‘Moon Over’ Chapter Alert: All Aboard!

Let the escape begin. Ian, Dima and gang are on their way to Duty Train and an overnight trip out of West Berlin. Can they get on board without the Russians realizing something is up? And what the hell has happened to Juliette?

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Author’s Notes:

The American “Duty Train” between Berlin and Frankfurt made its first run through Russian-occupied East Germany in 1945, and except for the year of the Berlin Blockade, it maintained a regular schedule right up until 1990 and the dismantling of travel restrictions between the Germanies. The Duty Train was available to all uniformed American, French, and British service members (and their families) with travel orders into or out of Berlin. It was very popular with junior enlisted people because it was free.

The Duty Train was my first experience riding a “real train.” The vast train station at Frankfurt, where one could catch a ride to just about anywhere in Europe, took my breath away. I sometimes had business on the American Air Force base in Frankfurt, and I’d take the overnight train, get some sleep, and be ready for meetings the next day. I also sometimes “escorted” (like Mark is doing in this chapter) groups of airmen, usually when my flight was doing some group recreation like skiing in the Haartz mountains. Alcohol at the station or on the train itself was strictly prohibited. A fact that nobody really seemed to care about.

Besides the train, one could drive out of Berlin, passing through multiple Soviet checkpoints, carefully monitored for speed and timing. While I did that several times (and had fun bartering with Russian border guards for uniform items and other souvenirs), I figured the characters in this story would reject that option as too dangerous. Likewise, they rejected flying out of the Tegel airport because that would involve a lot of scrutiny from civil authorities and because in 1989 it was actually quite an expensive option unless it was combined with continuing travel. Juliet has booked each of their travel legs with a different agency so that no one record contains details of what they’re doing.

The Duty Train guard car, where armed MPs stayed, at the station in West Berlin.

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com