The New York Times, June 6, 1897:|
ENGLISH RAILWAY TRAVELComforts and Discomforts Met with
in a Trip from London to Liverpool.
Comparison of American and English
Methods in Managing Railway Travel--
First-Class and Third-Class Compartments in the Same Car.
LIVERPOOL, May 22.--The Londoner is not only a careful saver of distances by cutting off corners, but a careful saver of breath as well, by abbreviating all the commonplace sentences that will bear it without danger of misunderstanding...
So in setting out for Liverpool a few days ago I had only to say "Euston" to the driver, and hear his reply of "Very good, Sir!" And away we went like the wind; and, although the distance was a good half mile, it seemed hardly five minutes before we were bowling between the big pillars in front of Euston Station, into the courtyard, and under the glass roof that makes the place tenable in all weathers.
And what happens when one reaches an English railway station? No experienced English traveler will ask any questions about Euston Station, but there are still several people in America who are not familiar with London and its ways. The first thing, then, that happens is the ever-present and ever-willing porter. He comes even before the shilling to cabby. He is on hand the moment the hansom stops, and next moment he has the satchel in his hand and the big coat over his arm, and waits patiently till cabby's little bill is paid.
"To the booking office" I tell him, which being translated means the ticket office, and away we go to the left into a large room, fenced off into offices, with many high partitions.
"What clawss, Sir?" the porter asks.
"First class" I tell him, and he stands by the ticket window while the clerk inside hands me out the smallest bit of pasteboard I ever received for a two-hundred-mile journey and return. The whole thing is not half as large as our American tickets, but thicker, and it is divided into two half sections by a perforated line through the middle. One half of the little card is for the outward journey, the other half for the return.
Then off porter and I start for the trainshed, where my train is standing, and porter hunts up a first-class smoking compartment and puts my things in it, and goes off well-satisfied with two or three pennies. And in a minute more I am walking up and down the long platform with a companion, who attracts as much attention from the waiting passengers as if he were the Lord Mayor in his robes. They fall back to make an open way for him, and stare at him well, and nudge one another with the elbow. All of which I am glad to see, as it goes to show that a prophet is not always without honor in his own country, for my companion is Hall Caine, and the people all seem to know him, and the staring does not disconcert him in the least.
British Compartment Cars.
And the trainshed? It is so much like one of our big ones in America that there is nothing to tell about it. Many tracks wide, many hundred feet long, roofed with an arch of glass, with platforms between the tracks, and the usual news stands, telegraph offices, and refreshment rooms. It all looks homelike, except the cars. They are so much smaller than ours, and so entirely different in shape, that they could not possibly be mistaken for Americans. But the American is likely to find himself mistaken in his estimate of them. Their comfort is not to be gauged by their size; they are as comfortable as so many Pullmans, barring the lack of space.
"Will you keep an eye on my luggage for a few moments?" I asked one of the platform porters.
"Aye, Sir," said he, with his finger to his cap. He was on the lookout for a job, and that was as good as another. The Englishman seems to leave his baggage lying about as if all men were strictly honest, but our check system deprives a man of that sort of confidence. A satchel in the hand is worth two in the bush.
There were various trains standing about, composed of many sorts of cars. Some were vestibuled trains, connecting saloon carriages, so that the passengers could move from car to car. The vestibuling arrangement looks more awkward on these cars than on ours on account of the small size of the cars. And what is a saloon carriage? perhaps you ask. It is a carriage made in one or two large compartments, with a table in the centre, and with very large windows, and with very soft cushions, and very good springs, the whole resembling a Pullman as much as this style of car will allow. And there were dining cars; and afterward, when under way, I saw people sitting in them eating as comfortably, apparently, as if they were on an American road.
Most people know, I suppose, that the first and third class passengers on these English roads travel not only in the same train, but in the same car. Second-class is very much out of vogue, though there are still second-class compartments, and corresponding tickets to be bought. The first compartment in a car is generally labeled third-class, because that is over the wheels. Then come two or three first-class compartments, in the middle of the car, where the motion is least felt, and another third-class compartment at the other end.
Third Class Cars and Passengers.
A third-class compartment on a good road like the London and North Western is not to be confused with what we call third-class or emigrant trains in America. The seats are well cushioned and upholstered, the floor carpeted, the windows clean, and everything snug and comfortable. It is no wonder that so many Englishmen travel third-class, particularly as going third-class here excites no such comment as would follow a well-to-do American's traveling in one of our cheap emigrant trains. It is one of those things an American has to learn here, that the third-class passenger is just "as good" a man, and is treated with the same consideration as the passenger who goes first-class. There is no odium attached to it.
Several things about the exterior of the cars aside from the smallness attracted my attention. One was the large number of "engaged" compartments. A party of five or six can send word a day or a few hours ahead, and have a compartment reserved for them, and that compartment is kept locked until they arrive. In such a case a sign "Engaged" is stuck to the inside of one of the windows, with the date and train written in, and the name of the party or some member of it...
...the British luggage van is a thing that no American can gaze upon for the first time without a creeping sensation--it looks so much like a funeral cortège... And it is bound up with iron bands to make it solid, and perhaps burglar-proof. And it has mysterious little slat windows for ventilation, and ponderous locks on the doors in the side. But it answers the purpose just as well as one of our larger and more pretentious baggage cars.
There are several railways between London and Liverpool, but the London and North Western had been recommended to me as the road that runs trains through in fast time and without change of cars. My train was the one that was to leave Euston at 10:10 o'clock in the morning and reach Liverpool at 2:35 o'clock in the afternoon--a schedule that for a trifle over 200 miles left nothing to be desired as to speed. And there were only two stops--the first at Rugby, the second at Crewe.
...The starting of an English railway train is another phase of English travel that is likely to surprise an American--starting, I mean, from a big terminal station. We all know what it means in our country; the hands of the big clock point to the precise moment, a gong taps somewhere in the distance, and the train moves off as smoothly as a sleigh gliding over frozen snow. And I am not prepared to say that the start is not just as smooth and just as prompt here, for this London and Northwestern is extremely prompt. But it is brought about in a different way. Something alarmingly like a big dinner bell is rung; that is the last warning to passengers; then a man runs out to the platform and waves a green flag at the engineer; that means go ahead. The whistle gives a shrill little blast, and porters run alongside the train slamming and fastening doors. She is off.
Very little time is wasted in getting out of town. The road runs through cuts and tunnels, and in a surprisingly short time the train is out among open fields, and there are high hills in the distance and hedges alongside, and in the foreground are suburban houses--some in rows, some detached. It does not take long to find that the track, or "the line," as they call it, is as good as the best we have in America, thoroughly ballasted with broken stone, and kept in prime order. Without being a railroad man, and judging only from a view through the car window, I should say they were about ninety-pound rails, and, with good solid joints, the train glided along as smoothly as one of our best expresses.
Beauty of Rural England.
...rural England is a very handsome country. The fields are green, the fences in good repair, the buildings well-kept. Here an old church... there an old brick building that must have stood for centuries, but still in good order, with little diamond-shaped panes in the windows as we see in pictures. Occasionally a thatched cottage, with tiny dormer windows peeping through the edge of the thatch. Nowhere a wagon road crossing the railway at grade. The line is absolutely free and clear, hedged in always, either with stone walls or iron fence...
I had a copy of The Times... The Times of Saturday had given some grave hints of the tremendous things President McKinley was going to do about Cuba, so I paid my 6 cents for The Times of Monday to see whether hostilities with Spain had begun. But there was only a brief dispatch from New York, saying that the President wasn't going to do anything after all...
...on one side of the compartment the seats did not go all the way across. An opening was thus left which led to a small door, and the small door on being opened disclosed a lavatory, with a shining metal basin, with running water, and water to drink, and all the little comforts that a traveler is likely to need on a long journey.
Precisely on time the train ran into the Lime Street Station, in Liverpool... and in ten minutes I had a local habitation in the Northwestern Hotel, which belongs to the railway company, and adjoins the station. A beautiful and comfortable journey from London was capped with a fine, large room in a hotel that is not only comfortable, but elegant. And not only elegant, but so cheap as to make one open his eyes. I have not found things so cheap in England as to give me any great surprise, but when a hotel quite equal in size and appointments to--well, say to the Fifth Avenue Hotel--gives you a big room, with a double bed and a fireplace and electric lights and bells, all for 4 shillings a day, or a little less than $1, I think it is worthy of mention...
The above is the 7th in a series of over 40 New York Times articles by reporter William Drysdale describing his European tour in 1897 and 1898. The 2nd article in the series can currently be read on the London News page, the 29th and 30th articles from the series on the Paris News page, and the 31st article from the series on the France News page.
Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine (1853-1931) was a popular British novelist.
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