Harwich 'boat trains'

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43074

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I am currently researching the history (since railways began) of the interesting group of cross-country services to East Anglia for an article in my blog, and am looking for information regarding the history of cross-country boat train services from destinations West of Peterborough to Harwich.

I understand Harwich Parkestone Quay station opened in 1883 by the Great Eastern Railway, however I would be interested to know when the first long distance boat train services (i.e. not from London Liverpool Street, but via Bury St Edmunds) were introduced, from which year and which company were responsible for the operation of these services, and which routes they operated using. I would also be grateful of any other information members may have including names carried, times or days of operation and which routes were taken.

Many thanks in advance.
 
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anglia.rail

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I haven't been around long enough to know dates, but I believe AngliaRailways, and also regional railways prior to them, operated these. I understand Wikipedia isn't always correct, but I searched these Boat Trains and found this....
Regional Railways - 'Harwich Parkeston Quay continued to have locomotive hauled InterCity services running to both London and the north via Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Ely and Peterborough (mostly Manchester and Glasgow). These were mainly hauled by Class 47s to the north (though other classes such as class 45s were also used) and Class 37s and 47s to London though once the Mayflower line was electrified Class 86's replaced the 37s and 47s, but these were in turn replaced by Dutchflyer services. The locomotive hauled services to the north were replaced by diesel multiple units and truncated to Peterborough'. More at http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harwich_International_railway_station under the section 'History' and 'historic rail'
 

Ash Bridge

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My memories of the Harwich-Manchester Piccadilly Boat during the early 1970s are of mainly class 37 haulage and on occasion a class 47, Peak or class 40 and only once did I witness a class 31. The train at the time was also famous for its buffet car, an ex LNER Gresley teak body vehicle in blue/grey Intercity livery! I think Northbound the head code was 1M72 and the return service 1E87.
 

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Hornet

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http://www.google.ie/url?sa=t&rct=j...n4H4Bw&usg=AFQjCNGhSTy0IGl-xGvKh23JsWnmH30iOQ

'Page 31

nections with main line trains to and from London, and to and from the GER Norwich, Yar¬mouth and Lowestoft services. .
From 1900 to 1914 the GER ran through ser¬vices from Peterborough to Yarmouth. At one time through carriages for Doncaster were attached to the Yarmouth-Peter borough service at March from Liverpool Street. One famous service to use the GER route was the 'North Country Con¬tinental', a GER venture of 1885.The original route was via Doncaster and the GNR/GER joint line to and from York. From 1892 the portion of the Harwich Boat Train which connected with the 'North Country Continental' at March consisted of through carriages which ran to and from Birming¬ham via Rugby and Peterborough. In 1910 the up Harwich express left Peterborough (GER) at 11.15am and ran non stop to Rugby arriving at 11.21. The train continued to Birmingham arriv¬ing at 12.11. The down service left Birmingham New Street at 4pm and ran via Rugby (depart 5.10) to Peterborough arriving at 6.30. This train was then the only regular express service on the Peterborough-Rugby line.
During the 1920s and 1930s the two through carriages were usually attached to a non-corridor set at Rugby which formed the ordinary service train to Peterborough. For a time during the mid 1920s and during the 1930s, while the Eastbound train continued to run via Wansford, the Westbound service was re-routed via Stamford and Seaton Junction. This service was the only train of the day that ran from Peterborough East to Spital Bridge so avoiding the Peterborough North Platform roads and the GNR main line.
Since the 1930s the boat train has been re¬routed several times. Prior to 1973 the service, which ran between Manchester Piccadilly and Harwich, was routed via Sheffield, Retford, Gainsborough, Lincoln, Sleaford, Spalding and March. As the joint line stations did not contribute much traffic, from 7 May 1973 the train was redirected to run via major towns and cities. The route was Manchester Piccadilly, Sheffield Midland, Nottingham, Grantham and Peter¬borough.
In November 1982 plans were announced to extend the service to and from Scotland and the northwest. Trains to and from Glasgow would run via Carlisle, Preston and Manchester Victoria. It would then be possible to travel between Amsterdam and Glasgow in just under 20hrs. 'The European' was introduced with the new timetable in May 1983.
From Peterborough up to the approach to London the line was fast and straight with a ruling gradient, except near London, of 1 in 200. This, therefore, encouraged fast running. In the 1850s the best timings to Peterborough fell steadily from 150 to 100min. For a few months in 1864 the lOam 'Scotsman' covered the 76.4 miles in 95min. By 1867 regular expresses made the journey in 97min. Due to competition with shorter rival routes, the fastest trains were the Manchester expresses which in 1857 took about 95min, but only 86min by 1895. In 1888 came the races to the north with the consequent lightening of loads and acceleration of timings. However, probably the fastest recognised journey time before 1900 was achieved in the races to Aberdeen. On 21 August 1895 No 668, with 101 ton behind it, reached Peterborough only 72min after leaving King's Cross.
In the 1890s Peterborough was fortunate in having an excellent express service to and from London. Of the 24 expresses that daily ran non stop some covered the distance between 85 and 94min. The best train to King's Cross was the 7.54pm ex-Manchester, which took 81min. The famous 'Mark Lane' express, which in 1895 left Peterborough at 9.12am, took 88min to reach London. A popular return service was the 5.50pm, which in earlier years had departed King's Cross at 5.45 and before that at 5.30.'
 
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I've attached some scans which give snapshots of the routes & timetables during the British Railways era for 1949/50, 1960, 1970 and 1973.

The 1973 timetable shows the re-routing via Derby & Nottingham instead of Lincoln & Spalding.
 

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43074

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I haven't been around long enough to know dates, but I believe AngliaRailways, and also regional railways prior to them, operated these. I understand Wikipedia isn't always correct, but I searched these Boat Trains and found this....
Regional Railways - 'Harwich Parkeston Quay continued to have locomotive hauled InterCity services running to both London and the north via Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Ely and Peterborough (mostly Manchester and Glasgow). These were mainly hauled by Class 47s to the north (though other classes such as class 45s were also used) and Class 37s and 47s to London though once the Mayflower line was electrified Class 86's replaced the 37s and 47s, but these were in turn replaced by Dutchflyer services. The locomotive hauled services to the north were replaced by diesel multiple units and truncated to Peterborough'. More at http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harwich_International_railway_station under the section 'History' and 'historic rail'

Ah yes, wikipedia - I hadn't seen this when looking myself so thank you for posting this!

My memories of the Harwich-Manchester Piccadilly Boat during the early 1970s are of mainly class 37 haulage and on occasion a class 47, Peak or class 40 and only once did I witness a class 31. The train at the time was also famous for its buffet car, an ex LNER Gresley teak body vehicle in blue/grey Intercity livery! I think Northbound the head code was 1M72 and the return service 1E87.

Thanks for sharing :) I didn't know there were ex LNER Gresley teak bodied vehicles still operational in the 70s and 80s...


Exactly the sort of information I was looking for, thank you very much for sharing :) Fascinating.

I've attached some scans which give snapshots of the routes & timetables during the British Railways era for 1949/50, 1960, 1970 and 1973.

The 1973 timetable shows the re-routing via Derby & Nottingham instead of Lincoln & Spalding.

Thank You for doing this, it's not really surpising it was re-routed by Sheffield/Nottingham & Grantham instead of Retford & Lincoln really, I can't imagine the Joint Line would have generated much traffic at all.

sometime in the late 80's the European ran via WCML and NLL

Interesting, do you know what traction was used on these services and did they changeover anywhere? Thanks for sharing.
 

tjlrailblue

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There was an article on this in traction magazine last year I think or maybe year before that

Tim
 

306024

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Testing my memory but I'm sure the European was class 86 hauled throughout, but with a 47 dragging the train from Camden Road to Willesden. Can't remember how much of the NLL was electrified with overheads back then.
 
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......... Interesting, do you know what traction was used on these services and did they changeover anywhere? Thanks for sharing.

Speaking of traction changes (but maybe not the ones you were thinking of), back in the days when the train ran via Woodhead, it would have been electrically hauled across the Pennines from the mid-1950s until January 1970.

Until some time in the 1960s (don't know the date), the Harwich train ran to/from Liverpool Central via the CLC line and Manchester Central. I believe it didn't call at Warrington Central and used the direct "straight line" between Sankey & Padgate.

At Manchester Central the train reversed and proceeded via the Fallowfield Loop through the south Manchester suburbs to Guide Bridge. After electrification of the Woodhead line, a 1500V DC Class 76 or 77 electric would take it between Guide Bridge and Sheffield Victoria.

Sometime in the 1960s, with the run-down of the Central stations in Liverpool & Manchester, the train was truncated at Manchester Piccadilly. It would have been electrically hauled throughout from Piccadilly to Sheffield Victoria.

From January 1970, all passenger services via Woodhead were diverted onto the Hope Valley line to Sheffield Midland, and diesel traction would then have been used throughout.

Another anecdote from BR diesel days:-
The rollingstock and locos allocated were based on the Eastern Region - they basically did an out-and-back daily trip to Manchester.
Sometimes when a smart silver-roofed Stratford Class 47 was sent out, this was "stolen" for a couple of days in Manchester, with some scruffy heap of junk from Longsight sent back to Harwich with the return working.
 

St Rollox

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Certainly was never offered a ticket on a direct train from Glasgow to Harwich back in 1983.
Did the Glasgow/Amsterdam journey a few times back before and after 1983.
Always via London Liverpool St.
 

Darren R

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The European was operating by May 1985 (the earliest timetable I can find at the moment), running via Manchester Victoria. From May 1986 the Glasgow/Edinburgh train was joined by a through service from Parkeston Quay to Blackpool North.

May 1987 saw the Scottish service diverted to run via the WCML and the name 'The European' was dropped. The Blackpool service continued to run via Manchester Victoria.

The Glasgow/Edinburgh train disappeared from the May 1988 timetable altogether. The Blackpool service continued, but was diverted to run via Manchester Piccadilly and Stockport and became "Sprinterised." It also gained the name "The Loreley."

May 1989 saw the end of the through service from Harwich to Blackpool; instead 'The Loreley' went to Liverpool Lime Street with a portion for Birmingham New Street, detached at Peterborough. At the same time another named train, Britannia, was introduced between Parkeston Quay and Manchester Piccadilly. These ran until July 1991.
 

306024

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Sometimes when a smart silver-roofed Stratford Class 47 was sent out, this was "stolen" for a couple of days in Manchester, with some scruffy heap of junk from Longsight sent back to Harwich with the return working.

Very true. The Liverpool Street loco controllers were very reluctant to put a Stratford 47 on this working, even though on paper it was diagrammed for one. County of Essex was 'lost' for over a week once.
 

Bevan Price

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Speaking of traction changes (but maybe not the ones you were thinking of), back in the days when the train ran via Woodhead, it would have been electrically hauled across the Pennines from the mid-1950s until January 1970.

Until some time in the 1960s (don't know the date), the Harwich train ran to/from Liverpool Central via the CLC line and Manchester Central. I believe it didn't call at Warrington Central and used the direct "straight line" between Sankey & Padgate.

At Manchester Central the train reversed and proceeded via the Fallowfield Loop through the south Manchester suburbs to Guide Bridge. After electrification of the Woodhead line, a 1500V DC Class 76 or 77 electric would take it between Guide Bridge and Sheffield Victoria.

Sometime in the 1960s, with the run-down of the Central stations in Liverpool & Manchester, the train was truncated at Manchester Piccadilly. It would have been electrically hauled throughout from Piccadilly to Sheffield Victoria.

From January 1970, all passenger services via Woodhead were diverted onto the Hope Valley line to Sheffield Midland, and diesel traction would then have been used throughout.

.

Not quite - by late 1969, it was normally diesel-hauled over Woodhead, usually with a Stratford 37 - the only daytime passenger services not booked for a Class 76.
 
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I read somewhere that early in the 20th Century, when ocean liners were the only way to cross the Atlantic, the L&YR ran express trains between Hull & Liverpool for the benefit of passengers from Europe heading directly for North America (and presumably other far-off destinations). These passengers hardly set foot on British soil and probably a large fraction would be emigrants, so much more traffic east-west than west-east.

I wonder if the idea of catering for "international transfer" passengers featured in the decision to have Liverpool as the destination of the Harwich boat train for many years?

By the 1960s, the transatlantic liners had been mostly replaced by jet aircraft, so any tenuous requirement to transfer liner passengers across Britain from one port to another had evaporated.
 

Taunton

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I used this once a year in the 1970s, returning from the Continent to Merseyside. By then it was a Class 47 and diverted off the Joint Line and ran via Peterborough, Grantham and Nottingham, and the Hope Valley. Notable was that it didn't get too many passengers initially from Harwich, numbers picked up along the route, especially Ely (I suspect changing from Cambridge and Norwich) and Peterborough, which would be lost on any rerouting via the North London Line.

the L&YR ran express trains between Hull & Liverpool for the benefit of passengers from Europe heading directly for North America (and presumably other far-off destinations). These passengers hardly set foot on British soil and probably a large fraction would be emigrants, so much more traffic east-west than west-east.
I understand that the emigrant trains, probably not timetabled but just run to suit shipping schedules, were anything but of express standard, but were formed of the oldest stock, quite possibly with wooden seats. I don't know if cheaper Emigrant fares were offered in Britain - they were across the USA. Incidentally, did these L&Y trains actually run from Goole, on the L&Y system unlike Hull, and the L&Y had a very large shipping fleet based there which offered decidedly second-rate but doubtless cheap voyages to and from a very wide range of European ports, and maybe they offered through fares from the Baltic ports etc right through to Liverpool. I would presume the trains had plenty of brake vans for the large amount of baggage the emigrants brought with them.

Not quite - by late 1969, it was normally diesel-hauled over Woodhead, usually with a Stratford 37 - the only daytime passenger services not booked for a Class 76.
As I understand it this change happened when the train was altered to run no longer right through to Liverpool; this allowed it to run out and back with one set of stock, previously two were needed, and it was also diverted from Manchester Central into Piccadilly. There had hitherto been no diesel workings through Woodhead tunnel, which was unventilated and designed only for electric traction, but these couple seemed fine. From my experience (above) quite a number of passengers from the train still transferred at Manchester across the footbridge to platforms 13/14 where a Liverpool Class 115 formed a connection; I seem to recall specific loudspeaker announcements about this.
 
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Darren R

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Although this is somewhat off-topic, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway ran First and Third Class Dining Car Express trains between Hull Riverside Quay to both Liverpool (via Manchester) and Fleetwood (via Copy Pit and Preston). These were solely to connect the extensive services of the company's two shipping fleets: the Irish Sea fleet for the Isle of Man and Ireland traffic, and the North Sea fleet for Continental traffic. The Lanky's shipping fleet - along with their Boat Trains - were of the most modern designs and offered every on-board comfort for its passengers. It was solely about connecting the services of the two fleets and the main hubs of the company's rail network, tapping into the growing market for business and leisure travel to the Continent and Ireland, rather than providing a cattle-class route for Europe's down-trodden trying to escape to a better life in the USA.

With 35 ships in its fleet (including the seven it co-owned) the LYR was the biggest shipping operator of any of the pre-Grouping companies. By combined use of its ships and trains, it was possible to travel further by the L&Y than any other pre-Grouping railway.
 

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I have just been looking at "LNER Carriages" by Michael Harris, and it refers to the LNER buffet cars. The final survivors E1705/1706E were latterly used on the Manchester - Harwich Parkeston Quay service. They were built in 1949 to Thompson design, as buffet lounge cars for use on the "Flying Scotsman", and were converted to conventional buffet cars in 1959. They were withdrawn in 1979, being the last pre-BR stock in passenger service.

The Thompson LNER coaches were intended to be all-steel, but post war economics meant that they were built as teak-framed with steel panelling. Some other Thompson coaches were also steel panelled, but painted in "imitation teak" livery. Almost all other LNER pre-1949 passenger stock had been withdrawn by 1968/1969 . Unfortunately, whilst the book gives construction dates, it has no detailed information on withdrawal dates.

A tendency for corrosion problems is mentioned, presumably due to the use of "cheap" materials. Together with the Marple-Beeching cuts and the spread of dmus, that probably explains why most LNER stock disappeared after relatively short lives
 

Taunton

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IA tendency for corrosion problems is mentioned, presumably due to the use of "cheap" materials.
I believe it was more a lack of experience with steel-bodied construction. Until after WW2 most new railway carriages, although appearing to be of steel, were actually of "composite" construction, on substantial steel underframes, but with the main body framing formed of heavy wooden sections, with just an outer steel skin of plates attached, which could be readily replaced; the timber underneath could also be easily replaced by carpenters. Moving on to all-steel construction there was a lot experience to be gained, slowly, in eliminating the causes of corrosion, in both design and construction. The lower bodysides were particularly vulnerable to water and moisture trapped inside, not least condensate from steam heating systems, and by the time the corrosion was visible on the outside they were pretty far gone. It really took until the Mk 2 stock came along for designers to get to grips with it.
 

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That's interesting, never knew they were Thompson designed vehicles, and never realised that there were two of them still in use. Amazing when you think back, we thought then how ancient they seemed yet if they were only constructed in 1949, they were just 23 years old in 1972! Today we have 40 year old mk3s still in high speed service which still feel like modern vehicles!
 
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I read somewhere that early in the 20th Century, when ocean liners were the only way to cross the Atlantic, the L&YR ran express trains between Hull & Liverpool for the benefit of passengers from Europe heading directly for North America (and presumably other far-off destinations). These passengers hardly set foot on British soil and probably a large fraction would be emigrants, so much more traffic east-west than west-east.

I wonder if the idea of catering for "international transfer" passengers featured in the decision to have Liverpool as the destination of the Harwich boat train for many years?

By the 1960s, the transatlantic liners had been mostly replaced by jet aircraft, so any tenuous requirement to transfer liner passengers across Britain from one port to another had evaporated.

I think it was the more prosaic reason that Liverpool (via the CLC) was as far as the GC routinely ran trains, and the Continental was a GC/GE operation.
 

Taunton

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In previous generations, Liverpool was regarded as one of the five principal cities of Britain (London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow), one of the largest ports in the world and with a huge manufacturing base, much just behind the docks, for many things associated with imports. Its decline has been more considerable than any other British city, but it was one of the main business centres of the country. There would have been much commercial traffic between there and Continental Europe. Also, being that much further from the ports like Harwich, cross-country companies like GC/GE would have to try harder to get business on their line rather than have it choose to go via London.
 

43074

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Many thanks for the all of this information: the post can be found here.

Any images particularly from the rail blue era (1970s) to illustrate the post further would be gratefully recived. These would be fully credited in the article, and there is an e-mail address at the bottom of the post.
 
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