International passenger

trains in 20th Century Europe

International passenger trains in 20th Century Europe

Barcelona was an important port and commercial centre on Spain’s Mediterranean shore and it had always been a target for international travel bearing in mind its business base and port facilities. The growth of tourism on the Costa Brava sanctioned by the Spanish government in 1950 served to attract more passengers to this area of Spain from Northern Europe

Traffic from Paris & Benelux


The French had serviced this destination consistently in the 20th Century. The Paris service was routed through Limoges, Toulouse and Narbonne and this was a regular route for this service. The service changed its title over the years from Barcelona Express until 1974 when it became the Barcelona TALGO, finally changing to the Joan Miró in 1992 which it has to this day.

Through trains existed in the 1980s linking the Netherlands and Belgium with Cerbère-Port Bou and these were designed to cater for holiday traffic. By 1983 one such train, the Flandres Roussillon Express, connected Amsterdam and Calais with Port Bou during the summer. In its early days this train had two routes through France – Brive and Narbonne or Lyons and Narbonne. The service from Amsterdam was relatively shortlived and in its latter days this train originated in Calais only. By 2004 it had lost its name and become a Train de Nuit starting in Lille.

Traffic from Italy


By 1953 Roma was linked directly with The French/Spanish border at Cerbère/Port Bou and Hendaye/Irun. These trains were routed through Pisa and Viareggio then the Cote d'Azur to the Spanish border

This service lasted until mid-1997. Passengers to Roma after that date would have had to change, either at Nice or Ventimiglia.

Traffic from Switzerland & beyond


The most persistent connection was the route from Geneva to Cerbère-Port Bou which connected to Barcelona. In the 1950's this service was provided by a first-class only railcar running via Culoz, Grenoble, Valence and Narbonne taking approximately eleven hours from Geneva to Barcelona.

In 1969 a major change took place when the service was formed from TALGO sets whose bogies could be changed at the frontier enabling through running from Geneva to Barcelona. This service was branded as a TEE-TALGO (CATALAN TALGO). In 1989 the transit time was 9 hrs 50 minutes.

In 1999 a further TALGO train, the Pau Casals, was introduced linking Zürich with Port Bou.

Often trains coming from Switzerland had been extended from northern cities Scandinavia and Germany were the main beneficiaries


Traffic from Northern Europe


Scandinavia also achieved through connections to the Spanish frontier at points in the 20th century. Through traffic didn't materialise until the 1960s.  An express linking København with Port Bou was the Hispania Express. This started in 1963 from København to Port Bou through Hamburg, Basel to Geneva with a branch from Dortmund and a direct connection, but no through cars, from Stockholm.

Passengers from København would spend 32 hours getting to Port Bou. These services required a change at Cerbère-Port Bou. By 1968 the Scandinavian connection was no more, the train starting/finishing in Hamburg and Dortmund This lasted until 1980 when the train started at Basel/Geneva.  The Catalan and Hispania expresses continued to the end of the century.    


D1.2: To Barcelona

Paris to Barcelona To Spain and Portugal

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