holiday Leadership managing change memories

Different, not necessarily better

I have a wonderful primary school-age memory of travelling by steam-powered sleeper train from London to Oban. We woke up to the sound of gulls and the smell of freshly caught fish being unloaded at the harbour. Later, at eighteen, I travelled alone by train to Geneva (and onwards to Rome) and woke up to the sound of cow bells and the smell of pine trees just outside Basle. I also did the Eurorail open-ticket tour with a student friend which took us to Istanbul and back. Then, sleeping on train journey meant not having to pay for accommodation. The photo in Thessaloniki above shows the morning after the night before spent underneath a boat in a thunderstorm. More on that 1976 trip here >

Margaret and I have enjoyed rail holidays to different destinations since but not actually used a sleeper train. An overnight hotel in Strasbourg, Turin or Chambéry is sometimes required. See these stories on the Places website.

So, I have always enjoyed an interest in the railways, old and new, and read about developments. The following is from a famous blogger, Mark Smith, who writes as “The Man in Seat 61”. This item relates to my post about The best-seller I never wrote called “Stability: the new dynamic” and I phrase I use, “digital, not necessarily better”. This can be used universally as “different, not necessarily better.”

Let Mark Smith illustrate this fine point.

A TALE OF TRAIN REFURBISHMENT. Been reminded this morning of a Paris-Italy journey on Artesia some years ago. There was a newly-refurbed type MU sleeping-car on the train, photo below. Carpet removed in favour of grey lino, sticky-back plastic mirror on reverse of middle bed…

Copyright: Mark Smith

…I was annoyed. I’d wanted to try a new sleeper, but was booked next door, in an unrefurbished ‘MU’ with original 1973 decor, once a common sight all over western Europe. Beige/brown carpet, luxurious green velour sofa, tasteful 17th century mural on reverse of middle bed…

A woman travelling in the refurbished sleeper walks down the corridor into our car and peers into our compartment (photo below). “Is this 1st class?” she asks. “Perhaps I can ask the attendant if I can upgrade…”

Copyright: Mark Smith

The moral of this story is, if you spend money on a refurb, but your customers not only *prefer* the unrefurbed version, but are actually, *literally* willing to *pay more* to stick with the older version, maybe you shouldn’t have bothered!

Twitter source: The Man in Seat 61 @seatsixtyone

Mark Smith, the Man in Seat 61, founder of train travel website For some vicarious lockdown travel therapy, try

Different, not necessarily better!

By Angus Willson

Angus Willson is editor of this site and author of this blogpost.

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