train

by admin on March 7, 2009

The caledonian Sleeper

The caledonian Sleeper

I had to be in London for an early morning meeting and I didn’t fancy the idea of getting up at 4am to get to Edinburgh airport to fly down.  I didn’t really want to be hitting London at rush hour anyway, the tube at 8am isn’t my idea of fun.  I could have flown down the day before and stayed in a hotel but that would have been waaaay too expensive.  The only viable altenative?  Why, the Caledonian Sleeper of course.  Leave Edinburgh at 11.45pm and arrive in Euston station at 7am next morning having had a restfull night’s sleep on the train.

You have a couple of choices regarding accommodation – share a 2 berth cabin with a complete stranger or buy a 1st class single berth all to yourself.  As I was travelling on business I went for the 1st class single option which cost an eye watering £161.00!  What price privacy.  Still, as it was 1st class I expected to be travelling in utter luxury.

Sleeper Corridor

Sleeper Corridor

I arrived at Waverely Station at 11.30pm and was met by a nice man who took my order for breakfast and showed me which was my carriage.  First thing  noticed on boarding were two toilets.  Second thing I noticed was just how narrow the corridor down the train was.  Had I been hauling a big pack it would have just wedged between the walls.

My berth was about halfway down the carriage and when I opened the door I couldn’t actually believe how small it was.  It was so small that even with my camera set to wide angle, I could only get a bit of the cabin in shot.  It was about 7feet long and 4 feet wide.  The bed was down the left hand wall with the

1st Class Sleeper Cabin

1st Class Sleeper Cabin

bottom of it disappearing under the shelf at the end.  To the right of the shelf was the washbasin, covered in a fold up lid, and above that was the window.  Along the right wall were inbuilt hangers for your clothes – and that was it for luggage space.  Everything else had to be on the floor – so again, happy I was only travelling light.

The bed was pretty narrow but the sheet and duvet covering it were absolutely spotless – no need for one of my Jag Bag silk sleeping bag liners.  Anyone over average size and height could be in for an uncomfortable night given the bed’s dimensions.  Also, I realised that this single berther could easily be transformed into a double berther by releasing the upper bunk from the wall – you can just make it out in the picture.  Here’s a tip for all you claustraphobes out there – do not, under any circumstances, share a berth on this train – you’ll only live to regret it.

There was pretty good aircon and all the lights were controlled from a panel by your head.  If you wanted anything in the night you could press a buzzer and the attendant would come and get it for you, berth as opposed to room service.  There was a buffet car on the train and I guess that’s where non 1st class passengers had to go and get their own refreshments from.  Food and drink prices seemed pretty reasonable.  Sadly no matter what class you travelled, you had to use one of the public toilets onboard – no private facilities for anyone.

So – how was the journey?  Did I sleep like a baby?

The cabin was roasting hot when I arrived but the temp soon came down once I’d adjusted the aircon – which was a bit loud but.  Then I heard the guy in the next cabin cough and I realised that the walls were paper thin.  The he coughed again………and again……..and agan.  I decided he had a cough.  The bed was prett firm but ok.  I think any careless, violent, turning over action would see you on the floor quite easily.  The train set off smoothly on time.  I cleaned my teeth as quietly as I could but ruined all the effort by letting the wash basin cover fall down twice – sorry guy next door.  I read for a bit and then switched out the lights.  It was total blackness!  Then the train went over what felt like bumps and started swaying and banging about.   I was being thrown around in the dark like some weird fairground ride.  Actually, I quite enjoyed it.  The turbulence ended and I started to drift off………..

But not for long.  Coughing guy next door had metamorphosed into snoring like a pig guy.  What a racket!  I banged on the wall a couple of times but all that did was get rid of some frustration.  This guy was in a snoring world of his own. I can’t really describe just how awfull the noises were but he was clearly wearing some sort of restrictive gimp mask – no human could make sounds like that without some outside assistance.  Anyway, despite being convinced I’d never dop off, I eventually did – only to be woken up by……….silence.

No snoring, no coughing, no aircon noise, no train moving over the rails noise either.  I decided that someone had snapped (probably a claustraphobic), broken into the berth next door and thrown the gimp mask snorer off the train and we’d stopped to look for him.  Obvious really.  Thiry seconds later I was shown the error of my reasoning when the train suddenly started with a huge jerk, the aircon roared into life and my next door neighbour once again joined in with the general racket.  I looked at my watch – it was 12.30am, hours to go.  I felt my heart sink.

The rest of the night passed in a series of stops, sudden starts, snoring, being too hot, being too cold, carriage swaying and fitful sleep.  I couldn’t quite believe it then when I was actually woken up by my alarm.  Somehow I’d managed to sleep.  Eventually managing how to work the window blind I opened it and saw we were parked in Euston station on a very grey day.  It was 6.20 and my breakfast was due at 6.45. I dressed and went out to use the toilet noticing that my neighbours door was open and his berth empty.  He’d either been silently disposed of during the night or had left as soon as we arrived.  I know which option I prefer.

Bang on 6.45 there was a knock on my door and I was handed my breakfast tray and free copy of The Scotsman.  Breakfast was pretty good and consisted of  hot bacon roll, tea, orange juice, yoghurt,

Caledonian Sleeper Breakfast

Caledonian Sleeper Breakfast

fresh fruit salad and a traditional finger of shortbread.  After a leisurely read of the paper I left the train at about 7.15 and wandered off into Euston Station.  There are no showers on the train but apparently 1st class passengers can use the facilities at the Virgin Trains lounge on the station itself.  I looked in there but it was very busy and decided to rely on deoderant to keep me fragrant for the rest of the day.

So, would I use the sleeper again?  I guess overall it was ok, had it not been for the next door neighbour from hell I would have arrived feeling a lot fresher.  Not having to get up early for a flight was a big advantage as was the lack of hassle with airport security and the sheer awfulness of using the rush hour underground.  If the business is paying, then yes, I’d travel 1st class sleeper again but if I have to pay out of my own pocket then I’d choose a cheap flight or maybe daytime train travel.

Forgot to say that there was a pretty good complimentary washbag in the cabin which had lots of toiletries, eye mask, flannel, tootbrush, razor and socks (?) – but sadly no ear plugs.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Smith March 18, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Hey – thanks for the review – going to Euston from Waverly this month…sounds like an adventure! But I agree with you…I’ve taken Amtrak in the USA (where I live) and for short trips I LOVE THE OVERNIGHT TRAIN instead of getting up in the middle of the night and rushing to an airport!

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paulyrob March 18, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Been talking to a couple of other folk who’ve tried the sleeper and they tell me it’s even more of an adventure if you share a cabin with a complete stranger! Enjoy your trip.

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Amarshe May 18, 2009 at 10:20 pm

I use the lowland sleeper between London and Edinburgh maybe 5 times a year and 99% of the time I get a good night’s sleep.

The odd journey is muddled by a noisy neighbour, neurotic driving or a lukewarm breakfast. Which to me is better than a cancelled flight (and having to stay in a hotel and be up at 0400 to get the first flight the next day), or sitting next to the family from hell.

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paulyrob May 19, 2009 at 9:34 pm

I’ve a few Edinburgh/London trips coming up over the next few months and I think I’ll be tempted to give the sleeper another try. The sheer hassle of flying along with the inconsistent security procedures is making the Caledonian Sleeper look attractive again. Who needs to be up at 0400 to catch a flight – hardly worth going to bed!

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scotchstraightup June 24, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Why didn’t I read this post before I bought almost $600 of tickets for my family…read my experience at http://scotchstraightup.com/?p=270

Cheers!

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paulyrob June 25, 2009 at 6:34 am

Very funny account of your journey. I think it shows yet again that with a lot of travel, the idea or notion is better than the actuality. Maybe some sort of passenger filtering needs to be applied so that the laughers, snorers, smokers and sleep walkers are all barred from buying tickets.

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Kathleen Sutherland October 26, 2009 at 11:44 am

Thanks for all of this. I am one of the claustrobics i’m afraid, hence looking in to taking this trip down to the last detail. Can anyone tell me if you are able to open the window in your sleeper berth?

Also, I take it once you are on the train, then that is it, you don’t have to disembark until you reach Euston. Can anyone tell me about Euston station. Is this above ground?

Planning to go here in mid Feb 2010. Any tips on what to see, where to go and where to stay for ease of visiting sites? Thanks

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paulyrob October 27, 2009 at 7:31 am

Sorry – can’t remember if the window opens or not but as a rule you can’t open the windows on an ordinary Edinburgh/Euston train so this will probably be the same. The cabin aircon was pretty efficient though.

Once you’re on, you’re on! Next stop Euston. The train arrives at an open air platform in Euston and then you have to walk up a ramp into the main station. Most of the London sites are quite close together and pretty central and there are plenty of buses and tube trains to make getting around easy. Hundreds of places to stay too and choice very much depends on budget. As ever with visiting a big city with lots to see and do my tip would be to do a bit of planning before you go so you get the most out of each day.

Hope this helps.

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Leanne Drummond April 23, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Oh Mate,

That was hysterical. Me and my pal are here in fits after reading your review, as we are doing the sleeper later in the year.
Brilliant !!

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