Railroads: Luxury on the Track

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Sleek, high-speed aircraft may be the hallmark of 20th century transportation.

But in Western Europe these days, planes are getting increasing competition from the oldfashioned, earthbound railroad train. Across the Continent, a spreading network known as the Trans Europe Express is holding its own in the jet age — and teaching its passengers to expect luxury while they travel.

New trains are being added regularly.

This week, to celebrate its tenth birth day, TEE puts its plush new Rembrandt onto the daily run between Amsterdam and Munich. Passengers relax in form-hugging, foam-rubber seats while a blurred landscape speeds past the vast picture windows.

TEE trains rush along through the six Common Market countries, Austria and Switzerland, at speeds up to 100 m.p.h., saving travelers much of the airlines' baggage-handling hangup and the time-consuming trip to and from out-of-city airports. TEE passengers sometimes find themselves beating jet time — especially on trips of 250 miles or less. Like Ja pan's New Tokaido Line, whose Hikari and Kodama bolt between Osaka and Tokyo at speeds up to 130 m.p.h., Trans Europe trains are built for comfort as well as speed. While he travels from

Paris' Gare du Nord to the center of Brussels aboard the He de France or the Etoile du Nord, the busy businessman can unwind in uncrowded 40-passenger cars; he gets first-class meals served at his seat, can dictate to a TEE-provided stenographer and make telephone calls.

Brainchild of Frans Q. den Hollander, former president of Netherlands Railway, Trans Europe was born of a desire to make travel truly pleasant. "I am fed up with the bureaucrats at the borders," said Den Hollander. His original plan called for a single type of train that would link a united Europe—with a spur under the Channel to Britain. Although that grand scheme has yet to be realized, Den Hollander has succeeded in eliminating visa-checking delays at borders. Nowadays customs officials do their work aboard the moving trains.

So effective is the network that passengers traveling its popular routes must make reservations well in advance. Other travelers may fret over dusty parlor cars and schedule lapses; TEE passengers can only find fault with luxuries. Complained a Frenchman who rode the Parsifal recently from Paris to Hamburg: "These German waitresses look so stern one doesn't dare pinch their bottoms."

U.S. railroads, which lost about $400 million hauling passengers last year, are also counting on a boost from new equipment. Last week a high-speed train, manufactured by the Budd Co., hit 156 m.p.h. on a 21-mile strip of New Jersey test track. Financed by the Federal Government, the speedster promises three-hour service in October between Washington and New York, cutting present track time by 45 minutes. For long-haul service, however, the future remains gloomy on U.S. railroads. Only last month, B. F. Biaggini, president of the Southern Pacific Co., told a West Coast audience that "the long-distance passenger train in this country has lost its purpose in the light of very evident public preference for other modes of travel."