Victoria to Dover Boat Train 1992

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Gloster

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To be fair, MLV's don't look much like locomotives though !
But they have far fewer side-windows than other EMU stock.

EDIT: According to the Blood & Custard website, from early 1989 the MLV were repainted in Network South-East red, white and blue. The upper half of the vehicle would then have been in blue, so at a quick glance the MLV could be mistaken for a loco.
 
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paul1609

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To be fair, MLV's don't look much like locomotives though !
I think that technically they were actually locomotives because they were fitted with vacuum exhausters for hauling vacuum fitted vans and they could also haul their own trailer luggage vans.
 

yorksrob

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But they have far fewer side-windows than other EMU stock.

EDIT: According to the Blood & Custard website, from early 1989 the MLV were repainted in Network South-East red, white and blue. The upper half of the vehicle would then have been in blue, so at a quick glance the MLV could be mistaken for a loco.

Although some stayed in Jaffa Cake later than anything else.

I think that technically they were actually locomotives because they were fitted with vacuum exhausters for hauling vacuum fitted vans and they could also haul their own trailer luggage vans.

Yes, they could certainly haul other vehicles. I'm not sure how a loco is defined though.
 

Taunton

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We've had some interesting discussions previously about the boat trains, and the early Waterloo Eurostars which followed the same selection of routes. Although there were timetabled paths, including for optional reliefs, on the day Control must have been an interesting place to handle them all without delays, much more so in the Up direction. The various alternates didn't seem to vary the time taken that much. Out of London via either Herne Hill or Nunhead, dependent on what stopper had just left, and once through the old Low Level lines in Battersea. The route through Bat & Ball sounds a bit of a joke, especially as at the station there Dover-bound trains are heading due west ... but it makes sense to avoid the Orpington-Sevenoaks bottleneck, only double track, three intermediate stations for any stopper ahead, and the long Polhill tunnel. The two routes are not that far apart, I think in winter with no foliage you might even be able to see from one route to the other, and the link gets you back on the main line.

The SE Division crews knew all the routes of course; once on Eurostar we did go straight ahead at Chiselhurst, and then stopped for about 15 minutes outside Swanley Junction before grinding on round the curves at Maidstone. I did wonder if we had an SNCF driver who was being asked if they knew that route.

The services were an operational nuisance, very heavily peaked in summer and a lot of imbalance needing return ecs workings. Everything I recall was a full 12-car set, plus for some an MLV at the London end, so the driving was from here on the Up journey. It had been ever so, in steam days well-known book author and onetime Stewarts Lane shedmaster Dick Hardy wrote of the challenges summer weekends brought, ships running hours late, the Golden Arrow loco to be highly polished, etc.

The two separate Victorian era Kent companies, the South Eastern and the London Chatham & Dover, who built the lines, merged in 1900. The LC&D ran from Victoria and Holborn Viaduct on the two loop lines that merged through Bromley South, passed under the SE at Chiselhurst, and got to Dover via Faversham. The SE came from Charing Cross and Cannon Street through Tonbridge, and into Dover from the opposite direction. A first step after the merger was to build connecting links at Chiselhurst, as Victoria had the best capacity for boat services, but these allowed use of the main Tonbridge line. Four separate goes have been made to build and then enhance these loops, firstly in 1900, then in 1960 for the Kent electrification, 1976 for the South Eastern resignalling, and finally in 1990 for Eurostar.

I somehow missed out on the "proper" boat trains in latter years, as I then favoured the Hovercraft, which used the existing hourly Dover fast from Charing Cross and a bus link from Dover Priory. First time was actually the first weekend after that big 1976 resignalling, new timetable, and change of running line use, with works chaos all around - but we ran perfectly on time. Went that way on the "inaugural" Waterloo Eurostar as well - it was actually day 2, I saw the television news about the opening, phoned them up envisaging they would be sold out for a few weeks, and found they actually had seats available on the initial single daily service the next day. So I went.
 

181

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There were loco-hauled boat trains to Harwich from Liverpool Street, but possibly not as late as 1990.
A tangent to the main point of the thread, but the Harwich boat trains were still loco-hauled (class 86) when I went that way in September 1992. (I say 'hauled' -- they may have been push-pull with the ex-Scottish driving trailers, but I'm not sure about that).
 

30907

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I am quite surprised actually. I thought it would be quicker than that2
Back in 2009 pre-HS1 it took 1 hour 22 minutes from Dover to Priory Charing Cross and that was with 4 stops!
Whereas then it was 90 minutes (longer stop at Ashford, no stop at London Br). 1hr 22 would be impressive.

Potentially, although I didn’t see any mention of Hastings on column I was looking at
See top of column, below the headcode and 4-character ID.

On another note does anybody remember any of his boat trains running from Cannon Street or Blackfriars during engineering works for instance?
No (except possibly the Hovercraft connections when they were by the regular service from CHX - those might have used CST sometimes).
It would have been impossible to deal with registered baggage at BFR, let alone large numbers of travellers not all of whom had English as a first language!
When Victoria (E) was being resignalled in the late 70s, very unusually weekend boat trains (and nothing else!) were routed via the Central section, Crystal Palace and Beckenham Jn; otherwise, there were sufficient alternative routes (including Nunhead-Lewisham-Chislehurst Jn if Shortlands-Bickley was blocked) for Victoria to be always accessible.
I’m interested to see what these trains used to look like if anyone has any photos they can dust of
Do you mean 12Cep plus MLV? Try Google, there are plenty of photos online.
 

Taunton

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I'd be grateful for an explanation of how "Registered Luggage" worked. Seemingly consigned at least at Calais, if not Paris, was it handled separately on and off the ship, loaded into the MLV, and offered for reclaimation at the buffers end of Victoria platform 8, where there were apparently customs officers?

But did this not grossly delay departure from Dover while the bags were loaded into the MLV, which then worked (doubtlessly lugubriously) from the quayside onto the front of the boat train? Dover Marine platforms seemed to only just fit a 12-car, with points right at the ramp, so did the MLV hold everything up? How did it work with relief services, how were the bags tied up with who was on what train? Was there not gross congestion at Victoria from those waiting for their bags to be cleared? Why not just clear them at Dover and thus be able to walk straight out at Victoria. Etc.
 

Gloster

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I never used the Registered Luggage facility, but I think it was reasonably efficiently worked. Although the majority of passengers would not dally when disembarking and joining the train, there are always a few who seemed to take an interminable time to do so. By the time these last slowcoaches had boarded the train, the various manœuvres were pretty well complete. At Victoria, well, they had just got to wait.

I am not sure about latterly, but I think that for many years Registered Luggage was most likely to be used by commercials and those who had made expensive purchases. For them it was just something that had to be put up with. If you did it at Dover you either delayed the train or had passengers missing it. (Or worse, having someone kicking up a stink because,”Why didn’t they hold the train a couple of minutes while I repacked my bags?” And if you did hold it for them, the person who has just started repacking their bags when it left would say,” Why didn’t they hold..?”)

As far as reliefs were concerned, does it really matter whether the owner is in the same train or not? They are not going to be reunited with the luggage until Victoria.
 

Bald Rick

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Similar era - I went in June 1990, 12car + MLV, Victoria to Western Docks non stop, reasonably sure it was the 1030 departure, and we went direct via Tonbridge.
 

paul1609

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We've had some interesting discussions previously about the boat trains, and the early Waterloo Eurostars which followed the same selection of routes. Although there were timetabled paths, including for optional reliefs, on the day Control must have been an interesting place to handle them all without delays, much more so in the Up direction. The various alternates didn't seem to vary the time taken that much. Out of London via either Herne Hill or Nunhead, dependent on what stopper had just left, and once through the old Low Level lines in Battersea. The route through Bat & Ball sounds a bit of a joke, especially as at the station there Dover-bound trains are heading due west ... but it makes sense to avoid the Orpington-Sevenoaks bottleneck, only double track, three intermediate stations for any stopper ahead, and the long Polhill tunnel. The two routes are not that far apart, I think in winter with no foliage you might even be able to see from one route to the other, and the link gets you back on the main line.

The SE Division crews knew all the routes of course; once on Eurostar we did go straight ahead at Chiselhurst, and then stopped for about 15 minutes outside Swanley Junction before grinding on round the curves at Maidstone. I did wonder if we had an SNCF driver who was being asked if they knew that route.

The services were an operational nuisance, very heavily peaked in summer and a lot of imbalance needing return ecs workings. Everything I recall was a full 12-car set, plus for some an MLV at the London end, so the driving was from here on the Up journey. It had been ever so, in steam days well-known book author and onetime Stewarts Lane shedmaster Dick Hardy wrote of the challenges summer weekends brought, ships running hours late, the Golden Arrow loco to be highly polished, etc.

The two separate Victorian era Kent companies, the South Eastern and the London Chatham & Dover, who built the lines, merged in 1900. The LC&D ran from Victoria and Holborn Viaduct on the two loop lines that merged through Bromley South, passed under the SE at Chiselhurst, and got to Dover via Faversham. The SE came from Charing Cross and Cannon Street through Tonbridge, and into Dover from the opposite direction. A first step after the merger was to build connecting links at Chiselhurst, as Victoria had the best capacity for boat services, but these allowed use of the main Tonbridge line. Four separate goes have been made to build and then enhance these loops, firstly in 1900, then in 1960 for the Kent electrification, 1976 for the South Eastern resignalling, and finally in 1990 for Eurostar.

I somehow missed out on the "proper" boat trains in latter years, as I then favoured the Hovercraft, which used the existing hourly Dover fast from Charing Cross and a bus link from Dover Priory. First time was actually the first weekend after that big 1976 resignalling, new timetable, and change of running line use, with works chaos all around - but we ran perfectly on time. Went that way on the "inaugural" Waterloo Eurostar as well - it was actually day 2, I saw the television news about the opening, phoned them up envisaging they would be sold out for a few weeks, and found they actually had seats available on the initial single daily service the next day. So I went.
I think that if you check the ordnance survey map you'll see that the spur through Bat and Ball never reaches due west and that the line between Otford and Sevenoaks only goes west just over a km in total basically to avoid going through Sevenoaks town centre. In addition to what you say the route was used to avoid conflicting movements at Bickley Junction. The spur between the Fast Charing Cross Lines and the Victoria Lines via Bromley South were only put in as an Eurostar Enhancement.
All of the Eurostar drivers would have been familiar with the Maidstone East Route because Sunday morning services were always scheduled to go that way to allow a long maintenance period for engineering works on the Tonbridge route.
 

Sad Sprinter

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Push pulls for to the GE in 1990. The Harwich Boat train lasted in 2003. If you want to be pedantic, they still exist. There’s a direct daily Liverpool Street train that connects with the sailings. All stations Manningtree to Stratford though.
A tangent to the main point of the thread, but the Harwich boat trains were still loco-hauled (class 86) when I went that way in September 1992. (I say 'hauled' -- they may have been push-pull with the ex-Scottish driving trailers, but I'm not sure about that).

That really was the beauty about Eurostar. That, for an island railway, the normal mundanity of rail traffic in a sleepy part of South London would be broken by a quarter of a mile long “super train” on its way to Paris. In all the amazement at HS1 when it opened in 2007 I think we forgot about that.
 

EveningStar

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Correct. Bat and Ball (ie Swanley-Sevenoaks) was another regular route. ...
Interesting. From my notes, Sunday 14 December 1975, 1000 Victoria to Dover Marine with 68010 & 7186 & 7017 & 7137. Passing points where I noted something were Beckenham Jct, Bromley South, Swanley, Tonbridge, Paddock Wood,Ashford and Dover for the ferry. Always assumed until now that via Bat & Ball was a Sunday diversion.

Overwhelming impression of the boat train was the sense of hurrying urgency compared with normal experience of, 'calling at ...', travel on the Southern Region.
 

30907

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Interesting. From my notes, Sunday 14 December 1975, 1000 Victoria to Dover Marine with 68010 & 7186 & 7017 & 7137. Passing points where I noted something were Beckenham Jct, Bromley South, Swanley, Tonbridge, Paddock Wood,Ashford and Dover for the ferry. Always assumed until now that via Bat & Ball was a Sunday diversion.
That one was a diversion, but (having checked 1972 and 1979) there were paths for relief services at xx05 and 35 off Victoria via B+B, some of which were regularly used while the others were "Q." Xx00 and 30 were via Orpington (and had the distinction of separate Dover and Folkestone headcodes!) while xx44/45 was Catford Loop and Orpington. I couldn't find any booked or Q paths via Maidstone, although the headcodes were there - it was rather slower.
 

EveningStar

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That one was a diversion, but (having checked 1972 and 1979) there were paths for relief services at xx05 and 35 off Victoria via B+B, some of which were regularly used while the others were "Q." Xx00 and 30 were via Orpington (and had the distinction of separate Dover and Folkestone headcodes!) while xx44/45 was Catford Loop and Orpington. I couldn't find any booked or Q paths via Maidstone, although the headcodes were there - it was rather slower.
Interesting information thank you. Up until that date my entire experience of Southern Region was Central Division, where my grandparents lived, so did not really question the route until I looked later.
 

nickw1

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The boat trains were almost a whole 'hidden world' that were not evident from the public NSE timetables. As I said in another thread I did see them one weekday in summer 1987 at Tonbridge (and there were quite a few, many with MLVs) but it was something I discovered via observation rather than looking at the timetable.

I did wonder why the SE division needed so many CEPs at one point, but the boat trains explained it.

Perhaps this also explains why Chatham line services out of Victoria never used the easy-to-remember 'round' departure times, xx00,xx15,xx30,xx45 during the eighties. These paths, by the looks of things, were reserved for the boat trains.

A comment was made above about the boat trains being an operational nightmare... of course from an enthusiast POV, for the same reasons, they must have been fascinating! ;)

Who officially 'ran', or chartered, the boat trains incidentally? Was it the (as was) Sealink division of BR? It's of note that they didn't appear in the public timetables (e.g. table 207 IIRC, the Charing Cross to Dover route, or table 212, Victoria to Dover) while other boat trains, such as Harwich and Weymouth Quay, did.

Managed to track down a boat train timetable for autumn-winter-spring 1981/82 (so not peak season) in the ABC November 1981 timetable on timetableworld.com.

Some of the paths mentioned above can be seen there (table 190): for Victoria to Paris via the boat, you had departures at 10:00 and 14:00, the former departing 09:44 (so a Catford path) on Saturdays - arriving at Paris Nord at 18:25 and 22:30 respectively! Also a 21:00 overnight option arriving at Paris 08:43. This was via Dover and Dunkerque while the first two were via Folkestone and Calais.

Nontheless it was about the same journey time to Paris as Pwllheli, so pretty impressive for a combined rail-boat-rail journey with border bureaucracy to deal with and no HSLs at that time even on the French side.

In contrast to Eurostar, you had more departures for Brussels compared to Paris, at 08:30, 09:44, 11:30 (didn't run in the second half of winter from mid Jan to end Feb), 13:30, 13:44, 19:00 and 20:44 - apparent duplication due to a more expensive (by £5!) jetfoil option. The direct and Catford paths can clearly be seen again - the stoppers on the main line left Victoria at xx11/xx41 so you can see why the xx44s were sent round via Catford. Best journey time was 5hr 36min by jetfoil (e.g. 0830-1506). Route was Dover-Ostend.

So a number of boat trains throughout the day even in the 'off' season (with a notable sequence at 1330-1344-1400) so there must have been quite a few more in the summer.

Wonder if the xx00 and xx30 off Victoria managed to get ahead of the xx00 and xx30 off Charing Cross before they joined the Tonbridge line?

End date for this timetable was 22 May 1982 so the 'off' season extended quite some way into the lighter months.
 
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30907

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The boat trains were almost a whole 'hidden world' that were not evident from the public NSE timetables.
Though they appeared in a separate section of the public regional/national ones. The inwards workings were subject to delay!
It's of note that they didn't appear in the public timetables (e.g. table 207 IIRC, the Charing Cross to Dover route, or table 212, Victoria to Dover) while other boat trains, such as Harwich and Weymouth Quay, did.
It seems to have been a SR peculiarity - Weymouth Quay appeared in the WR "normal" table but once the boat trains were switched to Waterloo they disappeared.
Wonder if the xx00 and xx30 off Victoria managed to get ahead of the xx00 and xx30 off Charing Cross before they joined the Tonbridge line?
Yes, it's 3min quicker (even without a London Br stop).
 

jfollows

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It seems to have been a SR peculiarity - Weymouth Quay appeared in the WR "normal" table but once the boat trains were switched to Waterloo they disappeared.
Would you clarify here please?

It's my recollection that the Weymouth boat trains from Waterloo were shown in the public timetable, and I certainly made a return journey to Weymouth Quay on the 09:54 from Waterloo with a day return Macclesfield-Weymouth in the late 1970s.

Maybe the trains were only shown as a service to Bournemouth calling at Southampton?
 

Gloster

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Would you clarify here please?

It's my recollection that the Weymouth boat trains from Waterloo were shown in the public timetable, and I certainly made a return journey to Weymouth Quay on the 09:54 from Waterloo with a day return Macclesfield-Weymouth in the late 1970s.

Maybe the trains were only shown as a service to Bournemouth calling at Southampton?
I have looked at the public timetables for 1971, 1975, 1980 and 1983: the Weymouth boat trains are only shown as connections in the tables for the shipping services. They do not appear in the main London-Weymouth timetables, but I have read that non-boat passengers were carried on an unadvertised basis, at least as far as Bournemouth.
 

jfollows

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I have looked at the public timetables for 1971, 1975, 1980 and 1983: the Weymouth boat trains are only shown as connections in the tables for the shipping services. They do not appear in the main London-Weymouth timetables, but I have read that non-boat passengers were carried on an unadvertised basis, at least as far as Bournemouth.
Thank you - I never had a problem on the (few) times I tried to use them, but I don't have the public timetables myself, and my memory of things this far back has been shown to be faulty more than once! I only went to Weymouth Quay once, perhaps I was just lucky that nobody queried my ticket. I also caught the boat trains between London and Southampton on a couple of other occasions without a problem.

Getting back (slightly) on topic, I'd never have thought or tried to catch a Dover/Folkestone boat train without a boat ticket, these were more clearly differentiated from regular service trains.
 

nickw1

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Thank you - I never had a problem on the (few) times I tried to use them, but I don't have the public timetables myself, and my memory of things this far back has been shown to be faulty more than once! I only went to Weymouth Quay once, perhaps I was just lucky that nobody queried my ticket. I also caught the boat trains between London and Southampton on a couple of other occasions without a problem.

I do definitely recall that at least some of the boat trains for Weymouth were in the timetable (Table 158) in either 1982/3 or 1983/4 (can't remember which), as I recall a wavy line (doesn't run all year) along the column and the note "Channel Islands Boat Express" written vertically up the column.

Maybe there were 'public' (for anyone to use) and 'private' (boat passengers only) trains and only the 'public' ones were shown. They weren't non-stop, I do recall them stopping at many of the major stations.

I don't think there were too many of them though, as I did visit Woking several times in that era for a good few hours and don't particularly recall anything other than the standard '91' express, and freight (of which there was quite a bit at that time) passing straight though.
 

Gloster

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The 1982-1983 timetable (I wrongly said 1983 in#49) includes the trains (running until 1 November) in the London-Southampton-Bournemouth table (158), but they do not appear in the London-Southampton-Bournemouth-Weymouth table (159). This adds to the likelihood that they only carried non-boat passengers as far as Bournemouth.

I must be getting old if I forget to properly cross-check.
 

eastwestdivide

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The boat trains were almost a whole 'hidden world' that were not evident from the public NSE timetables...
There was a "Continental" supplement to the all-line timetable, with for example London-Dover/Folkestone-Paris connections showing these boat trains, the ferry/hovercraft, and the corresponding French train. I've got one from 1981/2 ish if anyone's interested in a sample page or two.
 

davetheguard

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There was a "Continental" supplement to the all-line timetable, with for example London-Dover/Folkestone-Paris connections showing these boat trains, the ferry/hovercraft, and the corresponding French train. I've got one from 1981/2 ish if anyone's interested in a sample page or two.

Yes, please! As well as Charing Cross/Victoria to Dover/Folkestone, there were of course other ways of getting to the continent by train.

I used the night boat from Newhaven to Dieppe (20.00 boat train from Victoria?) a couple of times, which was a bit grim.

Much better, and as a result used by me more frequently was from Liverpool Street via Harwich to Hoek van Holland. InterCity boat train, nice boat with good cabins (see the Percer -not sure if that's the correct spelling?- on board ship to buy one), and connecting long distance to all sorts of places when you arrived in the Hoek. A good way of getting to Switzerland, down through the scenic Rhine Valley in Germany.
 

nickw1

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Was InterRail valid on the boat trains? I can imagine that many journeys would probably have started that way by boarding your 12CEP at Victoria and heading off down to Folkestone or Dover for the boat. Sadly. while I became eligible for InterRail during the boat-train era, I didn't feel ready for international travel on my own until much later. However it would have been interesting - if slower - to do an InterRail trip on the 'classic' continental network back in the late 80s or early 90s.

(Did eventually do InterRail to visit Amsterdam and various parts of Germany and Switzerland, but not until much, much later - thanks to the introduction of a higher-rate pass for people over 26. Was Eurostar - on which it was not valid - followed by the 'classic InterCity' hourly from Brussels to Amsterdam. Thence after a couple of days there ICE to Cologne, classic IC along the Rhine Valley on the EC101 Hamburg-Chur, and the Black Forest, Bavaria and the Saas-Fee area of Switzerland).
 

30907

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I do definitely recall that at least some of the boat trains for Weymouth were in the timetable (Table 158) in either 1982/3 or 1983/4 (can't remember which), as I recall a wavy line (doesn't run all year) along the column and the note "Channel Islands Boat Express" written vertically up the column.
I must have missed that! Channel island traffic was declining sharply by then, so it presumably made sense to offer the trains to ordinary travellers.
Maybe there were 'public' (for anyone to use) and 'private' (boat passengers only) trains and only the 'public' ones were shown.
Not to Weymouth - there would have been relief trains in steam days though.
I don't think there were too many of them though, as I did visit Woking several times in that era for a good few hours and don't particularly recall anything other than the standard '91' express, and freight (of which there was quite a bit at that time) passing straight though.
One day and one night service in the era of the Caesarea and Sarnia, with two sets of Mk1 stock from Clapham Yard.
 

Bald Rick

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Was InterRail valid on the boat trains?

Strictly speaking InterRail ticket season bought in this country weren’t valid for services in this country, however IIRC it did enable you to get a discount on the ticket for your journey to the port. That’s certainly what I did (gulp, 30 years ago). Vic to Western Docks non stop.
 

Gloster

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Was InterRail valid on the boat trains?
I did use an InterRail pass on it once, but that had been bought in Sweden.
Not to Weymouth - there would have been relief trains in steam days though.

One day and one night service in the era of the Caesarea and Sarnia, with two sets of Mk1 stock from Clapham Yard.
For a while a bus connection from the Town station to the Quay was available to passengers off the normal train from Waterloo in addition to the boat train.

In 1980 there were two eight-coach sets (8RMB as they included an RMB) that were also used on the evening Waterloo-Salisbury/Yeovil train and, at weekends, on the Saturday Brighton-Exeter and a Sunday Waterloo-Exeter. I think the boat trains ran with a 90 headcode.
 

eastwestdivide

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I do definitely recall that at least some of the boat trains for Weymouth were in the timetable (Table 158) in either 1982/3 or 1983/4 (can't remember which), as I recall a wavy line (doesn't run all year) along the column and the note "Channel Islands Boat Express" written vertically up the column.

I travelled on the Weymouth boat train (Class 73 with mostly Mk1s) in August 1982 from Waterloo as far as Basingstoke - see https://www.railforums.co.uk/threads/southern-region-rover-august-1982.52254/

And here's table 273 from the 1978-79 GB timetable, with Weymouth Quay trains highlighted:
GB timetable 1978-79 Weymouth Quay.jpg



Yes, please!
And in response to the interest in the Dover/Folkestone boat trains, extracts from the 1978-79 International supplement to the GB timetable, showing the covers (hovercraft on the back), and London-Paris (which also show the Night Ferry) and London-Milan pages:
Int timetable 1978-79 front and back cover.jpg

Intl timetable 1978-79 London-Paris a.jpg
Intl timetable 1978-79 London-Paris b.jpg
Intl timetable 1978-79 London-Milan a.jpg
Intl timetable 1978-79 London-Milan b.jpg
 

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