Bon voyage, Mr President

What if heads of state gave up the good old government aeroplane?

We reckon Midnight Trains could persuade them to. And if you look in the history books, that ambition wouldn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Before the plane became the go-to method of presidential transport, trains were very much in favour (though, admittedly, they wouldn’t accept any old service). In France, on board the Train de la Présidence de la République, everything was meticulously thought through to ensure comfort and calm. This train criss-crossed the country from 1913 right up to the 1980s. Day and night, it saw to the official travel of both the French president and his guests, Nikita Khrushchev, Elizabeth II and Margrethe II of Denmark among them.

And as you might expect, there are loads of fascinating stories about it. Take the time the presidential train arrived in the Loire commune of Montbrison… without the president. The service was thrown into panic, because Paul Deschanel had in fact boarded the train the previous evening. So where was he? A railway worker was to find him wandering alongside the railway tracks some 300 kilometres north of his destination. The president had opened the sliding window to catch some fresh air and, as he tried to close it again, fell out.

Besides this incident (which markedly worsened Deschanel’s deteriorating health) no one would have questioned the choice of presidential train. On board, there was a private bedroom, a shower room, a study and a restaurant – ensuring an exceptionally high standard of travel. A good way to break up the hectic official agenda: a little bit like what we’re trying to do at Midnight Trains, except the difference for us is that it’s you presiding over the future of the train.

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