'Welcome to the IT Express,' said Jan, with a grin, as he helped me aboard the train in Brussels. 'It's not that busy but it will be really kicking when we reach Antwerp.' So this was the Rave Train. Forget the jaded Marrakesh Express of the Sixties. This is the Nineties: off your head from Brussels to Amsterdam, and back at dawn, the small hours spent clubbing sandwiched in-between.
Jan, in his biker boots and black hip- hugging jodhpurs, was one of the organisers. He walked the length of the carriage handing out the red tickets that cost 1,960 Belgian francs ( pounds 30) for an evening in the IT Club, one of Amsterdam's foremost clubbing venues.
Johan, the other organiser of this and many other theme trains, was busy entertaining a short, fat man with a moustache from the Belgian railways. Mr Belgium Railways was sitting in a suit, nursing an orange juice and travelling as far as the border. He emanated a frosty circle of non-communication at one end of the carriage. 'The carriage of the train, of course, is sealed,' said Johan, without the faintest trace of irony. 'It is a notorious drug-trafficking route from Amsterdam to Brussels, so we keep the train sealed and the only way you can get aboard is if you have a ticket with your name on it.'
In the next-door aisle, swinging his trippy, flowery tie, was Michael, director of the Netherlands Rail Company. 'I love rave music,' he said, grinding his hips into the ashtray of the seat in front. 'I have got quite fond of it since I became involved with this project.' This was his fourth trip. Once he had lasted the whole night and had danced his socks off at the IT Club. 'You must be broadminded to go there,' he said. 'It's a gay club and I'm not gay, so it did not really appeal to me as a male, but I liked the music. I was so tired by the end.'
The music got louder and the train sped on. It stopped at stations to pick up more clubbers who joined the party, to the screams of those already there. By the time it reached Amsterdam at midnight, it was packed - you could hardly see the draped ceiling for leather peaked caps and black chiffon. There was a loud cheer as we pulled into the station.
We reeled our way along the platform behind Jan, who, knowing the streets of Amsterdam, became tour leader. The IT Club was packed. Walking along the dark corridors to the main floor we were greeted with mist, lights and podiums full of dancers who bopped in a world of their own. Fellow travellers from the IT Express, having arrived en masse as if from some private party, smiled and waved at each other throughout the evening. Many had made friends and now danced together. Jan took to a podium and did his thing, to the delight of those who merely graced the floor.
At six in the morning they played the last track, much to the annoyance of the crowd, who chanted for more. We wandered back through the cold dark streets of Amsterdam, making our way slowly towards the train like a small group of lost refugees. The train was warm, serving hot coffee and croissants.
As we journeyed back to Brussels, dawn began to break. Jan had brought sunglasses to cope with this hideous eventuality and groaned loudly as he put them on. Some of the group crashed out in their seats, others were still going strong until way past Antwerp.
We stopped once more at the stations on the way back, dropping off ravers whose leather shorts looked strangely bizarre in the light of day. Families waiting for their morning train stared, while others danced along the platform after the train. Arriving in Brussels at 9am, Jan and I were greeted by the police. We did not have what they were after and eventually we made it to a coffee shop. There we sat and gazed into space, unable to speak. Thank God, I thought, I am going home. Jan will have to do all this again.Reuse content