ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress: A Pop-Up Night Train

By Edward | Night Trains

Sep 03
Alpen Sylt Nachtexpress on the Hindenburgdamm
Transparency disclaimer: I work for the company that runs the ALPEN-SYLT night express. I've also put a lot of work into starting it up. So I may not be 100% neutral. Just so's you know.

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At the beginning of the year, nobody knew about the ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress. Not even me.

Then in May, during lockdown, I got a phone call from the company I work for.

"You fancy doing something with night trains?"

My head began to spin. I steadied myself on my son's pram.

"Um. Yes?"

"We are starting a new night train service from Sylt to Salzburg and back, twice a week. We need you to come back"

So I went back to work. The company drafted me into the sales task force and wheeled me on as their night train consultant. 

My equipment raring to go

A little background

I've been working for this company (BahnTouristikExpress, and by extension Rail Development Corporation, an American rail company) since 2018 - see my Flixtrain post for more on that.

Most of the time I was working Flixtrain services for them, using couchette carriages in day mode. Flixbus sold the tickets and handled customer service, we ran the trains.

These veteran coaches plied the Hamburg-Cologne and Cologne-Berlin route by day heaving with stag dos and football fans.

Then came coronavirus, and for reasons I cannot divulge, the partnership with Flixtrain disintegrated into searing acrimony that continues to this day.

So what to do with all these couchettes standing around, to say nothing of the engines rented specially? 

Start a pop-up night train service, that's what.

The ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress - the service

The ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress (night express. NEX for short) is a twice-weekly overnight train service from the North Sea island of Sylt via Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich to Salzburg.

ALPEN Sylt Nachtexpress at Westerland

ALPEN-Sylt Nachtexpress ready to leave Westerland (Sylt). Photo credit: Marc Förste

It consists purely of couchettes and takes 16 hours to get from the very north of Germany to the very south and across the border into Austria.

On Thursdays and Saturdays it runs North-South, on Fridays and Sundays it runs South-North.

The current service is scheduled to run until the 7th of November. See below for future plans.

ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress - destinations

On its way south, the train starts at Westerland (Sylt) and calls at Niebüll, Husum, Hamburg-Altona and Hamburg Central to pick up passengers. Then it passes the night en route south. First stop for getting off is Frankfurt Süd, then Würzburg, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Munich, Rosenheim, Prien, Traunstein, Freilassing and Salzburg.

Alpen Sylt Nachtexpress on the Hindenburgdamm

The train on its way across the Hindenburgdamm. Photo credit: Marc Förste

What is the ALPEN-SYLT night express like?

The ALPEN-SYLT night express currently consists of couchettes only. These are ex-Deutsche Bahn couchettes as previously seen on CityNightLine services and now dispersed all over mostly private operators such as RegioJet and Snälltaget. A few went to ÖBB as well. 

NEX couchette

Some of the couchettes have nice new lining

These were most recently used for running Flixtrains. There hasn't been time to obliterate the Flix foil, so they coaches still run in green livery with ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress branding pasted over the Flixness.

Couchette Corridor

A look down the corridor on the ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress

Each compartment has six padded berths with blue lining. Sheets, pillows and blankets are provided.

ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress couchette

Middle bunk made up for sleeping

Every compartment has USB- and 220V sockets and every carriage is equipped with WiFi routers.

NEX Freebies

ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress compartment with its ducks in a row

How much do ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress tickets cost?

Whichever ticket you buy, you always get a whole compartment to yourself

Ticket prices

The cheapest promo tickets start at €99 for a single travelling with one child. 

From September there will also be a special offer for couples, starting at €199.

The standard fare is €399 for the whole compartment to yourself, irrespective of whether it is just you or there are six of you and irrespective of where you get on and off.

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Bicycles go for €49. If you book both ways, this is only charged once.

Breakfast is extra and costs €5. This ensures that only people who actually want breakfast get it - free breakfasts waste mountains of food. For my night train insider's breakfast rant, see my Astra Transcarpatic post.

NEX Salzburg

Me at Salzburg with the ALPEN-SYLT Nachtexpress

Where to buy

Most agencies in Germany specialised in railway tickets can sell you tickets for the ALPEN-SYLT night express. 

You can also simply book online. As yet the website is only in German, though I expect English to be added eventually. If you've subscribed to my blog, send me an email and I will gladly help you book.

What about future Nachtexpress trains?

The outlook is good at the moment. Many people are very excited about this train. The management is very enthusiastic too,

It makes such a difference: When I was at Deutsche Bahn the night trains were treated like some mad aunt who simply won't die. 

RDC, on the other hand, are completely enamoured of their new night train and already have exciting plans for 2021.

Alpen Sylt Nachtexpress Westerland

More night express awesomeness. Photo credit: Marc Förste

I can't write any of it just yet, but it looks like the future holds expanded service and more destinations. On the carriage front, they are looking into sleeping cars and seated cars.  

Right now I'm tasked with developing a service training for the night train crews - so there is definitely going to be something.

I suggest you subscribe to my blog. That way you will be the first to know when new Nachtexpress services are announced. And if as my subscriber you ever book on the Nachtexpress, just let me know. Perhaps you'll see me on the train too. 

I'll leave you with this video by vlogger Superalbs Travels in which he beautifully captures the entire experience.

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About the Author

After crisscrossing Europe for 6 years as a train conductor, I guide intrepid travellers roaming Europe by rail.

  • Simon says:

    They have USB sockets? That’s great. None of the JR Shinkansens in Japan had them, which irritated me.

    Hope the new night train is successful though possibly a little pricey for a couchette? Anyway, the more night trains, the better! Might be an option for a future trip to Europe.

    If you need a new challenge after this, come and start a night train in New Zealand. We don’t even have one.

    • Edward says:

      Yes, they have USB sockets. I do wonder how long USB is going to be a standard. Thanks for the tip about New Zealand! Thank you for reading an commenting. Stay safe, and I hope you can come to Europe again soon.

  • Viktoria says:

    This is so exciting. When this Covid19 mess is over, and Germany can safely allow Americans back in country, I will definitely take the AlpenSylt Nacht train. I have been on the Munich to Paris and Frankfurt to Vienna DB night trains. These new trains look so much nicer. Good luck to you and all your colleagues.

    • Edward says:

      Thank you, Viktoria, for commenting! Yes, I hope it all passes soon and Americans can come to us again. Get in touch when you’ve made it over here!

  • Charles J Krueger says:

    Where is the schedule published?

  • cyberT says:

    The investment has to be in customer service and rolling stock innovation – such as self-cleaning sleeping pods fitted in coaches. Night train operators appear to be stuck in a cabin nostalgia that recommissions old stock or deploys outmoded coach design, time to reimagine and redesign the twilight trains.

    thello veteran, paris-milano-paris 2018&19 🙂

    • Edward says:

      I’m totally with you over innovation. What I can’t see is how sleeping pods can be self-cleaning. Say someone opens a #beerontrains in their pod and it goes everywhere?

      As for “cabin nostalgia” – it takes years to design and commission new carriages, so for the moment we are stuck with what we’ve got. It will be interesting to see how the pods pan out on the new Nightjet.

      The innovation cycle of trains is much slower than that of, say, mobile devices. The fashions and whims of today’s consumer move much more quickly. When the new Nightjet stock comes with its USB-chargers, €10 say that they will be out of date.

      Thank you for commenting!

      • cyberT says:

        Ok will concede that €10.

        The Thello night train cancellation was a bit of a loss for our 2020 UK-Italy journey. The effect necessitated stopovers in both Paris and Milan on route to Rome and on the return journey (Milan/Ventimiglia – Ventimiglia/Nice – Nice/Paris) a stopover in Nice.

        Any news of the Paris to Venice night train being reinstated in 2021? Otherwise Frankfurt – Salzburg and then a connection onwards to Venice maybe an interesting travel option!

        Can I say a big thank you to the train manager on the 07/08/20, 14:42 Paris-Milan train who checked our temperature and communicated a sincere concern for our welfare.

  • Debbie Humphrey says:

    hi, great to hear of even more night trains coming back in, it’s a shame they ever left though understandable given the high-speed day trains and cheap flights.

    what i don’t understand are seated carriages on night trains, what a nightmare to be in a chair, even if it has partial recline! is it really to offer a super low cost option and hey, one extra carriage won’t cost that much more? or is it some law or regulation?

    • Edward says:

      Hi Debbie,

      Thank you for your interesting comment.

      God knows I’d do almost anything to avoid a seated car on a night train. The reason there are seated carriages is because there are people who want them. Often the seated cars are sold out first.

      Russian trains usually have three classes of carriage on night trains, and even the lowest category, platskart, allows you to lie down. Platskart is an open-plan sleeping car.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Thorsten says:

    Hi Edward,

    thanks for this article. I´m planing a short trip to the middle of nowhere south of Stuttgart in June 2021. On my way theire I´m taking the ÖBB Nightjet, getting of at Augsburg. But on the return journey the Nightjet would be too late in Hamburg (at around 9:30a.m.) to go directly to work on that monday. So I thought I would have to take a domestic flight from Stuttgart back home. Just a day later I got the email by Alpen-Sylt Nachtexpress stating that the trains can now be booked for the 2021 season. In fact theire is a Alpen-Sylt Nachtexpress train that night leaving Böblingen (south of Stuttgart) in the evening and arriving in Hamburg at 8 a.m. (what´s perfect for me to go directly to work).
    I would have never known about this connection hadn´t I read this article…

    [By the way, I intended to join your “Rail Guide Europe club”, but I didn´t get any mail after entering my email adress…]

    • Edward says:

      Hi Thorsten,

      Thank you for your comment! I’m glad the article was of use to you. I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t received the email confirming you joined the Rail Guide Europe club. Have you checked your spam folder? It’s usually easy to join. Best wishes.

      • Thorsten says:

        Hi Edward,
        after 3 unsuccessful attempts to join your “Rail Guide Europe club” I just gave it a 4th try and this time it worked…
        Thanks again for all those informations you put together on this site.

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