John Speller's Web Pages Named Expresses

John Speller's Web Pages

Named Expresses


It is curious that the Great Western Railway seemed to forget its original main line once the Reading to Taunton direct line opened in 1906. Most of the GWR's energy seems to have been directed to Devon and Cornwall, with trains like the Cornish Riviera and Torbay Express. It seems that it was only the centenary of the Great Western Railway in 1935 that reminded the powers that be that the London to Bristol was their original main line, and that furthermore Bristol was a more important city than anywhere else in the south west. Hence the non-stop "Bristolian," introduced in 1935. Rather strangely, the up and down trains ran on different route - the down train by the original GWR main line with an average speed of 67.6 m.p.h. The up train operated via the slightly shorter and somewhat faster Badminton line, but very perversely to the same 1 hour schedule, which meant that it actually ran at a lower average speed over the faster line. That sort of thing was typical of the era when Sir James Milne was General Manager. Surely nothing like this could have happened in the days of Sir Felix Pole. Here is a fine video of the "Bristolian" in 1958.

Cambrian Coast Express

As mentioned on the Cambrian Railways website, this express was introduced in 1921 as a joint venture of the Great Western Railway and Cambrian Railways, but it was not until 1927, six years after the takeover of Cambrian Railways by the GWR, that it was named the "Cambrian Coast Express." At this point it was running from Paddington to Aberystwyth. The lines beyond Shrewsbury could not take the weight of a "Castle" Class locomotive, so various 4-4-0s were used, including Collett's "Dukedog" Class. The lower axle-loads of the "Manor" Class finally enabled 4-6-0 locomotives to be used after 1938.

Two other named trains ran in collaboration with other companies. One of these was the Ports to Ports Express which ran from Newcastle to Cardiff via York, Sheffield Victoria, Leicester Central, Banbury, Gloucester and Newport. This was a collaboration between the North Eastern, Great Central and Great Western Railways, and was later extended to Barry via the Barry Railway. The other named express was a collaboration between the Midland and Great Western Railways. This was the Devonian which ran from Bradford to Kingswear via Leeds, Sheffield, Derby, Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter, Torquay, and Paignton. Another express introduced by Sir Felix Pole was the only Pullman train ever to run on the Great Western Railway. This was named the Torquay Pullman and was introduced in 1929, about the same time as the Cheltenham Flyer. It sadly proved to be very short-lived, being taken off by Pole's successor, Sir James Milne, after a mere two years.

A list of expresses with nicknames in 1904 also includes the following: "The Owl," 12.00 midnight ex-Paddington, later known as "The Milk," and now as "The Night Riviera;" "The Afghan, Paddington to Chester; "The Flying Welshman," Paddington to Fishguard; and "The North Star," Paddington to Birkenhead. In 1898 the Pall Mall Gazette commented that "the Great Western is deserving of much praise for the great things it has done in the way of corridor carriages and dining-cars, especially for the way in which corridor coaches for first-, second-, and third-class passengers are liberally provided ; the " Cornishman " and " Flying Welshman " trains being unsurpassed in the matters of convenience and comfort."

The Goods Department was not to be outdone and a number of goods trains were also given nicknames: "The Irishman," Paddington to New Milford; "The Cherbourg," Basingstoke to Oxley; "The Fly," Paddington to Didcot; "The Stoney," Portobello to Corsham; "The Old Man," Paddington to Oxley; "The Biscuit," Reading to Paddington -- Reading, being of course, the home of Huntley & Palmer's biscuit manufactory; "The Pig," Paddington to Exeter; and "The Concentrated," Paddington to Bristol.
The "Bristolian" in 1935 behind "King" Class locomotive No. 6027 "King Richard I"
The "Cambrian Coast Express" at Criccieth behind No. 7819 "Hinton Manor"
The short-lived "Torquay Pullman" behind a "Castle" Class Locomotive at Newton Abbot in 1930. A video of this train may be seen here
The "Flying Dutchman" in 1905 behind Churchward 4-4-0 No. 3433 "City of Bath"
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