London’s Link with Europe and the Orient
IN BEAUTIFUL KENT. The Continental Express, near Hildenborough, on its daily journey between London and Dover.
OF all the throngs of passengers to be found on any station platform in the world,
that on the main departure platform at the eastern side of Victoria Station, between
Traffic from London to Paris was at one time the subject of fierce competition between
two competing railways -
Later, an amalgamation brought the South Eastern and Chatham Railway into being, and the one company then developed the traffic from London to the Continent. An even more comprehensive grouping followed in 1923, when the London and South Western and London, Brighton and South Coast lines joined the South Eastern and Chatham to form the Southern Railway, which now controls, on this side of the water, all railway services between England and France.
Of all the continental trains now running on this service probably the most famous
is the “Golden Arrow.” It is known all over the world. When the “Golden Arrow” was
first introduced, an all-
The first noticeable feature of this train is a long truck at the rear end, carrying
a row of large boxes, securely fastened to the wagon with chains, and with wide-
ARMCHAIR ACCOMMODATION is provided for each traveller in these Pullman coaches of the “Golden Arrow”, which is hauled by a locomotive of the “Lord Nelson” class.
At the head of the train will be found one of the fine four-
Racing the “Brighton Belle”
On the stroke of eleven the last goodbyes are said, the driver opens his regulator,
and the seventy-
The line rises at 1 in 61 out of Victoria on to the Grosvenor Road Bridge over the Thames. With a train of such weight as the “Golden Arrow” assistance is necessary, not so much to prevent the express engine from “stalling” on the incline, as to get the heavy train clear of the section as quickly as possible. So the tank engine which brought the empty coaches into the terminus pushes helpfully in the rear. When the bridge is reached the tank engine is released. Meanwhile the all Pullman “Brighton Belle”, which has left the other side of Victoria terminus at the same moment, has probably passed the “Golden Arrow”, thanks to the better acceleration provided by electric power.
Once across the Thames, the “Golden Arrow” gathers speed, but many miles must elapse before high speeds can be run. This particular exit from London is a difficult one; it entails mile after mile of almost continuous climbing until Knockholt has been passed. First comes the two mile stretch, mostly at 1 in 95, from Herne Hill up to Sydenham Hill; then, after the express has plunged downwards through Penge Tunnel under the Crystal Palace, speed must be reduced over the curves past Kent House and Beckenham. At Shortlands climbing begins again at 1 in 100 for three miles up to the junctions at Bickley, then round the curves up on to the old South Eastern main line at Pett’s Wood; and then on flatter gradients, but still steadily upward, until at last, 18½ miles out of London, Knockholt summit has been breasted. Further complication is caused by the fact that the “Golden Arrow” has so far had to take its turn in a busy electric train service that calls at all stations and uses the same tracks.
OUTWARD BOUND. Immediately the passengers arrive at Dover they embark on a cross-
A tempting downhill stretch lies ahead. Through Polhill Tunnel, over a mile long,
the train swings down to Dunton Green, probably attaining about sixty-
At a fraction over fifty miles from Dover, the time remaining in which to complete
the journey is probably little, if at all, more than fifty minutes. But the rest
of the course is admirably suited to high-
From here the line is all downhill to Dover. Folkestone is passed at speed, and from
the high viaduct over the town passengers get their first glimpse of the sea. The
train speeds through the Warren -
A short stretch of line along the beach at Dover, curving sharply round to the right,
and then the Dover Marine Station is reached -
The Channel crossing need not be described at length, as we are more particularly
concerned with the railway features of the journey. Once clear of the harbour at
Dover, our comfortable steamer rapidly forges her way across, the chalk cliffs of
Kent gradually fading away behind us, while the high coast-
It was, in fact, the title of the French train that gave the name to the service.
Various intriguing titles have been found for the French Pullman services, such as
Etoile du Nord (North Star) and Oiseau Bleu (Blue Bird) for the all-
Romance at Calais
The Fléche d'Or standing on the quay at Calais is almost a symphony of brown, cream,
Continental rolling stock, in comparison with British, is very heavy; a restaurant
car weighs 54 to 56 tons, a sleeping-
This arouses curiosity concerning the locomotive about to perform so herculean a
task without assistance. From the ground, as there are no platforms to detract from
its size, the engine seems to have excessive height; but the French have more space
above rail -
AT CALAIS the passengers are transferred to the Paris Express, seen here on the quay
of the Gare Maritime. On the sides of the Pullman cars are painted arrows of gold.
Some of the sleeping-
To British eyes the first appearance of a French locomotive comes as something of a shock. It seems to carry a large proportion of its internal economy spread in the form of parts of various shapes and sizes, pipes, and rods, all over its exterior. Appearance is obviously a secondary consideration; but it must be conceded that these various parts are more readily accessible, for maintenance and repairs, than when they are stowed away somewhere inside the locomotive.
The Northern Railway of France, or “Nord” for short, has four families of “Pacifics”.
All their numbers start with the figure “3”, indicating that the engine concerned
has three driving axles coupled. There are, first of all, three successive developments
of the original “Pacific” series, each larger and more powerful than its predecessors.
The fourth series, however, is altogether different. After long and patient research,
French Driving Artistry
To make the “Golden Arrow” journey in an appropriate Nord atmosphere, it may be assumed,
as is most probable, that the engine at the head of the “Golden Arrow” is one of
the third series of Nord “Pacifics” -
French drivers are artists in the manipulation of their two independent sets of valve-
THE PARIS EXPRESS. An interior view showing the accommodation provided on the Pullman
cars in service between Calais and Paris. Forty of these de-
Before the “right-
France’s Speed Limit
On the stroke of 2.30 pm the driver opens his regulator, and the “Golden Arrow” slowly
makes its way round the curves leading off the quay. The characteristic shriek of
a French locomotive whistle is heard frequently as a series of level crossings is
negotiated. The train passes through the town station and the railway yards beyond.
There is little chance to accelerate to any high speed, as immediately beyond Les
Fontinettes the train begins to climb. For seven miles the engine has to mount an
unbroken grade at 1 in 125 -
The driver knows exactly when his limit has been reached by the fact that every express
locomotive in France is fitted with a speed indicator. The indicator is self-
The “Golden Arrow” arrives at the Gare du Nord at 5.40 pm, six hours and forty minutes after its departure from Victoria. This photograph shows the train which leaves Paris for Calais on the return journey.
After having passed through a series of tunnels and the Tintelleries Station at Boulogne,
the Outreau curve is reached. Even if the speed here should be fifty miles an hour,
the traveller need have no fear, as it is possible, with the safeguard of the speed
record, to fix the limits on curves at the full figure that they will safely bear.
At the Bifurcation d'Outrean, or Outreau Junction, the line from Boulogne Quay and
Town Station is joined, and 156 miles of first-
A NORD “SUPER-
There is a short climb beyond Boulogne to a summit point near a station called Neufchatel,
after which comes a swift descent to Etaples, where speed is moderated to about sixty
miles an hour for the long curve which sweeps through the station. Now follows a
stretch of line which is practically dead level for fifty miles. Here the wonderful
tractive effort of these Nord “Super-
Descending from Gannes to Creil, the “Golden Arrow” slows slightly over the Creil
junctions, where there comes in from the north the main route over which the principal
Nord feats of speed are performed. The final climb of the journey lies ahead. Mounting
past Chantilly to the fourth summit, at Survilliers, this time up a continuous 1
in 200 gradient, equal in inclination to that of the LNER main line from Wood Green
up to Potter’s Bar, the locomotive maintains fifty to fifty-
At 5.40 pm, The “Golden Arrow” rolls proudly into the Gare du Nord at Paris, depositing its passengers in the French capital six hours and forty minutes after their departure from Victoria.
A big Nord tank locomotive is attached to the blue sleeping-
Next day another set of sleeping-
At ten minutes past midday the northbound “Arrow” receives the “right-
Shortly before five o’clock the steamer berths at the Admiralty Pier, Dover; a “Lord
Nelson” locomotive is waiting on the quay with the truck for the luggage-
“LORD NELSON”, LOCOMOTIVE No. 850, the first engine of a class of that name, is one of the most powerful express engines on the Southern Railway. This picture shows No. 850 on a single track near Petts Wood, Kent, near the junction with the old South Eastern and Chatham Railway’s main line.
“HOWARD OF EFFINGHAM”, LOCOMOTIVE No. 854, another famous engine of the “Lord Nelson” class, is here shown hauling the “Golden Arrow” through Bickley Station in Kent.
[From part 8, published 22 March 1935]