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Golden Arrow
Jul 01, '21

The Age of Steam Trains

Early Memories

“I shall now go back into my own distant past, in order to discover the motivation that has driven me forward into this present point in time and space. Go right back to where I was born in Folkestone, Kent.

Folkestone, as you may already know, is a little seaside coastal town in the UK adjacent to France. One of my earliest recollections are of playing Davy Crockett in the garden. The garden backed on to the railway line and I would run to greet the Golden Arrow as it steamed hurriedly past every morning. The damp hiss of the white steam and the smell of the coal burning intoxicated my young senses. I had a passion for live steam trains even at that age.

Baillie Kell spent the last 12 years of his life 1900 to 1912 at Rocky Knoll alongside the Central Railroad of Georgia track, 5 miles north of Griffin, Georgia. So as I ended, so I began. We lived at 29 Dunnett Road - "Done it" Road, literally!”

Golden Arrow (train)

The Golden Arrow (French: Flèche d’Or) was a luxury boat train of the Southern Railway and later British Railways. It linked London with Dover, where passengers took the ferry to Calais to join the Flèche d’Or of the Chemin de Fer du Nord and later SNCF which took them on to Paris.

The 'Golden Arrow' leaving Victoria Station, London, in 1953


The Flèche d’Or was introduced in 1926 as an all-first-class Pullman service between Paris and Calais. On 15 May 1929, the Southern Railway introduced the equivalent between London Victoria and Dover while simultaneously launching a new first class only ship, the Canterbury, for the ferry crossing. The train usually consisted of 10 British Pullman cars, hauled by one of the Southern Railway's Lord Nelson class locomotives, and took 98 minutes to travel between London and Dover. Because of the impact of air travel and 'market forces' on the underlying economy of the service, ordinary first- and third-class carriages were added in 1931. Similarly the first-class-only ferry, Canterbury, was modified to allow other classes of passenger.

The train service ceased at the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939. It resumed after the war on 15 April 1946, initially running with the pre-war Pullmans and the Trianon Bar car, a converted twelve-wheeled Pullman. The Southern railway flagship, the Invicta replaced the Canterbury from 10 October 1946. As of 1949, the all-Pullman train was scheduled to depart from London Victoria at 10:30, with the connecting train from Calais reaching Paris (Gare du Nord) at 17:30, and from Paris at 12:15, with the connecting train from Dover arriving in London at 19:30. This worked out to a scheduled journey time of 6 hours eastbound and 6 hours, 15 minutes, westbound after accounting for the one-hour difference between Greenwich Mean Time and Central European Time.

In 1951, a new set of Pullmans was built, exhibited as part of British Railways' celebration of the Festival of Britain.

In 1961, with the Kent Coast electrification scheme, the train became electric-hauled. That allowed an acceleration to 80 minutes for the down service and 82 minutes for the up service. A decline in demand for rail travel between London and Paris saw the last Golden Arrow run on 30 September 1972 and, in its later years, only the first class section was advertised as a Pullman service.

The Golden Arrow insignia, of . 'Golden Arrow' titles on a green disc with a golden arrow element passing through the two 'O' letters is still a registered trademark and is still today owned by the Department for Transport, officially registered to the Secretary of State for Transport.



Jul 01, '21
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