July 4th, 2012

Hypothetical UK to Europe train trip in 1913

Where/When: England (and France) in 1913

Googled: "uk train routes history 1913", "trainspotting early 20th century", "trainspotting forums uk", "bradshaw train schedule 1913" and a bunch of other permutations.

I'm thinking of writing a story wherein a young couple decides to travel from the West Midlands to Paris for a honeymoon, and I'd like to find out as much as possible about what their trip might be like.

They'd be leaving from a small village in Herefordshire, and doing so impulsively, maybe late at night. I initially wondered how often trains would be running out of their tiny town, if one would be hard to get or if they'd have to wait till morning. A source I have says "The earliest trains were very early - milk trains to get milk into towns in time to be sold in the morning. I think they were something like 5 am. I have a feeling the 'Parliamentary Trains' were still running; trains with very cheap fares but at very unpopular times for travelling, like the small hours of the morning." If anyone can confirm or deny that, I'm all ears.

The next legs of the trip seem like they might be something like Hereford --> London --> Dover --> boat to Calais --> train to Paris. If that is indeed the likely arrangement, I was wondering things like

  • how long each leg of the trip would take
  • what their car or compartment might be like (what kinds of sleeper accommodations could you buy on trains back then? Were the rates prohibitive for all but the rich?)
  • dining arrangements, what might be served (I'm getting kind of ambitious with that one)
  • anything else that would have to do with the experience and character of the trip.

The more details I have, the more scenarios and plot possibilities will suggest themselves to me. In theory.  Also, I'm a Yank whose experience in England has been limited to London and Stonehenge, so don't worry about over-explaining. You probably can't.