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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

March 31, 2012

Train nostalgia: TEE "Rheingold"

Filed under Life in Europe

As I waited for my train to Berlin this morning at Cologne's main station, a bit of train nostalgia rolled on the other side of the platform.

TEE Rheingold
 Today’s special "Rheingold" route.
TEE Rheingold
 The TEE "Rheingold" had a special dome car,
 which was unique on the German train system.

A special nostalgia TEE ("Trans Europ Express") train, the "Rheingold", arrived on track 5. Over the loudspeakers the station announcer emphasized that everyone boarding the train had to have a special ticket for today's trip. When I came to Germany the first time in 1971, the TEE train system had special status in Western Europe. The TEE system was a network of fast and comfortable international trains that were attractive to businessmen and other regular passenger. All trains were first-class-only and required payment of a special surcharge over the normal first-class ticket price, with the amount depending on the distance covered. Where possible, TEE train schedules were timed to allow a business traveler to make a round trip on a single day and still have time for business activity at the destination. Each TEE train was named, and all were expresses, stopping only at the main cities. Some of the named trains had already existed for some years before creation of the TEE network and were simply newly designated as Trans-Europe Expresses in 1957 or later. The legendary Rheingold (Rhinegold) was a famous train in service between Hoek van Holland near Rotterdam and Basel, Switzerland, a distance of 662 kilometers (411 miles). It ran along the Rhine River via Arnheim, Netherlands and Cologne, Germany using special luxury coaches. It was named after Richard Wagner's "Das Rheingold" opera, which romanticized the Rhine. The Rheingold even had a special dome car, unique on German railways. Operation of the Rheingold TEE ended on May 30, 1987 as the last train of the TEE system in Germany.

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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