'We met on a Paris-Madrid train'

Move over Tinder - you've got competition

It’s a long-forgotten bestseller. In 1926, right in the middle of the Roaring Twenties, Madonna of the Sleeping Cars even won the Prix Goncourt. This novel – which sold some 400,000 copies – told of the colourful adventures of Lady Diana Winham, a woman who was well ahead of her time and chose to live her whole life on international sleeper trains. We’ll let you find out the plot for yourselves, but we will say that among other gripping twists, she falls in love.

And that’s what we’re going to be talking about this week: those chance meetings on night trains, often in the bar carriage. In a world where many of us meet new partners via Tinder, Happn and Grindr, do we still have it in us to cross paths in a more natural way, pick up on romantic cues like an offhand smile or a look in someone’s eyes?

On a train, you have no other choice than to put those apps – so image-focused, so dependent on an algorithm that purports to know you even better than your mum – to one side. When you’re travelling by rail, it feels almost as if time is suspended. So forget the stresses of your 9-to-5. Dream a little. You’ve hopped aboard one of our Midnight Trains, heading somewhere in southern Europe: a good start. Alone in your private room, you decide to grab a drink at the bar. You sit down and another person walks in. Very quickly, the mechanics of seduction set in. Few thrills are greater.

And whether it’s a one-night thing or something that lasts a lifetime – as it does for Lady Diana – the train is the kind of matchmaker that puts you fully in control, far from the random logic of modern swipe culture. The return of on-board romance is yet one more reason we’re buzzed about night trains choo-chooing back into action – and so, excitingly soon. See you down the bar.

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