Up and Down

etr221

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Raising as new thread, from this one on timetables, quoting posts from there, as a separately interesting one

The 1850 Bradshaw (reprint unfortunately) has Tables headed 'Down' heading away from London (or any other route) alongside tables headed 'UP' in standard railway convention but the columns of times alongside are in accordance with the heading as well, meaning you read train times down the column in the first instance, and up the column in the other. The same applies in much later European Bradshaws which squeeze in as many routes as possible on each page with just one block of stations shown for trains in both direction on many routes.

It raises the question whether the use of the now standard terms 'Down' and 'Up' result from the layout of the timetable. There's no other logical explanation why lines were designated that way, except possibly from London to the South Coast.

I thought down was always going from London, Stranraer would be down from Glasgow etc
Not sure about Liverpool & Manchester or Glasgow & Edinburgh

I have always understood that Up and Down was an early example of a standard system, being from each railway’s main centre, this being London in many cases. I think that the Midland Railway saw Down as being from Derby and some of the Welsh lines had Down as the same as downhill.

It was a long tradition that pre-dated the railways, to be Down going away from London, and Up towards it. Stagecoaches used the expression - the novel "Tom Brown's Schooldays", set at Rugby School in the 1820s, gives some marvellous extended descriptions of what stagecoach travel from London to Rugby was like (along what is now the A5 road), and refers to "Down Coaches" and "Up Coaches". It comes over in the book that schoolboys in the 1820s were as knowledgeable about the operation of stagecoaches at the time (including the book's author Thomas Hughes) as they much later were about railways during Ian Allan's heyday.

This is correct. The Lancashire & Yorkshire (using Manchester as its base) throws up some interesting examples. Same with mileposts - ponder some of them in the Merseyrail routes north of Liverpool.

While the 'Up to London' (or the main centre for the railway) convention is generally understood, and widely quoted, there are I believe exceptions, and lines for which is it not obvious: so the actual rule for 'which way is up' is 'whichever way is so defined'.

And it raises questions - at least for me.

To what extent is it a rule (or expectation) that milepost mileages increase in the down direction?

What happened with those 'provincial' railways that built extensions to London (thinking of the Midland and Great Central)?

The GCR measured mileages from Manchester - all the way to Marylebone (with gaps for the Metropolitan Railway section). Presumably (originally, from the MAS, and then MSL) it was up to Manchester. But when the London extension opened (from Annesley), was it up or down to London? If up to London, where was the reversal? Was there a 'great reversal' for the MSL line across the Peninnes, so it was down all the way to Manchester? Was this in 1899 (when the extension opened), or earlier, or later?

And similarly, on the Midland, AIUI mileages were origianally measured from Derby, and so 'Up to Derby'? But later, current, mileages are from St Pancras (all the way to Carlisle). Was there a grand re-mileposting at some stage after the line opened from St Pancras? And a 'great reversal' south of Derby, to make it 'Down from London to Derby'? (And if so when?)

Since grouping, and more especially since 'Beeching' (and subsequent) rationalisation have there been changes of direction (reversals) for lines? (with or without re-mileposting)

Something that that surprises me a bit is that while Victorian railways seemed to be fairly willing to re milepost (apart from the Midland, the South Eastern did so, to measure from Charing Cross), over the last century and more, there seems to have been great reluctance (if indeed any significant sections have been done).

I know that - at about the same time as London Transport remeasured its lines metrically, and put up km posts - BR did have a plan to remeasure, in similar manner, in km, before giving it up as 'too complex'. Does anybody have any details?
 
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Gloster

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I believe that the re-mileposting of the Midland lines dated from LMS days, although others may have definite information.
 

Bevan Price

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I suspect that BR, and NR subsequently, have decided that whilst new drawings might be in metric units -- it would cost far too much to replace all the existing mileposts by kilometre posts. It will be interesting to see if mileposts or km posts are used on HS2. What occurred with HS1, which I have not yet used ?
 

O L Leigh

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Since grouping, and more especially since 'Beeching' (and subsequent) rationalisation have there been changes of direction (reversals) for lines? (with or without re-mileposting)

I can't say why or when it may have happened, but I suspect that there have been a number of reversals along the route from Syston Jn to Peterborough.

I know that there were a lot of route closures in that area around the time of rationalisation and that the existing route from Peterborough to Leicester was effectively stitched together out of different bits and pieces. I did piece it all together from the mileages shown on the mileposts and it seems this route is in three sections; Syston Jn to Melton Jn, Melton Jn to Manton Jn and Manton Jn to Peterborough. Heading east towards Peterborough you are travelling on the "Up" so you would expect the mileage to decrease, but it only does so along the middle third of the route between Melton Jn and Manton Jn. From Syston Jn to Melton Jn and from Manton Jn to Peterborough the mileage increases (also the mileposts are in the "Down" cess, in opposition to the expected practice).
 

edwin_m

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And similarly, on the Midland, AIUI mileages were origianally measured from Derby, and so 'Up to Derby'? But later, current, mileages are from St Pancras (all the way to Carlisle). Was there a grand re-mileposting at some stage after the line opened from St Pancras? And a 'great reversal' south of Derby, to make it 'Down from London to Derby'? (And if so when?)

I can't say why or when it may have happened, but I suspect that there have been a number of reversals along the route from Syston Jn to Peterborough.
There is a very comprehensive piece on Midland mileposts and the numbers behind them here: http://midlandrailway.org.uk/occasional-papers/midland-mile-posts/
Early this century the Midland carried out a systematic re-mileposting of the whole of its system. I am not sure of the precise date of the decision, and I have not myself seen any minute authorising the work. I believe, however, from the evidence of the Distance Diagrams that the task was carried out during 1907. From the first appearance of the diagrams in 1873 up to and including those sheets issued anew in January 1907 the note at the foot of the page about the continuous distances reads: “The continuous Distances are from St Pancras Passenger Station by the Shortest Route.” The new editions issued in January 1908 not only shew additional distance information relating to the mileposts but also change this note by the addition of a second line. The first line is a slightly modified version of the original, reading: “The continuous Distances not in brackets are from St Pancras Passenger Station by the Shortest Route.” The new second line states: “The continuous Distances in brackets represent the Mile Post Mileage (New)” [no full-stop]. This is the formulation used up to and including sheets issued in January 1913, after which the “(New)” is dropped. Certain sheets, such as those for the West Line, have slightly different formulations for the milepost sentence, to make the situation as clear as possible. Thus, for example, the 1912 issue (fifth edition) of sheet 49 has: “The continuous Distances in Brackets are from London Road Junction, Derby, via Whitacre, Camp Hill, & Redditch, and represent the Mile Post Mileage (New).”
This article doesn't touch on Up and Down, but I've never seen any evidence that the Midland was anything other than Up to St Pancras. See for example signal box diagrams including some quite early ones such as St Albans South 1896 https://signalbox.org/~SBdiagram.php?id= 147.

Hence I believe "Up to Derby" is an enthusiast's myth arising from the longest "branch" of the Midland, from Derby to Bristol and Bath, being Down (and increasing mileage) southwards. This is entirely in line with the policy outlined in the article, that a branch that started at a trailing junction when travelling from London would be miled from a zero at that junction.
 

kermit

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Did any other country emulate this utterly mad, incomprehensible system (strongly suspecting India - or, more accurately, its colonial oppressors - as I write....)
 

43096

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I suspect that BR, and NR subsequently, have decided that whilst new drawings might be in metric units -- it would cost far too much to replace all the existing mileposts by kilometre posts. It will be interesting to see if mileposts or km posts are used on HS2. What occurred with HS1, which I have not yet used ?
HS1 is all measured in KM. HS2 will undoubtedly be the same.
 

etr221

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Did any other country emulate this utterly mad, incomprehensible system (strongly suspecting India)
I suspect many/most countries which had largely British built systems (in or out of the Empire) used it.

Given that any railway needs to have some means of stating 'direction', while you need to 'know' it, I don't think it's really any worse (or better) than any other - when you have a complex network, there are bound to be oddities and anomalies. The American use 'compass' directions (North, South, East, West) and you get oddities like "Eastbound by Direction, but Westbound by Geography"; odd and even are widely (? - France and Italy certainly) used in Europe, with train numbers to match: I looked an Italian (public) timetable, and a train which started as (omething like) 171, then became 172, 173, 175, 176 as it progressed on its journey - only trackable by name and notes. And yes, I think it was also 174, for a stretch where it made no stops (so no tt entry), but was even.
HS1 is all measured in KM. HS2 will undoubtedly be the same.
I think most (all?) 'new' lines use it. Another is the (reconstructed) Welsh Highland.
 

Gloster

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Did any other country emulate this utterly mad, incomprehensible system (strongly suspecting India - or, more accurately, its colonial oppressors - as I write....)

You have to have some clear way of indicating direction of travel. Up and Down may not be perfect, but it is reasonably clear.
 
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calopez

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Did any other country emulate this utterly mad, incomprehensible system (strongly suspecting India - or, more accurately, its colonial oppressors - as I write....)
India certainly did, and, I presume, still does. Thus, trains on the Matheran Hill Railway near Bombay from Neral, the main line junction, to the terminus at Matheran - a climb of some 2300 feet in 13 miles - are described as 'down': railway headquarters being at Bombay...
 

RT4038

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I suspect many/most countries which had largely British built systems (in or out of the Empire) used it.

Given that any railway needs to have some means of stating 'direction', while you need to 'know' it, I don't think it's really any worse (or better) than any other - when you have a complex network, there are bound to be oddities and anomalies. The American use 'compass' directions (North, South, East, West) and you get oddities like "Eastbound by Direction, but Westbound by Geography"; odd and even are widely (? - France and Italy certainly) used in Europe, with train numbers to match: I looked an Italian (public) timetable, and a train which started as (omething like) 171, then became 172, 173, 175, 176 as it progressed on its journey - only trackable by name and notes. And yes, I think it was also 174, for a stretch where it made no stops (so no tt entry), but was even.

I think most (all?) 'new' lines use it. Another is the (reconstructed) Welsh Highland.

I think many Colonial systems used Up & Down as well as odd & even - the most important train on the system being the connection from the mailship at the port to the capital - No.1 Down mail (Bombay to Calcutta or Cape Town to Pretoria ['Union Limited'] etc), bringing the latest edicts from the Colonial office. The return train (No. 2 Up ) never quite so prestigious. Later, computerised numbering with digits to show origin and destnation areas, and the need to eliminate duplications, have caused numbers to get much larger, but the principle of odd for down and even for up generally remained.
 

XAM2175

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I suspect many/most countries which had largely British built systems (in or out of the Empire) used it.
Yes, it's used in Australia as well - though because the railways there were built outwards independently from each original colonial settlement, each state now has its own up-to/down-from point. All of these survived conversion to metric measurement in the late 1960s, so nowadays as an example, a train from Melbourne to Sydney will run in the down direction on the North East line from Melbourne to just over the state border at Albury, after which point it will be running in the up direction on the Main South line :lol:
(arguably though this is less of an annoyance than the other major legacy of independent development; three different mainline gauges)

I further recall reading a long time ago that China and Japan also use the up and down descriptors, presumably centred on Beijing and Tokyo respectively.

Additionally, France has a little twist on it by using "even" and "odd", where even is up towards Paris and odd is down from Paris.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Some countries re-posted their constituent railways after the end of empires and creation of national states.
Two of the most obvious are Poland (formerly containing parts of the Austrian/German/Russian networks) and Yugoslavia (ex-Austrian/Hungarian/Ottoman).
This led to km posts based on Warsaw and Belgrade respectively, which in the case of modern ex-YU states are a reminder of the old imperium.
Czechoslovakia (or at least CZ) seemingly never got round to re-posting its railway after 1918, and still shows distances from Vienna.

There is the potential for anomalies in "up" and "down" wherever two old networks meet.
Of the 4 directions at Shrewsbury, all are Down" except the one to Wolverhampton.
At Chester it's Up towards London in both directions via either LNWR or GWR routes, but the GWR route is initially Down along the Holyhead line for a mile or so to Saltney Jn.
 

Calthrop

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"India Rail Info / FAQ", on the Net, explains "up" and "down" on India's railways, as follows:

"Trains are often referred to as going 'up' or 'down' -- what does this mean? 'Down' refers to a train travelling away from its headquarters (i.e. the homing railway)* or from its Divisional headquarters, whichever is closer. 'Up' refers to a train travelling towards its headquarters or divisional HQ, whichever is closer."

* Presumably this refers to the Indian railways' being divided into a number of different regional "Railways" -- Northern, Central, etc.

As with @calopez's example above, of Matheran-bound trains on the Hill Railway being described as "down" -- away from headquarters -- though they're running steeply upwards. (One would reckon there to be, or have been, a fair number of anomalies of this kind on those of the world's railways using the "up" and "down" designations.)
 

S&CLER

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I believe I read somewhere that the Taff Vale used up and down in a way which agreed with geography, i.e. that you went down to Cardiff, and up to Pontypridd and beyond. Can some knowledgeable Welsh expert confirm or deny this?
Also I think that the all-line timetable in BR days and after printed the down direction tables first, with very few if any exceptions.
 

DelW

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I believe I read somewhere that the Taff Vale used up and down in a way which agreed with geography, i.e. that you went down to Cardiff, and up to Pontypridd and beyond.
I'm being pedantic here, but I'd suggest that that system, if it existed, agreed with mapping, a human construct, not geography, a physical reality. We're so used to maps with north at the top, hence northwards being "up", that we tend to assume that's a natural norm. In fact it's not so, many early maps were oriented differently, often with east at the top - hence the word (orient signifying east).

Doesn't help with your query at all though :'(
 

Fawkes Cat

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I believe I read somewhere that the Taff Vale used up and down in a way which agreed with geography, i.e. that you went down to Cardiff, and up to Pontypridd and beyond. Can some knowledgeable Welsh expert confirm or deny this?
Also I think that the all-line timetable in BR days and after printed the down direction tables first, with very few if any exceptions.
I'm being pedantic here, but I'd suggest that that system, if it existed, agreed with mapping, a human construct, not geography, a physical reality. We're so used to maps with north at the top, hence northwards being "up", that we tend to assume that's a natural norm. In fact it's not so, many early maps were oriented differently, often with east at the top - hence the word (orient signifying east).

Doesn't help with your query at all though :'(
I'm sure that @S&CLER can speak for themselves but I assumed that it was to do with Pontypridd being higher above sea level than Cardiff (per routecalculator.co.uk/elevation, 63 m for Pontypridd and 15 m for Cardiff) so the train would physically go up to Pontypridd and down to Cardiff.
 

Gloster

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In thé last day or so I read somewhere that the Glasgow & South Western Railway originally regarded Down as to Glasgow.
 

6Gman

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Did any other country emulate this utterly mad, incomprehensible system (strongly suspecting India - or, more accurately, its colonial oppressors - as I write....)
So what would you suggest in its place?

It's a perfectly comprehensible system to those who need to use it.

That it confuses the public or (some) enthusiasts really doesn't matter.
 

S&CLER

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I'm sure that @S&CLER can speak for themselves but I assumed that it was to do with Pontypridd being higher above sea level than Cardiff (per routecalculator.co.uk/elevation, 63 m for Pontypridd and 15 m for Cardiff) so the train would physically go up to Pontypridd and down to Cardiff.
Yes, I've now found the reference (D.S. Barrie, The Taff Vale Railway, p. 28). Up meant up the valleys and Down meant down the valleys.
 

Waldgrun

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I was lead to believe that any line that was used by trains heading to London was the up direction and the line used by trains from London was the down. However if the line didn't go to London, then up was the line that headed towards the Lines H.Q. or main works. However simple this seems, it does cause problems, take for instance the R.H.D.R. when extended beyond New Romney to Dungeness, or the Welshpool line which relocated its works and H.Q. to Llanfair from Welshpool. Also, using that logic, a train setting off from Llanberis to Snowdon Summit, is travelling up the mountain in the down direction! So it is likely that in most cases there must have been very localized debate.
Some years back I was in a small way part of the group that built the Hayling Seaside Railway, and the problem of direction came up, and it was resolved by calling the direction of travel from the main works at Beachlands down and the return from Eastoke up. However this has mostly change as the lease was not renewed and the main works relocated to Eastoke! So I would say direction is not set in stone.
 

edwin_m

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What is up and down on the Newcastle to Liverpool service and why?
Up to Manchester Victoria then Down, but this conceals a more complicated story.

  • North Eastern, Up as far as Leeds because generally towards London (another non-London line that didn't define Up as towards its headquarters (York) - another enthusiast's myth)
  • LNWR, Up as far as Stalybridge because their line carried on to London via Stockport.
  • L&Y, Up as far as Victoria because that was one non-London company that did have Up to its HQ, but possibly only because it meant Up conveniently matched at most of the major connections to other companies.
  • Down from Victoria, transitioning to LNWR at a point now lost between there and Salford Central, and Down all the way to Lime Street (but decreasing mileposts between Ordsall Lane and Edge Hill).

Yes, I've now found the reference (D.S. Barrie, The Taff Vale Railway, p. 28). Up meant up the valleys and Down meant down the valleys.
But also lined up with the directions on the GWR at Cardiff Central, the main link between the Valleys and the rest of the network.
 

DelW

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I'm sure that @S&CLER can speak for themselves but I assumed that it was to do with Pontypridd being higher above sea level than Cardiff (per routecalculator.co.uk/elevation, 63 m for Pontypridd and 15 m for Cardiff) so the train would physically go up to Pontypridd and down to Cardiff.

Yes, I've now found the reference (D.S. Barrie, The Taff Vale Railway, p. 28). Up meant up the valleys and Down meant down the valleys.
Ah, fair enough, pedantic complaint withdrawn immediately ;)
 

kermit

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So what would you suggest in its place?

It's a perfectly comprehensible system to those who need to use it.

That it confuses the public or (some) enthusiasts really doesn't matter.
Describe each line in terms of its most significant / largest population origin and destination? Thus removing arbitrary allocations of "down" or "up" (words that in themselves could have been better chosen, being counter-intuitive for the vast majority of the country that lies North of London) for circumstances such as the lines between Inverness and Aberdeen, or Newcastle and Carlisle, or anywhere running East-West.
 

Senex

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Up to Manchester Victoria then Down, but this conceals a more complicated story.

  • North Eastern, Up as far as Leeds because generally towards London (another non-London line that didn't define Up as towards its headquarters (York) - another enthusiast's myth)
  • LNWR, Up as far as Stalybridge because their line carried on to London via Stockport.
  • L&Y, Up as far as Victoria because that was one non-London company that did have Up to its HQ, but possibly only because it meant Up conveniently matched at most of the major connections to other companies.
  • Down from Victoria, transitioning to LNWR at a point now lost between there and Salford Central, and Down all the way to Lime Street (but decreasing mileposts between Ordsall Lane and Edge Hill).


But also lined up with the directions on the GWR at Cardiff Central, the main link between the Valleys and the rest of the network.
The original transition from L&Y to LNW was the end-on junction in the middle of the original Victoria, which was also the point where the L&Ys independent line towards Salford and Bolton started when it was added. Then when the LNW decided to build its own station, it did so on pure LNW track west of Victoria and south of the L&Y running lines. (The LNW's Neele is on record as regretting that the two companies couldn't come to agreement on building a proper joint station.) One of the misleading features is that the LNW is down from Manchester to Liverpool but mileposted the other way (although there is evidence for mileposts from both Manchester and Liverpool earlier on.
Glad to see you debunking the "down from York" myth, but you can understand how it grew up with that marvellous zero milepost for "evidence". The ECML mileposting is a nice mixture: zero London to York GN (and always was); zero York to Newcastle NER; zero Newcastle originally to Berwick NER; and Berwick to zero Edinburgh NBR.
 

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