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Early east-west passenger services across London


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Given the pre-grouping railways love of through carriages I’m surprised that I cannot remember reading of any east-west coaches across London.  Why didn’t the GWR uncouple coaches at Ealing Broadway, send them around the North London line to Stratford and have them go to Clacton or Lowestoft?  Or via Kensington to Margate or Folkestone?  There were other through coaches to Folkestone but I think they were from Birkenhead.

 

 The Metropolitan loading gauge was a bit restrictive so I don’t think that coaches could have been uncoupled at Paddington, and also the link at Liverpool St was taken out fairly early.  But otherwise it would have been a good route.

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12 minutes ago, Penrhos1920 said:

Given the pre-grouping railways love of through carriages I’m surprised that I cannot remember reading of any east-west coaches across London.  Why didn’t the GWR uncouple coaches at Ealing Broadway, send them around the North London line to Stratford and have them go to Clacton or Lowestoft?  Or via Kensington to Margate or Folkestone?  There were other through coaches to Folkestone but I think they were from Birkenhead.

 

 The Metropolitan loading gauge was a bit restrictive so I don’t think that coaches could have been uncoupled at Paddington, and also the link at Liverpool St was taken out fairly early.  But otherwise it would have been a good route.

 

If you were living west of London, why would you want to visit the colder east coast?

 

Arguably, there might be some demand in the other direction but no major centres of population to generate sufficient traffic.

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I imagine that if the GWR had seen much potential in such a service it would have asked Parliament for the necessary running powers and/or found a partner company to share in the running of the service.  Furthermore, what is now the Central Line from Ealing Broadway to Shepherds Bush was a satellite of the GWR when it was built.

 

Chris

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The GWR did of course have a presence at Victoria station but didn't use it for very long.

I am not sure about the comment about the loading gauge on the Met as it was originally broad gauge and worked by the GWR. The problem would presumably have been beyond what is now Farringdon. But there was I, seem to remember, a little used north to west curve at Kings Cross (though of course not broad gauge - that would have been the killer until standard gauge reached Paddington in 1861). The GWR also I think had a share in the West London Railway as it used it to get to the dock on the Grand Union Canal before it had its own line to Brentford. (Please correct me if that ids not quite right.) I should really remember these things! I have only just finished reading volume 1 of Macdermot.

Jonathan

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The GWR were partners in both the WLR and the WLER, part of the latter being laid on the route of the erstwhile Kensington Canal; there was (indeed still is) a canal basin at Paddington. The GWR used powers of access to Smithfield and to the Millwall Docks but this was purely fir freight. They never seem to have exhibited any interest in passenger traffic to the east of London.

 

 

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The LT&S ran through trains between Southend and Ealing Broadway via the Metropolitan District Railway (the present District Line). The Great Western ran peak hour trains from a variety of suburban stations such as Windosr and Uxpridge to Liverpool Street/Aldgate via the Metropolitan Railway. Both these serveices continued up to the Second World War. The Great Western had a freight depot at Smithfield, in the centre of London, which lasted unti lthe late 50s/early 60s, again with trains travelling via the Metropolitan.

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4 hours ago, Jeremy C said:

The Great Western ran peak hour trains from a variety of suburban stations such as Windosr and Uxpridge to Liverpool Street/Aldgate via the Metropolitan Railway.

I think that’s the key point. As a private company, they had every reason to get passengers into the City of London, but extending them further would gain them very little benefit for the extra expense incurred.

We have a different economic and social model now. Relatively few passengers will travel from, say, Maidenhead to Shenfield, but the operational convenience of running multiple unit services straight through central London without using terminal facilities is immense: constant and regular flow of trains; no need for multiple terminal platforms and issues of platform occupancy and track occupancy as trains are serviced and reversed.

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One GW scheme which never came to fruition was to take over the Regent's Canal and build a railway along that route. But even that was not with a view to passenger traffic to East Anglia. It was to have its own route to the City and to the London Docks.

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The GWR did make use of its involvement in the WLR, WLER, and I think VS&PR, to run passenger trains to and from Victoria, including I think, very briefly, the odd west of England express, although these connections were more about goods to South Lambeth.

 

The question about East Anglia must surely be: why bother?

 

There might have been a case for a Birkenhead to Tilbury or Harwich through coach, to serve the US to Europe traffic in the way that Birkenhead to Dover/Folkestone did, but maybe the traffic to Germany and Holland was dealt with by cross-country services in the north of England, and it was US to France and Italy that were the markets via the Channel Ports.

 

But beyond that, what? East Anglia was pretty slow to develop as a holiday destination, and you couldn’t exactly do a day trip from the West Midlands to Great Yarmouth via London if you wanted time for a beer and a paddle. There were barely any ‘business’ destinations either. After all, even the GER struggled to make a living out of the district!

 

The Regent’s Canal Railway I’ve often thought would make a cracking model, with the primary terminus and associated gubbins using City Road basin plus a short continuation to what is now Barbican, and goods plus an urban passenger service continuing towards Limehouse. Hasn’t anyone built such a model?

Edited by Nearholmer
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Twenty-five years ago, when we first moved to Reading, my brother was living in Chadwell Heath. We got quite excited at the Crossrail proposal...

 

He's lived in the outer reaches of North-West London for the past 20 years.

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On 21/08/2020 at 14:59, Nearholmer said:

 

The question about East Anglia must surely be: why bother?

 

 

 

Ok, let’s put it the other way around.  Why didn’t the GER run through coaches to GWR destinations?  I remember many summer holidays in the West Country and having to lug luggage off the train at Liverpool Street on to the tube and again at Paddington. 

 

The GER did build special coaches for trains from Harwich PQ to York and Birkenhead.  These trains connected with the continental ferry.

Edited by Penrhos1920
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13 minutes ago, Penrhos1920 said:

Ok, let’s put it the other way around.  Why didn’t the GER run through coaches to GWR destinations?  

 

Presumably because it wanted to encourage travel to destinations on its own system such as Cromer, Great Yarmouth, Clacton, etc. 

 

Also, it has to be remembered that the population on the Great Eastern's side of Town had by-and-large less disposable income than those on the Great Western's - Devon and Cornwall may have been out of their reach. 

 

On 21/08/2020 at 14:59, Nearholmer said:

But beyond that, what? East Anglia was pretty slow to develop as a holiday destination, and you couldn’t exactly do a day trip from the West Midlands to Great Yarmouth via London if you wanted time for a beer and a paddle.

 

... but you could via the Midland & Great Northern. Put "Yarmouth" into the Midland Railway Stidy Centre catalogue search and you'll turn up a number of handbills for excursions, including the annual Bass outing to Great Yarmouth.  

 

In the pre-Great War heyday of the railways, London didn't have quite the overwhelming gravitational pull it does today. The midland and northern cities were relatively more economically important than they are now; they had services to East Anglia that didn't need to go via London to be competitive for speed. Whilst on the other hand, the Thames Valley was economically insignificant.

Edited by Compound2632
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That was what I was driving at - that the GWR couldn’t have competed for the excursion market in that direction, even if it wanted to.
 

Would be interesting to know what the overall seaside travel market amounted to pre-WW1, all round the country, excursions and week/fortnight away.

 

Although ‘going to the seaside’ had become a fairly big thing by the 1910s, it was no way as big a thing as it became in the 1930s and again in the 1950s. The classic GWR and LSWR destinations were still fairly undeveloped in 1910 for instance. I hazard that the day excursion market was far more important than the ‘holiday’ market, which, even given the apparently large “travel-endurance” of the Edwardian working class family, meant shorter distances and resorts closer to big centres of population.

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Nearholmer said:

given the apparently large “travel-endurance” of the Edwardian working class family, meant shorter distances and resorts closer to big centres of population.

 

Except that in the West Midlands a day trip to the seaside did mean a very early start and considerable endurance - whether by Midland / MGN to Great Yarmouth, LNWR to Llandudno, or GWR to Weston.

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As I said, large travel endurance.

 

London to Brighton was probably the first regular one (although didn’t Thomas Cook start on the Leicester and Swannington?) and in the very early days even that took absolutely ages. The trains made special stops for the relief of the passengers at Croydon and Three Bridges. Of course, some of the passengers were already drunk by the first stop, so herding them all up and getting going again was a major exercise.

 

Reading about things like the Bass workers outings, people seem to have been quite up for what amounted to a 24hr excursion by the time you include home to station and return, with children and grandparents of all ages in tow. To me, that sounds more like an endurance test than fun, but things were different then, I guess.

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In the West of Scotland, trips (or holidays) to the seaside were mainly to the Clyde Coast resorts, Helensburgh Gourock, Largs, Dunoon, Rothsay, Millport, etc. travelling by either NBR, CR or G&SWR depending on which side of the river you resided and which company you preferred with the final leg of the journey to the latter three by paddle steamer.  You could also sail all the way from the Broomielaw Quay in Glasgow.  Generally referred to as 'Goin' doon the watter'.

 

Jim

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11 hours ago, Nearholmer said:

didn’t Thomas Cook start on the Leicester and Swannington?

 

Midland Counties - he organised an excursion for c. 500 people from Leicester to Loughborough to attend a temperance rally, 5 July 1841.

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What route did the 1910 Cardiff to Yarmouth/Lowerstoft through coaches take?  I've just read part of the carriage register properly for the first time and it mentions that 6 diagram E87 Toplight Bars 1 brake composites were built specifically for that route.

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1 hour ago, Penrhos1920 said:

What route did the 1910 Cardiff to Yarmouth/Lowerstoft through coaches take?  I've just read part of the carriage register properly for the first time and it mentions that 6 diagram E87 Toplight Bars 1 brake composites were built specifically for that route.

 

Not a train that I have heard of. But if I can find my 1910 Bradshaw reprint, I will look for it.

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3 hours ago, Penrhos1920 said:

What route did the 1910 Cardiff to Yarmouth/Lowerstoft through coaches take?  I've just read part of the carriage register properly for the first time and it mentions that 6 diagram E87 Toplight Bars 1 brake composites were built specifically for that route.

Here's a poster from 1908:

image.png.efda073e3df26ae3318e0bcf6bdb453b.png

There is a lot more information here: https://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/gwrls3952.htm and here: https://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/leamington-south-junction.htm, although it only talks about services in 1908 and 1909.

 

Conceivably, your 1910 service went via a different route; Oxford-Cambridge would be a possibility.

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