Welcome to the glamorous world of Named Expresses
FOR any enthusiast who fell in love with railways during the 1950s and early ’60s, named expresses will almost certainly hold a fascination. Children’s picture books in that era contained paintings and other colourful illustrations of famous trains such as ‘The Royal Scot’ and the ‘Atlantic Coast Express’ steaming through idyllic, sun-kissed countryside.
On some main lines, it was possible to witness a procession of headboards bearing names that hinted at romantic and glamorous far-off destinations, such as the ‘Golden Arrow’ and the ‘Cornish Riviera’.
It was an exciting time to be a rail enthusiast and a rewarding time to be a passenger, for it was clear that the railways were going out of their way to add a touch of quality to an otherwise austere post-war scene. This encyclopaedia is a fully revised, updated and enlarged version of a directory that appeared in The Railway Magazine as a four-part series over the winter of 2011/12 (issues 1,327, 1,329, 1,330 and 1,331). It contains numerous new photographs and several additional minor train names it was not possible to include in the previous series due to lack of space. It is thus by far and away the most comprehensive directory of British titled trains ever published. The few books dedicated solely to the subject in the past have all featured only selections of trains, while other forms of media have compiled only lists, without descriptions.
This book contains no fewer than 360 seperate entries (well over 400 if the miscellaneous listings are included) and provides an invaluable record of Britain’s railway heyday. It is also a celebration of the wonderful era when almost every major British city had its own prestige service to London. More often than not, the title of the train would reflect some aspect of that city’s history or individuality (e.g. ‘The Master Cutler’ (Sheffield), ‘The Mayflower’ (Plymouth), ‘The Robin Hood’ (Nottingham), ‘The Granite City’ (Aberdeen) and ‘The Mary Rose’ (Portsmouth).
Then there were the Pullmans – opulent, prestigious, glamorous, luxurious. Until the early 1960s, these cars were privately owned and contained table lamps, curtains and polished veneer. They excited schoolboy spotters on the lineside and turned a train ride from a mere journey into an unforgettable experience. The habit of referring to a train by a name dates back to the 1840s with the ‘Irish Mail’ and the ‘Flying Dutchman’, but it wasn’t until 1876 that the first officially-sanctioned train title appeared with the ‘Granville Special Express’. Even after that, it was to be several more decades before the idea of train-naming really took off in a big way in the 1920s.
úThe Railway Magazine has previous involvement in this subject, having helped the Great Western Railway name the ‘Cornish Riviera Express’ by way of an exclusive readers’ competition in the Edwardian era, more than 100 years ago. It has also faithfully recorded the remarkable rise and fall of the train-naming phenomenon in Great Britain, there now being a mere handful of titles left in service.
Although carriage roofboards had been carried on some trains since the Victorian era, the physical attachment of a name to the front of a locomotive on a regular basis is not thought to have occured until a couple of years before the First World War when the North British Railway began attaching a headboard to the ‘Fife Coast Express’ and ‘Lothian Coast Express’. A few more trains began to be named (some only semi-officially), but the practice did not really begin to take off until the 1920s when the ‘Flying Scotsman’ – informally christened as far back as 1862 – was granted sanctioned status by the LNER by way of coach roofboards and a locomotive headboard.
The LNER, explaining that its decision was “partly to systemise unofficial references and partly to recognise and cultivate public interest”, added ‘The Aberdonian, the ‘Night Scotsman’ and the ‘Scarborough Flyer’ to its repertoire on January 1, 1927. The LMS followed suit that summer and that started a welcome spate of train naming by all ‘Big Four’ companies… but it all came to a sudden halt in August/September 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War. Only a tiny handful of trains retained their official identities during the conflict. Although 1927 had seen more titles launched than any other year, the golden age was not the 1920s or ’30s, but the British Railways era of the 1950s. In its first 12 years, BR doubled the number of named services by launching more than 40 new titles and relaunching many more. In so doing, it produced a new design of attractive curved-edged headboards and the regular use of such embellishments on all six BR Regions provided the nation’s crack expresses with a much higher public profile.
The headboards that identified those trains have come to mean a lot to the generation of enthusiasts who grew up with them and such embellishments now change hands for substantial sums at railwayana auctions. One of the finest displays of plates can be seen covering an entire wall at the National Railway Museum (see picture above). Although a nationalised industry, BR didn’t enforce rigid standardisation on this aspect of its business and allowed the Southern Region (and to a lesser extent the London Midland) to have rectangular and circular headboards too.
Today, most of that colourful character has been lost from the railways, largely because of the intensive use of fixed formation rolling stock. No longer is it possible to keep an expensive set of coaches aside for just one or two journeys a day; trains are more standardised and must be able to deputise for a classmates at short notice. They’re also often uniformly timed these days, so have no claim to a distinctive name that would set them apart from their slower brethren.
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Introduction - page 4
Guidance notes - page 8
A to z listings of passenger trains - page 10
Brand names - page 20
Club trains - page 26
South western boat trains - page 27
Titled trains and tank engines - page 51
Holiday trains and excursions - page 57
International named trains - page 67
The best year - page 80
Named freight trains - page 81
Pullmans that weren’t - page 83
Land cruises - page 96
Irish named trains - page 111
The demise of titled trains - page 114