Liverpool to Paris, via Farringdon

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Chris Butler

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Jago Hazzard's latest video covers the Widened Lines and mentions a Liverpool to Paris service that used to run via them. I've found a number of references to this service elsewhere. However none are absolutely clear as to whether there were any through carriages or just connections with paddle steamers at Folkestone and at Calais/Folkestone or wherever on the French side it went. I assume it was just connections, but is anyone sure ?

The Night Ferry did actually have through carriages to Paris. I even went on it. Have there been other through carriages, by sea (as opposed to tunnel), for passengers from the UK to Europe ?

 
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Bevan Price

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Jago Hazzard's latest video covers the Widened Lines and mentions a Liverpool to Paris service that used to run via them. I've found a number of references to this service elsewhere. However none are absolutely clear as to whether there were any through carriages or just connections with paddle steamers at Folkestone and at Calais/Folkestone or wherever on the French side it went. I assume it was just connections, but is anyone sure ?

The Night Ferry did actually have through carriages to Paris. I even went on it. Have there been other through carriages, by sea (as opposed to tunnel), for passengers from the UK to Europe ?

There was a dream by Sir Edward Watkin to run through trains from Liverpool & Manchester via "his" Great Central & South Eastern Railways, the Widened Lines, and his proposed (but never built) Channel Tunnel. (circa 1900)
 

Gloster

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I am fairly sure that the Night Ferry was the only regular service where coaches with passengers crossed the Channel. If I could find my copy of Patrick Ransome-Wallis’ book I could probably give a definite answer.
 

30907

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It would certainly have been possible to run from the Midland or GN routes through to the Channel ports (there were suburban services through Snow Hill until about 1917), and both had access to Liverpool.
However I would doubt any such service outlasted WW1.
The Night Ferry was the first and only cross-channel passenger working and didn't start till the mid 30s.
Bevan Price's suggestion is the most likely.
 

Dr Hoo

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The re-printed GCR Timetable from 1903 gives no hint of such services or even connections. The company's continental ambitions were more focussed on ships across the North Sea from Grimsby to Germany, etc. There was even an 'associated' Grimsby-Dieppe route, by the Anglo-French Transit Company but this was for 'merchandise' only.

There are limited timetables for 'connected' companies including the Metropolitan and South Eastern but no suggestion of 'handy links to France/Paris'.

The timetable does show journey opportunities between Liverpool and Marylebone, partly in the comfort of 'Luncheon Car Expresses' and so forth, but typical journey times were around six hours, hopelessly un-competitive with other companies. If the GCR was to make a pitch it would surely have been from Sheffield and Nottingham.
 

Chris Butler

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There was a dream by Sir Edward Watkin to run through trains from Liverpool & Manchester via "his" Great Central & South Eastern Railways, ...

The re-printed GCR Timetable from 1903 gives no hint of such services or even connections.

The source says the service ran in the 1890s from Liverpool Central Low Level, via Birkenhead with the GWR operating the service.

I wasn't questioning the service's existence (although the internet references have a sense of all having been copied from just one, original, source) but more the suggestion that there were through coaches. I think everyone agrees that that through coaches weren't at all likely/possible.
 

rogercov

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The only source of timetables that I can find from the 1890s is the Bradshaws ones on Timetableworld. The problem with the Bradshaws timetables is that it's often difficult to distinguish between through carriages and connections.

According to Wikipedia the concept of a train ferry wasn't thought of until WW1 and the first commercial ones were Harwich-Zeebrugge in 1924 and Dover-Dunkerque in 1936, with the Night Ferry starting in 1937. Certainly through carriages to Paris were not possible before then.

I'm even doubtful whether there were "boat trains" running through Farringdon from the GWR, but I'm happy to be proved wrong if someone can find evidence. There could have been an advertised service but as far as I can see it would have involved a couple of changes.

Looking at the 1895 Bradshaws timetable, the trains labelled "Boat Express" appear to start from both Victoria and Holborn Viaduct (for example the 9am and 11am departures). My initial thought was that one of these was a connecting service. However, it appears not. Is it possible that they coupled the two trains together at Herne Hill? It would have involved a bit of shunting to get rid of one locomotive unless one was pushed. Was this the main reason for calling at Herne Hill?
 
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30907

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The source says the service ran in the 1890s from Liverpool Central Low Level, via Birkenhead with the GWR operating the service.

I wasn't questioning the service's existence (although the internet references have a sense of all having been copied from just one, original, source) but more the suggestion that there were through coaches. I think everyone agrees that that through coaches weren't at all likely/possible.
By 1906 there was a Birkenhead to Dover through service, but it operated via Reading-Tonbridge; it didn't exist in 1895 and there is no reference in that year to any service via the Met and Widened Lines, though it was physically possible.
The only source of timetables that I can find from the 1890s is the Bradshaws ones on Timetableworld. The problem with the Bradshaws timetables is that it's often difficult to distinguish between through carriages and connections.

Looking at the 1895 Bradshaws timetable, the trains labelled "Boat Express" appear to start from both Victoria and Holborn Viaduct (for example the 9am and 11am departures). My initial thought was that one of these was a connecting service. However, it appears not. It it possible that they coupled the two trains together at Herne Hill? It would have involved a bit of shunting to get rid of one locomotive unless one was pushed. Was this the main reason for calling at Herne Hill?
It was normal practice pre electrification (certainly pre WW1) for trains to have Victoria and City portions combining or splitting at Herne Hill; the layout was designed to facilitate this.
 

Dr Hoo

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According to Wikipedia the concept of a train ferry wasn't thought of until WW1 and the first commercial ones were Harwich-Zeebrugge in 1924 and Dover-Dunkerque in 1936, with the Night Ferry starting in 1937. Certainly through carriages to Paris were not possible before then.
To be quite clear, train ferries go back a lot further than WWI. They were used across the Firth of Forth and the Tay from 1858 before the bridges were built.

The concept dates from the era of wooden waggonways. Quarried Bath stone was moved across the River Avon, still on waggons, back around 1750.

Langstone (Hayling Island) to Bembridge (Isle of Wight) was another early route in the mid-1880s. There was even a 'Motorail' precursor demonstration when the Company Solicitor of the London Brighton & South Coast Railway took his (road) carriage and horses on a through train trip from Victoria to Shanklin in around seven hours.
 

Grumbler

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Looking at the 1895 Bradshaws timetable, the trains labelled "Boat Express" appear to start from both Victoria and Holborn Viaduct (for example the 9am and 11am departures). My initial thought was that one of these was a connecting service. However, it appears not. Is it possible that they coupled the two trains together at Herne Hill? It would have involved a bit of shunting to get rid of one locomotive unless one was pushed. Was this the main reason for calling at Herne Hill?
Wasn't there a Sherlock Holmes story involving the boat train from Holborn Viaduct which is joined at Herne Hill by a portion from Victoria?
 

BayPaul

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To be quite clear, train ferries go back a lot further than WWI. They were used across the Firth of Forth and the Tay from 1858 before the bridges were built.

The concept dates from the era of wooden waggonways. Quarried Bath stone was moved across the River Avon, still on waggons, back around 1750.

Langstone (Hayling Island) to Bembridge (Isle of Wight) was another early route in the mid-1880s. There was even a 'Motorail' precursor demonstration when the Company Solicitor of the London Brighton & South Coast Railway took his (road) carriage and horses on a through train trip from Victoria to Shanklin in around seven hours.
I was going to say that I thought that Langstone - Bembridge was a concept only, and never actually ran, but you are correct - 1885 to 1888 using the Carrier - a former Forth train ferry made redundant by the bridge. It appears that it was not very successful, if nothing else both harbours are very tidal, so it must have had a very erratic timetable!
 

rogercov

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It was normal practice pre electrification (certainly pre WW1) for trains to have Victoria and City portions combining or splitting at Herne Hill; the layout was designed to facilitate this.

Wasn't there a Sherlock Holmes story involving the boat train from Holborn Viaduct which is joined at Herne Hill by a portion from Victoria?
Thanks for that clarification.
I see from the old OS maps that some of the Herne Hill platforms had points half way along the platform which could be a way for the intermeediate locomotive to escape. I presume the front portion then reversed up to be coupled.
I guess they could carry out this operation in a fairly slick manner without losing too much time.
 

30907

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Thanks for that clarification.
I see from the old OS maps that some of the Herne Hill platforms had points half way along the platform which could be a way for the intermeediate locomotive to escape. I presume the front portion then reversed up to be coupled.
I guess they could carry out this operation in a fairly slick manner without losing too much time.
AFAIK the two portions arrived one each side of the down island, and one then shunted - but you may be right about the engine release crossover, it would have saved time by keeping the light engine movement off the main line.
 
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