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Hi all!

 

I'm going to Germany for my sister's wedding in December, and I'm planning a bit of a railfan trip tacked onto the end. I definitely want to take the train to Hamburg to see the Miniatur Wunderland, and had the crazy idea of taking the train all the way to Paris so I can experience 200 mph (320 km/h). It doesn't actually take that long!

 

Could anyone tell me the current status of the equipment of the ICE and TGV trains? Compare/contrast? Any sights I that are a must see in either country? I have been to Paris before, as well as a few cities in Germany, such as Kaiserslautern and Schorndorf. I know that's a lot to ask, as they're both large countries, and I don't have unlimited time. Not quite sure how much time I'll allot for sightseeing. Probably a week, week and a half, or less.

 

Also, if anyone has any advice on flights, that would be welcome also! I will probably be flying out of Boston since a few other family members have already booked their tickets for that, but I don't really mind where I fly back from. I'm assuming I need to go with the same airline to get the "round-trip" Europe discount?

 

Thanks in advance!

Edited by daybeers

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Hi!

 

Hamburg to Paris by train takes around 8 hours with an easy change in Mannheim or Karlsruhe (unfortunately there's no more through-ticketing . If you have enough time, I recommend that you take EC9 between Hamburg and Mannheim, it leaves early from Hamburg (6:46am) but if you can get a seat on car 264 in 1st class, you'll be seated in a panorama car (https://twitter.com/slasherfun/status/858298757141733377), with great views of the Rhine especially between Koblenz and Mainz (

). In Mannheim, you'll transfer to a TGV, arriving in Paris at 4:51pm, that would be a 10 hours trip in total.

 

Germany operates several different single-level long-distance high-speed trains, ICE 1, 2, 3, T, 3D, 4 (from the oldest to the newest, but the oldest ones have been of course refurbished). The restaurant car offers a great selection of products, and if you're seating in 1st class (which I recommend, as it's usually only ~20% more expensive than 2nd class) you can be served at your seat if you wish. Only ICE 3D are used between Frankfurt/Stuttgart and Paris.

France also operates several different long-distance trains, but coming from Germany you'll be probably be using TGV 2N2 (2nd version of the bi-level TGV Duplex). I tend to prefer ICE to TGV (more space, much better food), ICE are probably a bit rougher on the tracks (but that's nothing compared to Amtrak trains ;))

 

As for cities, December is christmas markets season: Berlin is not far from Hamburg, Köln as well, Munich is much further but from there you can easily reach Augsburg, Nuremberg, or Salzburg; you can also stop in Strasbourg on your way to Paris.

 

For flights, you don't have to stick to the same airline, but to the same alliance (Skyteam / Star Alliance / Oneworld). Use Google Flights, and always book directly with an airline rather than with a travel agency if you can, that will save you a lot of hassle in case there's a flight change or missed connection.

 

Happy to help if you have any other question :)

Edited by slasher-fun

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Since you're planning on going from Hamburg to Paris, you may want to detour a little bit and hit up Wuppertal to see/ride the suspension monorail there.

 

I'd also recommend springing for the behind-the-scenes tour of the Miniatur Wunderland. They offer tours in English & I found it quite interesting, if you're lucky you'll get the same guy I got, who was the author (or did something with it) of the article on the Wunderland when it appeared in Model Railroader.

 

It's not mentioned nearly as often as it probably should around here; but The Man in Seat 61 is a great resource for train travel information (especially in Europe)

 

peter

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I've only taken the Thalys, but it's as fast as TGV and surprisingly affordable. One way from Amsterdam to Paris is only about $40. And unlike Acela, you're going the full 186 mph almost the whole way! :)

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Hi!

 

Hamburg to Paris by train takes around 8 hours with an easy change in Mannheim or Karlsruhe (unfortunately there's no more through-ticketing .

 

I was able to bring up an itinerary on bahn.de from Hamburg to Paris. Picking a random date in December, it's showing 79.90 Euros for 2nd class, and 119.90 Euros for 1st class. I didn't go to the process of ticketing, so I can't guarantee that it will complete, but it didn't give me any trouble up to that point.

 

Last year, I booked Frankfurt to Paris via Karlsruhe with no issue.

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Woops, I forgot to end this sentence: unfortunately there's no more through ticketing with Thalys via Köln.

It only works between DB and SNCF (only DB sells through tickets with an interesting price), so you have to go via Mannheim or Karlsruhe.

Thanks for the head up :)

Edited by slasher-fun

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I've only taken the Thalys, but it's as fast as TGV and surprisingly affordable. One way from Amsterdam to Paris is only about $40. And unlike Acela, you're going the full 186 mph almost the whole way! :)

 

That would be because the Thalys trains are just TGVs.

 

peter

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I've only taken the Thalys, but it's as fast as TGV and surprisingly affordable. One way from Amsterdam to Paris is only about $40. And unlike Acela, you're going the full 186 mph almost the whole way! :)

 

That would be because the Thalys trains are just TGVs.

 

peter

It's a separate operator though, right?

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PerRock: Thanks for the tip about the behind the scenes tour; I will definitely do that! And I'll look into that suspended monorail too.

 

Slasher-fun: Thank you very much for the detailed response! Ooo, that panorama car is enticing! Not sure what the confusion is with the through ticketing. Can't you change in Frankfurt? I have heard that the ICE trains are slightly nicer, but I would like to experience 200 mph!

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I have heard that the ICE trains are slightly nicer, but I would like to experience 200 mph!

I'm pretty sure ICE hits 200...

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I've only taken the Thalys, but it's as fast as TGV and surprisingly affordable. One way from Amsterdam to Paris is only about $40. And unlike Acela, you're going the full 186 mph almost the whole way! :)

 

That would be because the Thalys trains are just TGVs.

 

peter

It's a separate operator though, right?

Whoops. Just did some looking and realized that TGV refers to the equipment, not the operator.

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I've only taken the Thalys, but it's as fast as TGV and surprisingly affordable. One way from Amsterdam to Paris is only about $40. And unlike Acela, you're going the full 186 mph almost the whole way! :)

 

That would be because the Thalys trains are just TGVs.

 

peter

It's a separate operator though, right?

Whoops. Just did some looking and realized that TGV refers to the equipment, not the operator.

I guess it depends. TGV is a branded service, operated by SNCF. So, it could refer to that, or it could refer to some equipment.

 

TGV, generically, is a French acronym for high-speed train. So, in that sense, it would be the equivalent of an English-speaking person referring to HSR (or, technically, HST, but you get the idea). Now, if Amtrak had branded the Acela as HSR instead of Acela, then you’d wind up with the same level of confusion over here.

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Slasher-fun: Thank you very much for the detailed response! Ooo, that panorama car is enticing! Not sure what the confusion is with the through ticketing. Can't you change in Frankfurt? I have heard that the ICE trains are slightly nicer, but I would like to experience 200 mph!

You can change in Frankfurt, my point was that you can only get through ticketing between Hamburg and France via either the Frankfurt-Paris line or Munich-Stuttgart-Paris line, not via the Köln-Paris line. Note that you can add stops up to 48 hours on a single ticket, meaning you could for example leave from Hamburg, stop a night, a day and a night in Köln (short trip from Wuppertal, great monorail but small city), and continue to Paris via Frankfurt, on a single ticket (as low as 49 in 1st class if you're lucky)

 

ICE do run at 200 mph... in France only. In Germany, they "only" reach 186 mph on a few lines (Köln-Frankfurt, and most of München-Halle). Germany has much fewer high-speed (186 mph) lines than France, but its rail network is a lot more developed, frequent, and interconnect between long distance, medium distance, and regional and local services.

 

Oh, and don't bother buying Interrail/Eurail passes: if you can plan a few weeks in advance, buying individual tickets early will be much cheaper.

Edited by slasher-fun

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I've only taken the Thalys, but it's as fast as TGV and surprisingly affordable. One way from Amsterdam to Paris is only about $40. And unlike Acela, you're going the full 186 mph almost the whole way! :)

 

That would be because the Thalys trains are just TGVs.

 

peter

It's a separate operator though, right?

Whoops. Just did some looking and realized that TGV refers to the equipment, not the operator.

 

 

Yes, the "TGV" most people think of is operated by SNCF, the Thalys is operated by SNCB.

 

"TGV" does refer to both the equipment (ie "Superliner") and the class of train (ie "Empire Builder"). There are then subsets of TGVs based on the equipment and route.

 

peter

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Yeah I was thinking about stopping over in Köln! And if the ICE trains go 200 in France then maybe I'll just take them the whole way, as it sounds like they're a bit nicer.

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Yes, the "TGV" most people think of is operated by SNCF, the Thalys is operated by SNCB.

Nope, Thalys is operated by... Thalys (now a brand of THI Factory), owned by SNCF (60%) and SNCB (40%).

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Another brand that runs TGV hardware for quite a while is Lyria to Switzerland. I don’t know who or what owns it.

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Yeah I was thinking about stopping over in Köln! And if the ICE trains go 200 in France then maybe I'll just take them the whole way, as it sounds like they're a bit nicer.

So you could take any train, IC or ICE between Hamburg and Köln, visit Köln and do a day trip to Wuppertal (you can also see Düsseldorf on the way back), take the EC 9 (didn't mention: it's a... Swiss train ;) ) to Karlsruhe (the best views are on that portion), and take ICE 9572 to Paris (1hr45 to spend in Karlsruhe, otherwise you'd be on a TGV between Mannheim and Paris)

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Another brand that runs TGV hardware for quite a while is Lyria to Switzerland. I dont know who or what owns it.

SNCF (74%) and CFF (26%). Competition is almost non-existent in long-distance service in France, SNCF having a majority stake in the company operating the service (Eurostar, Thalys, Lyria, Elipsos) or being the sole operator (to Luxemburg, Italy) for international services. DB and SNCF (Alleo) is a bit different, as both operator offer their own pricing on each train: on the same train, you can have a cheaper ticket via DB than SNCF or vice versa (but again, only DB will offer through ticketing to other cities in Germany, and same goes for SNCF on the French side)

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Do the ECs still have names? Or are they all just numbers now. I remember having ridden ECs with names like Mozart, Maria Theresea, Edelweiss, Monteverdi, and such, back in the ‘90s.

Edited by jis

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Do the ECs still have names? Or are they all just numbers now. I remember having ridden ECs with names like Mozart, Maria Theresea, Edelweiss, Montevanni, and such, back in the ‘90s.

There's still names on the ones that have been around for a while. The new ones, not so much.

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What's the situation with scanners in Europe? Is it possible? Legal?

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Radio frequency scanners?  Although I have occasionally taken such devices abroad I would advise you to be very careful and do your own research.  Some countries, including a few in Europe, are extremely suspicious of such activity and could potentially lock you up for years or even decades if caught monitoring the wrong traffic in the wrong location.  In addition to active usage concerns there is the matter of simple possession.  A scanner purchased in the US will be designed to meet US laws governing fundamental capabilities.  Frequencies that are unrestricted in one country may be heavily guarded in another country and vice versa.  A foreign tourist typically has few meaningful protections from accusations of illegal spying, even in cases where a potential motive or objective is baseless or irrational.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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