The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 9 (December 1, 1937.)
Our London Letter
Snow-plough of the L. and N.E. Railway on exposed route in County Durham.
Railway Prosperity In Britain.
Amerry Christmas to all our readers! Railwaymen everywhere have real reason for satisfaction in the results of their activities during the year now drawing to a close, and all may look forward with confidence to the months that lie ahead. A sure index to railway prosperity is found in the winter time-tables of the Home railways. In years gone by, when Old Man Depression stalked through the land, the winter passenger train services were often only a skeleton of the summer schedules. Now this is all changed, and on every main-line frequent and fast services are the order of the day.
Whether or not Europe is to “enjoy” an old-fashioned winter, with snow and ice everywhere abundant, remains to be seen. From the railwayman's viewpoint, severe climatic conditions are anything but welcome, for they naturally throw increased responsibility upon one and all. We are really very fortunate in Britain in this respect, for it is only on comparatively rare occasions, and on particularly isolated stretches of track, that such devices as the snow-plough have to be pressed into service. Scotland and Wales are two danger centres, where snow-ploughs are regularly required, and where special precautions have to be taken to keep the tracks clear.
Avalanche Protection Works.
Between the precipitous slope of Penmaenmawr Mountain, in Carnarvonshire, and the sea, engineers of the L. M. & S. Railway are busy at present on the task of rebuilding and strengthening the roof of a railway tunnel constructed specifically as a protection against avalanches. This tunnel extends in two sections, for 145 yards on the east side, and for 50 yards on the west side, of the main Penmaenmawr tunnel (itself 250 yards long) by which the main-line to Bangor and Holyhead passes through the seaward extremity of the Penmaenmawr Mountain. The avalanche tunnel has a roof of steel girders and timber, with a layer of earth above, extending from the sea-wall on one side of the railway, to the retaining-wall which supports the face of the mountain on the other. The tunnel roof is set at an angle of thirty degrees from the horizontal, so as to deflect an avalanche over the railway into the sea.
Associations with Dickens.
Of all our great writers, none portrayed the Christmas scene more humanly than Charles Dickens. We may, therefore, appropriately record in this issue, the thoughtful action of the L. & N.E. Railway in recently presenting as a gift to the nation a building having intimate associations with the author of “The Christmas Carol”—the famous old coaching inn known as “The George,” Southwark, London. “The George” is one of the two only remaining galleried coaching inns in Britain, and for the last sixty-odd years it has been used as a railway parcels depot. The Dickensian Tabard Players have on many occasions performed in the courtyard, by courtesy of the railway, and Dickens himself is known to have been a frequent visitor to “The George.” Actually, the history of the place goes back to pre-Reformation days, when an inn known as the “St. George” stood on the site. It was destroyed by fire in 1670 and rebuilt. The new building was gutted in the great Southwark fire of 1676, but again rebuilt, and this is the picturesque structure which stands on the site to-day.
Modern Carriage Shed at Euston.
As the first stage of the big scheme for the reconstruction of Euston Station, London, the L. M. & S. Railway is now constructing a large modern carriage shed and new carriage marshalling and storage sidings, on a site about seven miles outside Euston. The project, estimated to cost £400,000, involves the excavation and removal of some 295,000 cubic yards of material. The scheme will give additional accommodation for 600 coaches, while the new shed will make it possible for 200 coaches at a time to be prepared and equipped under cover, preparatory to being marshalled into trains for departure. Equipment of the most modern page 50 page 51 type will be provided for vacuum-cleaning, steam-heating and battery-charging, while bed-linen for the sleeping cars will be stored in heated linen-rooms. In connection with the carrying-out of this scheme, opportunity is being taken to increase the siding accommodation for the reception of freight trains from the Midlands and North at Sudbury Sidings, Willesden, thus easing the working of traffic in the London-bound direction.
Railway Rates and Fares in Britain.
While business has improved enormously on the Home railways, increased working costs are having to be met on every side. The Railway Rates Tribunal, therefore, has agreed to the companies' application for a five per cent, increase in charges, and this new rating basis is having the effect of improving the financial situation. The additional five per cent. charge applies both to freight rates and passenger fares. There are, however, certain exceptions, as, for instance, cheap workmen's tickets, suburban fares in the London area, and freight and coal traffic charged at less than tenpence per ton. Broadly speaking, Home railway charges compare most favourably with those in other lands. On the passenger side, “penny-a-mile” travel is still the rule, thanks to the operation of the special monthly return ticket rate. The basic first-class fare is one of 2 1/2d. per mile, and the third-class I ½d. per mile, but in practice by far the bulk of the business handled comes under various fare concessions, such as the monthly return ticket at one penny per mile, the weekend, and the day and half-day excursion bookings.
The famous “Irish Mail.”
Travel between Great Britain and Ireland is always heavy at this season, and at Christmas the railways of both Northern Ireland and the Free State expect record business. Probably the most favoured route to and from Erin's Isle is that provided by the L. M. & S. Railway, between Holyhead and Kingstown. Two sailings a day are afforded in each direction, the actual sea crossing being one of about three hours. Most famous of all Anglo-Irish train links is the “Irish Mail,” running between Euston Station, London, and Holyhead. On the Irish side, through services link Kingstown with every centre of importance. These latter connections are made by the comfortable trains of the Great Southern Railway of Ireland. Among the more frequented vacation haunts in Ireland are the beautiful cities of Belfast and Dublin; the far-famed Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland; St. Patrick's burial-place, Derry; the lakes and castle of Killarney; and last, but by no means least, the historic Blarney Stone. Northern Ireland is fortunate in being served by the London, Midland & Scottish Railway. Its beautiful beach resorts, the picturesque Glens of Antrim, and the lovely Mountains of Mourne, annually draw thousands of tourists.
European Train Ferries.
From time to time suggestions have been considered for the operation of train-ferries between England and Ireland, but for the present these appear to have been shelved. A great many train-ferries are included in the European transportation machine, and there are three ferries linking Britain with the continent. There is the Dover-Dunkirk passenger ferry, with a sea-crossing of 44½ miles; and the Hard-wich-Zeebrugge and Folkestone-Dunkirk freight ferries, with sea-crossings of 115 and 52½ miles respectively. The longest passenger train-ferry in Europe is that between Sassnitz and Trelleborg, connecting Germany with Sweden. This covers 66½ miles, the sea-crossing of the Baltic occupying about four hours. Denmark operates a greater number of train-ferries than any other European land, there being ten important railway ferries on the Danish State Railway system. In association with the Swedish State Railways, the Danish lines also maintain a vital ferry link between Copenhagen and Malmo, a distance of about 18 miles. In the extreme south of Europe there are two important train ferries operated by the Italian State Railways, and crossing the Straits of Messina to give connection with the Island of Sicily. These are respectively nine and five miles in length.