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Ramsay
03-13-2014, 09:06 PM
I'm writing a historical romance novel set in early 20th century Britain. My main character has to travel to another part of the country to visit another main character. Instead of just saying "She rode the train," I thought it would be more interesting to actually describe the journey.


Here's an example. My story involves real historical people. C is traveling to see a friend of hers, W. W tells her in a letter to take the first train, and then transfer in another city for the train to W's. C will then arrive at about 5:30 at W's. How long was C traveling altogether? While waiting for her connecting train, she wrote a letter to her mother saying how tired she was. That implies she had to get up fairly early to catch the first train. How early? That, of course, will affect my story. If C arrives at W's exhausted, then she won't be in a mood to do much.

And what did C do during her layover? What did Edwardian train stations offer as amenities for their passengers?

And what was the train itself actually like? I've seen lots of trains in period dramas, but they usually show what looks like Second Class cars. C had a fair amount of money and so could travel First Class. What would that have been like?


Thank you so much in advance. :)

ULTRAGOTHA
03-13-2014, 09:12 PM
I googled "train schedule england 1910" and found this:

http://discover.ukdataservice.ac.uk/catalogue?sn=5234

And this:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bradshaws-Railway-Guide-April-1910/dp/0715342460

Try a google search for the year of your story.

mirandashell
03-13-2014, 09:51 PM
As for amenities, it depends on which station she is at.

Bing Z
03-13-2014, 11:20 PM
Can't go wrong with reading a book during a stopover, no? Works with any amenities. Best book choice is Bing Z's The Times bestseller "The Greatest Historical Romance of All Time: The Love Story of Cress and Harry -- The effect of Fierce Passion during a Dreary Sojourn on Human Population Growth."

Ramsay
03-14-2014, 07:09 AM
I googled "train schedule england 1910" and found this:

http://discover.ukdataservice.ac.uk/catalogue?sn=5234

And this:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bradshaws-Railway-Guide-April-1910/dp/0715342460

Try a google search for the year of your story.


Thank you! :) I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan. I remember a long time ago reading an annotated edition, and how the editor mentioned some railway guide that Holmes was always referencing. Now I know where to look.

ULTRAGOTHA
03-14-2014, 07:15 AM
Also, for books out of copyright, try looking at archive.org.

snafu1056
03-14-2014, 02:50 PM
Google books too. Lots of old books, manuals, magazines there

ULTRAGOTHA
03-14-2014, 04:44 PM
Many if not most of the books scanned by Google are also on archive.org. The ones the Internet archive scanned are much better quality than Google due to their hardware.

Bolero
03-14-2014, 08:11 PM
Search for preserved steam railways to get pictures and films of trains from your period. York Railway museum for one.

Incidentally is your character English? Because we'd say "took the train" or "caught the train" not "rode the train".

Further thoughts

I don't know that period particularly well but things to check are:

Would she have a maid servant with her to look after her luggage?

What would she be writing with and on? Were fountain pens invented by then, or is it still a dip the nib in a bottle of ink sort of writing? (She is unlikely to use pencil for a letter to her mother.) Would she have a small portable desk with her? (I joke not - a sloping topped wooden box - the period equivalent of a laptop though probably put on a table.)
Also - waiting rooms rather than on the platform.

Travelling clothes rather than best dress - soot from the trains. If you are going to do a train scene you will need to be very, very careful to get it right. There are a lot of train enthusiasts out there who will pick up on duff details.

Try looking for novels of the period with train journeys in them - as in ones written at the time not modern historical novels. No idea of ones to suggest but someone else might.

2nd further thought - there used to be Railway hotels associated with, or built at stations. Varied from something large and posh at a London mainline station to something for commercial travellers, next to the noisy sidings at a provincial station. Sometimes at the station, sometimes across the road. Would expect a large posh one to serve afternoon tea in the lounge - but that is just general feeling. If you do not have fixed destinations and stations in mind at this point, try doing general searches on railway hotels and the like and pick stations you can find info on. :)

Also - location. Is it near factories? Near an army depot? Near a naval base? A market town? Going to have rather different surroundings and transiting passengers. (For your background colour for depth.)

waylander
03-15-2014, 02:46 AM
Decent size stations in Edwardian times would certainly offer a waiting room and probably a restaurant for 1st class passengers.

Bolero
03-15-2014, 01:52 PM
Few other things to look up.

1. Railway companies - I think the country was still divided between private companies at that point and they would have different "livery colours" on the trains. Great Western Railway was brown and cream. Don't know the others.
There were also different London mainline stations - so Paddington was GWR but others belonged to other companies.

2. Railway carriage design - all sort out there - individual compartments carriage width with a door from the platform into the compartment.
No compartments but with door between each set of seats. Corridor with door at either end and either open sets of seats or compartments.
I would expect 1st class to have compartments.

3. Pretty stations - it was competitive (literally) and on branch lines for example, the station master (who lived in the house beside the station) would ensure that the place was freshly painted and also keep a couple or more flower beds on the platform prettily stocked.

Just bear in mind of course - and you may already have this in mind - if your character is accustomed to travelling by train, all this is normal. So when writing you'll have to be a little oblique to get in the colour for the modern reader. Things like the character not liking pink flowers in the flower bed, or thinking the station is not as well painted as it should be, or preferring the livery colours of GWR to LNER or whatever.

I think, and you'd want to check it, that it was advised to close the windows on stream trains when going through a tunnel as otherwise the soot from the engine, when confined by the tunnel, was a lot more likely to blow back in the open window.

The guards van on trains were used for parcel and small scale animal transport - so you'd see baskets of racing pigeons being loaded, or a pair of dogs for example.

waylander
03-15-2014, 03:24 PM
[QUOTE=Bolero;8759756]Few other things to look up.

1. Railway companies - I think the country was still divided between private companies at that point [QUOTE]

It was, nationalisation was in 1947. This would have been before even the consolidation into the 'big four'.