11 May 2012

Edwardian Train Travel

"Travelling by Train in the Edwardian Age" by Philip Unwin takes us back to the glory days of train travel. I picked up a copy in the 2nd hand book shop at Rutherglen (a great shop, by the way), and then became absorbed in the descriptions and photos.

The author records a number of boyhood memories (the book was published in 1979), but the book is far more than this.   While some of the descriptions are a little "rose-coloured" (for example, the chapter on steam engines!), there are also a number of down-to-earth observations such as the long hours worked and the strict rules that had to be obeyed.  The book concludes with the words, "Edwardian trains, like the great sailing ships, were costly and exacting in human terms, but to travel in them had its magnificence and it is good to remember their finest qualities".

However, the cost of travel was (very broadly speaking) not greatly different to what it is today.  Today's advance purchase fares seem to be somewhat cheaper in real terms, but unrestricted fares appear to be more expensive.  Travellers in 1923 didn't have to worry about advance purchase deals, and according to my copy of the ABC Railway Guide of 1923 (reprinted in 1986), the 3rd class fare from London to Brighton was 6s 4d (1st class was 10s 6d).  Using http://safalra.com/other/historical-uk-inflation-price-conversion/, it seems that prices since then have multiplied 45 times, which means that this fare would be something over £14 in today's terms.  Today's fare structure is more complex, and fares for this trip range from £10 (or even cheaper) for advance purchase tickets to £24 or thereabouts (or £36 for first class).

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