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Holiday Trains in 1865

The railways of the nineteenth century were a major factor in the development of the holiday industry and resorts like Weston-super-mare owed their rise directly to the facilities afforded by rail travel. By 1865 there was a widespread railway network which provided more comfortable and rapid transport than ever was possible before. Although there were many competing railway companies they often combined to allow through passage and tempted likely passengers with tourist tickets generally valid for a month. Even so, through tickets were not always available and journeys could be wearisome; for example travel even from Carmarthen to London involved buying another ticket en route at Gloucester.

On the G.W.R. (Great Western Railway) main line there was a choice of travel: Express (fewer stops), 1st class and 2nd class; Ordinary, 1st class, 2nd class and 3rd class (penny a mile). Thus from New Milford (now Neyland) to Carmarthen Junction the Express 1st class fare was 9s. 0d., whereas the Ordinary fare was 5s. 6d. (1st class) and 3s. 4d. (3rd class). But where holiday travel was concerned it seems that only first and second class passengers were recognised; presumably those who normally bought third-class tickets were considered to be unable to afford holidays. In fact, only some trains carried third-class passengers; for instance, there were but two down trains from Paddington to Carmarthen Junction which catered for third-class travellers and these took some fourteen hours to do the journey, e.g. the 7.5 a.m. from Paddington reached Carmarthen Junction at 9.21 p.m. and the third-class single ticket cost 20s 5d. There were also only two trains for third-class passengers from Carmarthen Junction, namely the 8.59 a.m., which reached Paddington at 9 p.m., and the 12.50 p.m. But facilities for other classes were not very much better, the last train to Paddington being the mail train, which left at 6.27 p.m. and arrived at 4.35 a.m. No one, whatever class, could hope to make a day-trip to London, as the first train did not reach Paddington until 9 p.m., whereas the last train for Carmarthen left at 8.10 p.m.

Those affluent enough to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the G.W.R. timetable of 1865 had a wide choice, including an Irish holiday, which involved travelling to New Milford the remains of the landing-stage can still be seen at Neyland from where a Royal Mail steamer sailed for Waterford (Adelphi Wharf) to link with a westward train for Limerick and the Killarney Lakes.

A holiday in Wales could be a choice between the north and the south. Places advertised in South Wales included Cardiff, Neath and Swansea. The G.W.R. Timetable suggested that Carmarthen could be used as a terminal, where horse-drawn coaches were available, at the Ivy Bush Hotel, to travel to Aberystwyth, Brecon and Cardigan. Unmentioned was a rival company, the Carmarthen & Cardigan Railway, which operated from what is now known as Old Station Yard and travelled as far as Llandysul. Travel to Tenby - direct but bumpy coach ride was available by rail was still circuitous and involved a train journey via Whitland and Haverfordwest (conveyance for Fishguard from the Commercial Hotel, post-horses and other conveyance for St. Davids and Broad Haven) to New Milford, crossing the haven by ferry to Hobb's Point, an omnibus ride to Pembroke Dock station, whence a train completed the journey. But a direct rail link was achieved in 1866, when the Pembroke Dock & Tenby Railway was extended to Whitland.

A visit to North Wales meant a train journey to Corwen and thence by 'Cambria' coach to Bala, Dolgelly and Caernarvon, the second-class fare (including outside coach seat) from Carmarthen being 44s. 0d. Alternatively, the journey could be continued to Chester and from there by the Chester & Holyhead Railway (L.N.W.R). service to Rhyl (44s. 0d. return), Llandudno (45s. 0d.) or Holyhead (50s. 0d.). There was also a choice of three circular tours e.g. by train to Corwen and then by coach to Dolgelly and Caernarvon, returning by rail to Oswestry or Welshpool and Shrewsbury.

For 57s. 0d one could travel on holiday to Windermere to enjoy the scenery of the Lake District; this involved a change to the L.N.W.R. (London & North Western) at Crewe. Further afield, using the G.W.R., L.N.W.R. and Caledonian Railway companies, were Glasgow (86s. 0d.) and Edinburgh (88s. 6d). Yorkshire, via Crewe, offered the attractions of Scarborough (54s. 0d), Redcar (58s. 0d) and Harrogate (46s. 0d). The route to East Anglia went by the L.N.W.R. and the Great Eastern Railway via Didcot, Oxford, Bletchley and Cambridge; alternatively, via London to Yarmouth (75s. 0d). To visit the South Coast resorts still involved a journey to Paddington and transfer to London Bridge, Victoria or Ludgate Hill to entrain for Brighton (68s. 0d) Christchurch (for Bournemouth) (75s. 0d), Folkestone (76s. 6d) or Margate (72s. 6d). using either the London & South-Western, the London, Brighton & South Coast, or the London, Chatham & Dover Railways. There was even a trip to France via London and Dover to Calais, the fare from Carmarthen being 89s 0d. Possible, too was a visit to the Isle of Man via Liverpool and thence by sea at an all-in cost of 48s. 0d. Also listed were services to Guernsey and Jersey.

In 1865 there was no Severn Tunnel to carry the railway and the journey to the West Country involved a ferry crossing at New Passage before continuing by train to Bristol and proceeding by way of the Bristol & Exeter or the South Devon & Cornwall Railway to get to Torquay (33s. 0d) Dawlish (32s. 0d), Weston (17s. 6d.) or Ilfracombe (44s. 0d). The latter destination involved a change at Taunton to board a coach for Lynton and continuing to Ilfracombe the following morning; the fare included an outside seat on the coach and all fees to coachmen and guards.

Inland spas included Malvern (25s. 0d.) and Buxton (44s. 0d.) served by the Midland Railway. The Welsh spas like Llandrindod Wells did not really develop until late in the century.

Almost all these services were far beyond the means of the working man with a weekly wage of less than a pound, but even he was catered for in a modest way in the summer of 1865. In June of that year a new Sunday afternoon service to Ferryside was introduced. The train, available to 1st, 2nd and 3rd class passengers, left Carmanthen Junction at 2.30 p.m. and returned at 7 p.m., the third class fare being 6d. each way, children (between 3 and 12 years old) half-fare, and babes free.

* * *

The foregoing has been written up from information researched by the late Mr. T. L. Evans, B.A., of the Queen Elizabeth Boys' Grammar School, Carmarthen. Editor.


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