Second demise

The blue train is now leaving

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.


About jingsandthings

I am me. What do I like? Colour Shapes Textures Paintings, photographs, sculptures, woven tapestries, wonderful materials. The love of materials probably comes from my father who was a textile buyer, and I grew up hearing the names of mills and manufacturers which sounded magical and enticing. Glass in all its soft and vibrant colours and flowing shapes, even sixties glass which makes its own proud statement. A book I can immerse myself in. Meals with family or friends with lots of chat and laughter (and probably a bottle or two of wine). The occasional trip abroad to experience the sights, sounds, food, conversation, quality of light and warmth of other countries. To revel in differences and be amazed by similarities. I like to create and to experience, to try and to achieve. And then there are words – read, heard, written at my keyboard, or scrawled on sticky notes, or along the edges of dog-eared supermarket receipts excavated from the unexplored nooks of my handbag. What do I dislike? Cold Snow Bad design Fast food Condescension
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10 Responses to Second demise

  1. bebs1 says:

    Our Amtrak has a business class. I’ve tried several times to get into it but it is always sold out. I think there is not much difference to the regular – only wider seats maybe. But they also have the sleeper for long trips. I like traveling by trains, it is more convenient for me than taking the bus.

    • Many parts of Scotland are not served by the rail network, and in the area where I stay the nearest bus is seven miles away, so cars are a necessity. America is a far larger landmass than here, so I would imagine your railways have to offer the type of long-distance facilities expected if they are to compete with air travel. Our new rail line, which will again link us with Edinburgh, opens in September. Unfortunately it is too far from us (about 14 miles over hills) to make it a useful link, but the hope is that it will bring more visitors to the area.

  2. mybrightlife says:

    This is so interesting. We where recently at a museum of sorts and my eldest pointed out 1st and 3rd class or something to that effect, noting the missing ‘class’. Being a British Colony at the time we no doubt shared a similar history in this regard. I can’t remember the exact details but will have her remind me shortly and explore more. Great to read your posts as always.

    • Interesting that second class is missing elsewhere too. You are probably right about the colony thing – most probably followed (or had to follow!) what was decreed in the UK.

      Recently I’ve been writing a story for a competition which has a theme of ‘class’, and although, in Scotland certainly, there is a feeling that many (though by no means all) class barriers have become less rigid, when I thought about the theme and started writing I was actually quite surprised how the whole class system still lingers in some obvious, and very many not so obvious, little ways. I found it really fascinating.

      • mybrightlife says:

        The great social divides – class, race, even culture. Very hot topic this side of the world at the moment. All forms of separation and segregation. How much damage have they caused over the course of human history? Very interesting…must have been very interesting research.

  3. The same topics are also headlining here with debates over immigration and poverty, growing child poverty and food banks, impoverished people jumping onto lorries at Calais to cross the Channel in the hope of a better, more secure life. And the ongoing debate over Greece – more bailouts or not, how the country can best be helped back onto its feet, the role of banks and financiers, and whether the whole Euro project has been damaged by recent shenanigans.

  4. Chris says:

    So interesting. But doesn’t the human race so often disappoint? So greedy.
    “. . .got round the regulations by running the Parliamentary Trains either very early in the morning or late at night.”

    • Greed and austerity ar two big topics of conversation here at present with the rise of the number of children living in poverty and of food banks. Changing timings was common, as many other such ‘tweaks’ to the norm still are in order for one faction to gain the upper hand over another. All part of the ‘game’ of politics and business.

      • Chris says:

        I think those are the topic of conversation pretty well everywhere. Unfortunate. Would be nice if they weren’t in the picture at all.

  5. Absolutely…though it would leave us without so many topics to moan about.

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