Here, redspottedhanky.com – one of the only sites to sell cheap train tickets and cheap first class tickets without charging a booking fee – tells us more about the great trains of the glamorous steam age that made grand railway hotels like The Grosvenor and Charing Cross so popular.
Railway hotels and the glamour of rail’s ‘Golden Age’:
The 1800s and early 1900s are often called the ‘Age of Steam’ – as, during this time, locomotives steamed across the globe, transporting people and luxury goods from one corner of the earth to the other.
While many people were initially wary of trains, believing travelling faster than horse-back could somehow damage their health, people soon took to the rails in earnest and were won over by the glamour of famous locomotives like the luxurious Orient Express and the Pullman Belle.
Many of the Steam Age’s grandest trains boasted lavish interiors and were stocked with the finest whiskies and wines, caviar, silverware, champagne and crystal.
However, the Steam Age did not just usher in an era of sumptuous train carriages. It also gave rise to the grand railway hotel – a pied-á-terre for rail travellers looking for a touch of luxury on their trips from home.
The Steam Age’s grandest locomotives:
- The Orient Express
Vanity Fair recently described the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express as “the train against which all other luxury trains are measured.” Indeed, when the train first took to the rails in 1883, travelling from Paris to Constantinople, grandees, aristocrats and royalty all lauded it as the epitome of decadent travel. Some were particularly surprised that the train boasted soap by its washbasins – a real luxury at the time. Famous travellers included King Boris of Bulgaria, dancer Isadora Duncan and the spy Mata Hari.
- The Royal Scotsman
Queen Victoria and Price Albert were known for their love of Scotland, and in particular, the fairy tale castle of Balmoral. Their appreciation of the Highlands sparked a vogue for Scotland’s majestic mountains and wooded glens, and caused many travellers to travel by steam train in search of heather and lowing stags. In 1985, the Royal Scotsman – a luxury train touring the Scottish Highlands – launched, serving the historic rural train lines of the north. Only 36 people can be accommodated on the Royal Scotsman, and its luxurious carriages are actually fully restored Pullman carriers, which saw service throughout the Steam Age.
- The Viceroy of India
Railway travel began in India at the height of the Victoria era. Maharajahs and diplomats alike took to the rails to visit famous Indian hot-spots including Darjeeling, Agra, Mumbai and the Taj Mahal. The most luxurious of India’s trains is considered to be the Viceroy of India, although other famous Indian locomotives include the Darjeeling Express, the Fairy Queen and the Palace on Wheels.
- The Ghan
Originally named the Afghan Express, after the Afghan Cameleers who blazed a trail through the Australian outback, The Ghan is a luxury train which crosses Australia from Adelaide in the South to Darwin in the North. Its carriages are said to be amongst the best vantage points for viewing the outback’s sunsets and sunrises.
Where and how to re-live London’s grand railway days
Embarking on your own grand journey by travelling to London first-class is surely the first step in reliving the glamour of the railway age, and beautifully apt if you’re planning on staying at a grand railway hotel like The Grosvenor or The Charing Cross Hotel.
However, if you’re looking for the ultimate in luxury train travel, you could step aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the Royal Scotsman or The Belle – as all three vintage trains still operate on their original routes, stopping to pick up passengers in London.
Charing Cross and Victoria are both excellent trainspotting hubs with added historic charm, but seasoned anoraks know to go to Clapham Junction – one of Europe’s busiest transport hubs – to spot both passenger trains and freighters.
If standing by the platform is not your cup of tea, however, you’ll find vintage train posters, exhibits and even railway engines waiting at the London Transport Museum and the Kew Bridge Steam Museum.
This post was written by redspottedhanky.com. Read their blog for more on trains, vintage train posters and travel tips.