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European Railroad Discussion > Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam


Date: 12/07/19 00:27
Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: F7sForever

When I was young, France's TGV pretty much represented my image of European high-speed rail. But a lot has changed in the intervening years, and I am slowly catching up. When my wife and I visited Europe in November, we made most of our journeys by rail. It was a good sampler for me, and a good opportunity to see a multi-national network at work. Our first stop was Amsterdam, but we flew in and out of Paris because the tickets were much less expensive. So within a few hours of arriving in France, we were on our first high-speed train.

Thalys is an international venture jointly owned by the national railway companies of three of the four countries it serves - France's SNCF, Belgium's NMBS, and Germany's Deutsche Bahn. The service runs from Paris Gare du Nord, up the LGV Nord to just south of Lille in northern France. There, it heads northeast to Brussels, with some trains continuing on to Antwerp, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam. Trains also run east out of Brussels to Koln. The trains are very well recieved - in 2017, Thalys trains carried over 7 million passengers. It was popular enough right out of the gate that the Paris to Brussels service effectively killed Air France's route to the same cities. Plane loading was down to around 400 daily passengers compared to about 13,000 by Thalys train when Air France pulled the plug. Travel times are competitive - a little over an hour and a half to Brussels, and just under four hours to Amsterdam. The service uses two primary train types, along with a single example of a third type for its Izy low-cost service. In keeping with their French counterparts, the single level trains are named based on the routes they serve.

Photo 1: My first brush with Thalys equipment was at Gare du Nord in Paris in 2017. 4537 is one of nine PBA (Paris-Brussels-Amsterdam) sets built by Alstom in 1996. They were added onto the end of an SNCF order for Reseau (Network) sets, and are numbered in sequence with the last of those trains. Like the Reseau, the PBA is made up of eight carriages between two power cars. They weigh 383 tons, and seat a total of 377 passengers. They carry three first-class cars and four second-class cars, with a bistro car in between. Like their Reseau counterparts, the power cars are triple voltage.

Photo 2: 4344 is one of 17 PBKA (Paris-Brussels-Koln-Amsterdam) sets that were purpose-built for Thalys by Alstom in 1997. The power cars are quad-current, and have the rounded noses more smilar to the TGV Duplex power cars. Interior appointments are fairly similar to the PBA - accomodations for 377 passengers in eight cars - 3 first class, 4 second class, and a bistro car. They also weigh 383 tons, and have a maximum speed of 300 kmph. Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the rail carrier of the Netherlands, owns two of the 17 sets. 4344 is one of six owned by SNCF.

Photo 3: Izy is a relatively recent addition to the Thalys portfolio. Similar to SNCF's OuiGo service, Izy operates a reduced fare, second class only service between Paris Gare du Nord and Brussels Nord. The trip between the two stations take about 40 minutes longer than the regular Thalys trip, as the Izy bypasses the LGV (high speed line) in favor of some of SNCF's Lignes Classiques for part of its trip. The service started up in 2016 with a leased SNCF Reseau set, 4551. But this year, that set was replaced by a pair of former Eurostar class 373 half train sets, numbers 373213 and 373224. They are Alstom TMST (Trans Manche Super Train) trains built in 1994 for service through the Channel Tunnel. The TMST half trains were operated in pairs, making one full-length train. They are being retired in favor of newer and faster Siemens Velaro D sets. But that's a discussion for another time. Train is shown making an evening departure from Paris Gare du Nord on our last day in Europe.

Interior photos will follow.








Date: 12/07/19 00:36
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: F7sForever

We rode from Paris to Amsterdam in PBA set 4539, the second to last PBA set built. Unfortunately, our trip was delayed by about three hours after our train struck a trespasser at around 100mph just after leaving Antwerp. I didn't venture into second class to take photos, which I regret a bit. But I was on the back end of a day that had already gone 20 hours across two continents, and I was pretty darned tired. We purchased our tickets well in advance. Like SNCF, a little bit of advance planning makes the trip a lot more economical. Not only are ticket prices generally lower, but the difference between second and first class is often as low as 10 euro a ticket. The trains have wifi, and power outlets at each seat.

Photo 4: First class carriages are 2+1 seating, with two seats on one side of the car and one on the other side. Second class carriages are 2+2 seating.

Photo 5: Some of the seats have tables, and Liz and I were lucky enough to have a seat pair that faced each other with a table in between.

Photo 6: The bistro car has warm food, packaged snacks, and beverages for sale, as well as some seating in the back.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/07/19 00:42 by F7sForever.








Date: 12/07/19 00:41
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: F7sForever

Photo 7: PBA set 4532 trails PBKA set 4306 as the two coupled sets depart Amsterdam Centraal station bound for Brussels.

Photo 8: PBKA set 4306 at Amsterdam Centraal a few nights prior to photo 7.

Photo 9: PBA set 4533 arriving at Paris Gare du Nord on the last night of our trip.








Date: 12/07/19 07:56
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: King_Coal

Very cool. Thanks for sharing these.



Date: 12/07/19 08:08
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: Lackawanna484

Liked it, thanks for the report.

Warm food, served at your seat sounds like a nice way to travel

Posted from Android



Date: 12/07/19 12:15
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: WP17

F7sForever:

Thanks for your report on and photos of Thalys. Really enjoyed them.

And they reminded me of a ride on Thalys my other half and I made in May 2003 from Amsterdam to Brussels where we connected with a Eurostar back to London

I had chatted quite a bit with the conductor on the platform, and to my surprise while we were speeding south, he invited me into the cab of the power car for a short visit. What I remember most is the round steering wheel-like control on the console right in front of the engineer. Perhaps one of our European members can share with me (and F7sForever) exactly what that control does.

WP17



Date: 12/07/19 17:09
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: gaspeamtrak

Excellent report and pictures !
Thank you for sharing !!! :):):)



Date: 12/07/19 18:11
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: GPutz

The round "steering wheel" is the throttle.  Gerry



Date: 12/08/19 18:05
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: tq-07fan

Nice run down explaining the Thalys trains. I rode on a nose coupled PBA + PBKA on a Friday from Paris to Amsterdam in 2018. As mentioned I bought my ticket almost as soon as they became available direct from the Thalys site and paid around ten Euro more for First Class and was glad I did as the train was completely full. We stopped for twenty minutes for some reason around St Dennis just north of Paris but ended up making up the time enroute. Crew was very friendly and everyone I encountered knew English French and at least several other languages. Unfortunately I didn't end up with many pictures of my Thalys as I had to make a half hour connection from a TGV Est from the Gare du Est to the Thalys at Gare du Nord and by the time I walked there I was hundreds of people back from the start of the lineup to get on the train!

Jim



Date: 12/08/19 21:56
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: F7sForever

The last night we were there (which was an extra night due to snow in Denver) we stayed in a hotel across the street from a Gare de l'Est, and I walked the 4ish blocks to Gare du Nord to photograph the Izy train's departure. There were two Thalys trains boarding on two tracks just after that departure. (One of them is the PBA in the last group.) There were a LOT of people queued up around both tracks to head down the platform as soon as they waved everybody in. Same for our trip out the first day. The service is very well patronized.



Date: 12/09/19 04:01
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: pennengineer

One small correction: DB divested itself of its shares in Thalys around 2012 and since that time it has been owned solely by SNCF and SNCB. The English Wikipedia entry in which DB is listed as a part-owner is out-of-date (though the German Wikipedia entry explains all of this in detail).



Date: 12/10/19 15:54
Re: Inside and Out: Thalys trains Paris to Brussels and Amsterdam
Author: F7sForever

Thanks for the info. I admit freely that my German is pretty much worthless at this point. I read better than I speak in French, which suits my introverted personality but makes asking for instructions a little harder. So a little redirecting from time to time is a good thing. Thanks!



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