World War Two poster from the Railway Executive
Committee encouraging people to save on train
journeys. Photo taken in the Lincolnsfields Childrens Centre, Bushey.
Trains were by far the main mode of long distance transport in Britain during
World War Two. Very few families had
cars, and even where they did, the driver was invariably the man of the house
who was away serving in the armed forces. Petrol was
rationed anyway and often unavailable
for anything other than essential services. So trains were the only
realistic option for relatively long distance journeys - and they always
seemed to be packed with army, navy and airforce personnel, often with standing room only.
So long distance journeys were a matter of necessity or special
treats for families - although not of course for forces personnel. Money and resources were in short supply, and everyone felt that
they shouldn't travel without good reason.
Poster urging housewives to free up trains, buses and trams for the war workers.
Photographed in Brooklands Museum.
My mother did, though, take me with her to visit her friend on the other
side of London. Also on one occasion she took me on a longer journey to see
my father who was on leave from the army. A leave of absence from the armed
forces was invariably short and often measured in hours rather than days, so
my parents probably thought they would have more time together if my father
didn't have to do the travelling.
Trains in the late 1940s and into the 1950s
Dirty, sooty steam from the engine of a steam train.
After the war and even into the 1950s, little seemed to change on the
railways. Britain was still recovering from the ravishes of
the war and there was hardly any spare money for investment.
Certainly I remember,
in the late 1950s, my
face being black with soot after travelling between London and Exeter in a train
pulled by a steam engine, powered by burning coal. Of course it was my own fault for leaning out of the
train window! There was always a
great deal of smoke from these engines.
If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is © Pat Cryer.