Southern Named Trains

"Golden Arrow"

The origins of the "Golden Arrow" go back to 1882 when the LC&DR launched their "Dover Continental Pullman Car Boat Express" between Victoria and Dover, using a borrowed LB&SCR first class Pullman car. The train didn't do very well, though, and the Pullman car was returned to the LB&SCR a couple of years later. From 1910 the SE&CR included Pullman cars in their boat trains, though without any particular name being applied. Pullman travel, however, was now firmly established as the only way to travel for those who could afford it and shortly after the formation of the Southern Railway an all-Pullman relief to the 11:00 am boat train was run at 10:45am, with a corresponding train running in the opposite direction. From the summer of 1929 this train gained its prestigious name of "Golden Arrow"

Passengers would travel by ferry from Dover or Folkestone to Calais where they boarded a similarly prestigious French train formed from Compagnie Internationale des Wagon Lits coaches under the French name Flêche d' Or.

Probably one of the most famous trains of all time, the "Golden Arrow" waits for departure time at Victoria station in the charge of Bulleid Merchant Navy class pacific 35027 Port Line carrying the experimental blue livery that was applied to Class 8 locomotives in the early British Railways days.

photograph: Roy Vandersteen collection

Golden Arrow
Not only did the passengers enjoy first class travel on the railway, they also had the pleasure of a first class only ferry, the Canterbury, that was built by the SR expressly for this purpose. The "Golden Arrow" left Victoria at 11:00 am, arriving Dover at 12:30 pm after which the Canterbury sailed at 12:55 pm, berthing in Calais at 2:10 pm. Customs and Passport controls were handled on board ship so that the final stretch of the journey, on the Flêche d' Or, was able to start at 2:25 pm, arriving at the Gare du Nord at 5:35 pm.

In the reverse direction passengers left the Gare du Nord at 12:00 noon, arrived at Calais at 3:10 pm, sailed at 3:25 pm, arriving at Dover at 4:40 pm. Customs and Passport controls were at the dock in this direction, but even so the train was booked to leave Dover just 17 minutes later for a more leisurely journey to Victoria, arriving at 6:35 pm.

Golden Arrow Left and below:

Merchant Navy class 21C1 Channel Packet is ready to work the Press Run for the inauguration of the post war "Golden Arrow" on 13th April 1946.

photographs: Graham Muspratt collection

Golden Arrow
The early "Golden Arrow" was frequently made up of ten first class cars, together with a brake and flat wagon carrying luggage in containers. The inclusive fare from Victoria through to Gare du Nord was £5 0s 0d.

In the early 1930s air travel was beginning to make its mark and in 1931 second class accommodation was included in the formation on both sides of the Channel, at the expense of the first class, with the passengers now having to share the Canterbury with ordinary passengers who travelled in ordinary corridor stock on an earlier train from Victoria or a later one from Paris. Shortly before the outbreak of WWII the "Golden Arrow" fell on hard times with the Pullman consist down to four cars and ordinary corridor stock making up the remainder of the train.

21C1 storming out of Victoria station with the Press Run for the inauguration of the post war "Golden Arrow" on 13th April 1946.

photograph: Graham Muspratt collection

Golden Arrow
After the end of the war the "Golden Arrow" returned on 15th April 1946 (following a Press Run on the 13th) and continued to work Dover-Calais until the end of the 1952 summer timetable.
Golden Arrow A closer view of the one of the Arrows (this one on 21C1) that were fixed to the side casing of the "Golden Arrow" locomotives.

photograph: Graham Muspratt collection

Poster A matching pair of Southern Railway advertisements for the "Golden Arrow" service, one in French and the other in English.

Reproduced by kind permission of Southern Posters - classic railway art.



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This page was last updated 13 June 2007

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