As I remarked in the previous post, Dutch-Paris relied on trains and trams to get around western Europe. The smaller and more local a train was, the less likely it was to be controlled.

Of course those smaller milk trains were ridden by the locals day in and day out as they went to work or into the city to have their ration cards renewed or make a purchase. The regulars on those trains knew when an outsider appeared and would have had a good eye for strangers coming from foreign lands or the big city. The local trains would have been more dangerous than the main lines if the regulars had chosen to report strangers. But they never did in the hundreds of train trips that Dutch-Paris made (or, as far as I know, that fugitives on their own or with other resistance lines made).

In fact, more than one Engelandvaarder has commented on the complicity of the regular passengers of trains in the Pyrenees who smiled indulgently at the thin disguise of eleven Dutchmen pretending to be a football (soccer) team. It’s impossible to know how many minor acts of Resistance happened on trains when ordinary people looked the other way, kept silent or created diversions for the benefit of strangers they suspected were resisters or fugitives.

Such helping acts came not just from passengers but also from men and women who worked on the railways, known as cheminots. Indeed, the cheminots had their own Resistance network. Dutch-Paris didn’t have any known connection to that group, but it did benefit from the help of several cheminots. For instance, a Dutchman who worked out of the Gare du Nord in Paris started out helping a Dutch diplomat get to The Hague in 1940 by disguising him as a dishwasher in the dining car. He escorted fugitives out of the Gare du Nord through doors the Germans did not watch. He undoubtedly provided critical information about the timing of trains and their surveillance. He died in the concentration camps for helping Allied aviators evade capture.

Further south, Dutch-Paris fugitives spent time hiding under the protection of station masters in the Luchon valley at the foothills of the Pyrenees. Those station masters belonged to a local group that attached warning signals to the morse code sent between the Gare Matabiau in Toulouse and the smaller stations in the region. Another cheminot based in Foix took high-ranking evaders out of the country by dressing them up as cheminots and hiding them in plain sight in his locomotive.

The trains, then, were not just the only means of long-distance travel available to most people during the war. They were also constantly shifting communities of complicity as passengers and cheminots made sometimes very small moves, even acts of omission such as not speaking up, that protected the resisters and fugitives among them.