Passenger Experience

This category deals with the passengers' experience of railway travel. The earlier items deal mainly with the traveller's experience of the railway infrastructure. Later items are mainly about the interaction between passengers.

Main Themes and Motifs

  • The discomforts of railway travel
  • Naïve travellers (often Irish)
  • Interaction between the sexes


1830-39    021
1840-49    146; 184; 304; 515; 534; 589
1850-59    040; 045
1860-69    058; 520; 521*
1880-89    041; 377; 328
1890-99    576

Uncertain: 521; 538

* The earliest and latest dates for this item extend across decades. See item more information.

Historical Background

Before 1850

Early carriages gave a bumpy ride. Primitive couplings between carriages and rudimentary braking systems meant that the acceleration and deceleration of the engine was passed down the train in a wave of violent jerks as the carriages separated and collided with each other. The smoke and cinders from the engine showered down upon the passengers. First class passengers had a roof to protect them but 2nd and 3rd class were not so fortunate. Francis Coghlan (a prolific writer of travel guides between 1833 and 1860) advised 2nd class passengers.
'get as far from the engine as possible - for three reasons, first, should an explosion take place, you may happily get off with the loss of an arm or a leg' whereas 'nearer the engine ' you will probably be blown to smithereens. Secondly ' the vibration is very much dimin-ished, and third 'always sit with your back to the engine to avoid being chilled by the cold current of air which passes through these open wagons and also saves you from being nearly blinded by the small cinders which escape through the funnel'

After 1850

The introduction of parliamentary_trains¹ made railway travel possible for all but the poorest folk. The opportunity to travel was enthusiastically taken up by people of modest means and railways became an important scene of social interaction. See also Railways>Holidays and Excursions by Rail