To all those, myself included, who were wondering about second class rail travel in the UK. Well, thanks to the wonders of the internet I’ve discovered that the Railway Regulation Act 1844 laid down minimum standards for travel and provided compulsory services that had to be available at prices affordable to poorer people to enable them to travel to work, or to find work. At this time there were three classes of carriage, first, second and third, with third being little more than open goods wagons, often without even seats. Apparently there was occasionally a fourth class though given the standard of third, I can’t think what fourth might have been like.
The 1844 act determined that one train with provision for third class passengers should run on every line, every day, in each direction, stopping at every station. These trains became known as Parliamentary Trains. Another stipulation was that third class passengers should be protected from the weather and should have seats. Of course, annoyed at the money lost by the reduction of first and second class passengers that could be carried on these trains, some companies got round the regulations by running the Parliamentary Trains either very early in the morning or late at night – not helpful to those travelling for work.
In 1875 standards for third class were upgraded and, because provision of third class was a legal necessity, second class was done away with, but at a time when class distinctions were still very rigid, there was an outcry, believing the changes would foster less distinction between social classes and more equality! Difficult to believe, though it explains some attitudes today.
Now apparently we only have one class – standard. Shows how long it is since I last travelled by train.