By Liana Jacob
VINTAGE photographs that take you back to the lost age of railway luxury over one-hundred-and-forty-years ago when Scottish Sleeper trains were first running have been revealed in a new book.
Luxury and comfort is illustrated in an early-twentieth century photograph that shows a man in official uniform and hat handing a white pillow to a train conductor with a ‘Rugs & Pillows’ truck behind him.
A photo from 1947 shows the interior of a third-class LNER Sleeper train; with stairs that lead to a bunker bed on either side of the room. While another picture shows the standard of a first class sleeping compartment in 1930 that could be equivalent to a studio apartment one can rent today; with a desk and two chairs that could make up a ‘living room’, a single bed and a toilet.
Another picture reveals the comforts of a woman staying in a first-class compartment on the Northern Belle, lying in her bed and receiving a professionally prepared breakfast on a tray handed to her by a train attendant, with another picture showing a group of passengers having a picnic party on a sleeper train.
The incredible images are compiled into a book called Anglo-Scottish Sleepers by Church of England priest and author, David Meara, who delves into the history of sleeper trains that first ran between England and Scotland. The book is published by Amberley Publishing.
“Railways in Britain began in a haphazard fashion, with many small private railway companies being formed in the mid-nineteenth century in an opportunistic manner and only gradually being amalgamated to form more or less coherent operators, often fighting each other for territory and customers,” David said.
“Against this turbulent background it is extraordinary that the operation of sleeper trains has survived, even in its present truncated form.
“One hundred and fifty years after the idea of providing sleeping accommodation on trains was first explored, the Anglo-Scottish sleeper service remains a key part of our national railway system and transport network.”
Under the Railways Act of 1921, most of the railway companies in Britain were grouped into four main companies, at times called ‘The Big Four’. This took effect from January 1, 1923.
The four companies were the Great Western Railway (GWR), London & North Eastern Railway (LNER), London Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), and the Southern Railway (SR).
Anglo-Scottish sleeper trains, or collectively known as the Caledonian Sleeper, are overnight sleeper train services between London and Scotland. Two services depart London each night from Sunday to Friday and travel via the West Coast Main Line to Scotland.
On June 4, 1996, the service was relaunched as the Caledonian Sleeper with the Night Caledonian (to Glasgow), Night Scotsman (to Edinburgh), Night Aberdonian (to Aberdeen), Royal Highlander (to Inverness) and West Highlander (to Fort William) sub-brands.
On March 31, 1997, as part of the ScotRail franchise it was taken over by National Express.
“After further reorganisation in the 1950s, and the appointment of Ernest Marples in 1959 as Transport Minister, Dr Richard Beeching was made Chairman of the newly formed British Railways, which closed around five thousand miles of track and nearly two thousand stations in an effort to make BR cost effective,” David said.
“Some of my happiest memories of Scottish holidays as a young teenager centre around the way in which my family began the journey north to Scotland – by the night sleeper trains, which, in the 1960s, ran to over thirty destinations throughout Britain.
“We were provided only with pillows and blankets, but there was a restaurant car on the train, so we had the comparative luxury of an evening meal served in style – with crisp linen tablecloths and British Rail cutlery – before retiring to our cabin.”
Anglo-Scottish Sleepers is published by Amberley Publishing and is available here: https://www.amberley-books.com/coming-soon/anglo-scottish-sleepers.html