Catching a Train in the Early Victorian Era

I’ve been researching railroads for my Wicked series. Isn’t my life exciting! I thought I would excerpt some passages from The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described and Illustrated published in 1842 that describe the railway carriages that my characters might take around England.  


Birmingham and Gloucester Railroad

The first class carriages have each two whole compartments in the middle, with a coupe at each end. The middle compartments will each hold six persons, and each coupe three; altogether eighteen. These smaller compartments will, no doubt, be generally sought after by invalids, and ladies travelling alone. The length of a first-class carriage is 17 feet 6 inches, and extreme length, including buffers, 21 feet 6 inches; the width of the body is 7 feet, and extreme width, including steps, 8 feet 6 inches. The clear height of the body is 5 feet 1 inch; the height of the body and under-carriage 6 feet; and the extreme height from surface of rails 7 feet 8 inches. Each of the middle compartments is 5 feet long and 6 feet 10 inches wide, both in the clear. The seats are 1 foot 8 inches wide, and 1 foot 6 inches high from floor to top of cushion. The seats are separated by elbows in the ordinary way. Each coupe is 3 feet 4 inches long, and 6 feet 10 inches wide; both in the clear. The carriage-doors are each 1 foot 9 inches wide, and 4 feet 7 inches high. Besides the sash in each door, there are fixed side-lights, corresponding in height with the sash, and 9 inches wide; the lower part being of quadrant form. Some of the first-class carriages are furnished with imperials on their roofs, which are 8 feet 6 inches in length, 5 feet hi width, and 2 feet in height.

The carriages are painted a dark buff, picked out with black; and the arms of the Company are emblazoned on the middle doors.


The second-class carriages are in three compartments, in the usual way; but have the advantage of being closed at the sides. Each compartment will hold eight persons, or twenty-four in the whole. The compartments are open to each other above the dwarf partitions, the tops of which are 13 inches above the seats; the roof being supported intermediately by iron standards, one of which rests on each partition. The length of a second-class carriage is 15 feet 6 inches; and extreme length, including buffers, 19 feet 6 inches. The width of the body is the same as the first-class carriage, viz. 7 feet; and the extreme width, including steps, 8 feet 6 inches. The clear height is 4 feet 11 inches.

Besides the first and second-class, there a few third-class carriages, for the accommodation of the poorest class of travellers; these are without seats. In the centre portion is a closed compartment for luggage, the standing berths being at each end.


York and North Midland Railway

The carriages consist of first, second, and third class. The first class are of the ordinary form, in three compartments; each compartment will hold six passengers, as usual. The weight of a first class carriage is 3 tons 14 cwt., the cost being 4207. They are furnished with lamps at night.

The second-class carriages are each in four compartments, and are calculated to hold altogether forty passengers. These carriages are open at the sides, the roofs being supported by upright iron standards, and the ends closed. The length of a second-class carriage is 16 feet, and the width 7 feet, the weight being 2 tons 19 cwt.

The third-class carriages are altogether open, but furnished very properly with seats, which are ranged lengthwise, four to each carriage. Each seat is 14 inches wide, and the space between the seats 18 inches. The whole width of carriage is 8 feet, and the length 12 feet 10 inches.


London and Birmingham Railway

On the 1st January, 1840, the number of first class carriages was 107; of second-class, open, 137; of second-class, closed, 36; of mails, 15; of carriage-trucks, 66; of horse-boxes, 44; of parcelvans, 2; and of post-offices, 3. Third-class carriages have lately been introduced, for the convenience of the poorer class of passengers.

The first-class carriages are in three compartments, lined and stuffed within, with elbow-divisions on each seat, and furnished with small lamps by day as well as by night, on account of the numerous tunnels. Each carriage will hold eighteen persons. The total weight of a first-class carriage is 76 cwt. The length of the body is 16 feet, and including buffers, 20 feet; the width of body is 6 feet 6 inches, and including steps, 8 feet 2 inches; the body is 4 feet 11 inches high, and the body and under-frame together 5 feet 10 inches.

The second-class carriages in general use are open at the sides and closed at each end, and roofed in. These are also in three compartments, and will hold twenty-four passengers. The weight of a second-class open carriage is 51 cwt. The body is 13 feet 6 inches long, and extreme length, including buffers, 16 feet 4 inches; the width of body is 6 feet 1 inch, and extreme width, including steps, 8 feet; the height of the body is 5 feet 3 inches, and including under-frames, 6 feet 1 inch.

The second-class closed carriages (used with the night-trains) are in three compartments, and will hold the same number of passengers as the last-named; they have glass sashes, and are entirely enclosed, but have no cushions nor linings within.



A Victorian Country Inn

One of my favorite activities as a writer is to visualize the space my characters move about in.  Naturally I was thrilled when I ran across An Encyclopedia of Cottage, Farm, and Villa Architecture and Furniture; containing numerous designs for dwelling from the cottage to the villa, including farm houses, farmeries, and other agricultural buildings; several designs for country inns, public houses, and parochial schools; with the requisite fittings-up, fixtures, and furniture; and appropriate offices, gardens, and garden scenery; each design accompanied by analytical and critical remarks, illustrative of the principles of architectural science and taste on which it is composed, by John Claudius Loudon.  The volume I’m excerpting was published in 1839 but earlier editions exist.

Let’s start with a country inn:

A complete Country Inn may be considered with reference to its accommodation, arrangement, or distribution, its situation and architectural style. The accommodation includes that of the house, of the stable offices, and of the gardens and grounds.

The Accommodation of the house, we have already said, is essentially that of a private house, with the housekeeper’s room, or bar, placed in a conspicuous situation, instead of in a private one; and with the store-room and larder also exposed to public view. The inn contains an entrance hall, in which there ought always to be a porter to announce the arrival of guests, by ringing one bell for the hostler, and another for the waiter; an ante-room or strangers’ room, into which the guests are first shown, and where they are waited on by the master, mistress, or some upper servant, to ascertain the kind of accommodation which they desire. A complete inn ought to have large rooms for parties to dine in on public occasions, or in which may be held public meetings, assemblies, balls, &C. : it ought also to have suites of apartments, consisting of one or two sitting-rooms, one or two bed-rooms, a maid-servant’s or nurse’s room, and a water-closet; such suites of apartments being frequently required in first-rate Inns, by wealthy families who travel with their own carriages and horses, and who wish to live at an inn as privately as if they were at home. There ought also to be suites of apartments for single persons, consisting of a bed-room and sitting-room each. There ought to be small dining-rooms for small parties to dine together; and numerous bed-rooms, some with dressing-rooms, and some without them. In a large inn, there ought to be also a billiard-room for exercise and amusement during bad weather and long evenings; and also one or more musical instruments; and in every inn, whether large or small, there ought to be a library of books; which may be put under the care of the bar-woman, and lent out to guests at a small sum per volume. Among the conveniences, there should be hot, cold, saline, vapour, and air baths.

The Bar or Office of an Inn being its characteristic feature, it is proper that it should be shortly described: its situation ought to be central in the interior of large buildings, commanding views of the front entrance hall and back entrance; and, as far as practicable, of the foot of the principal staircase, and along the principal passages. These objects can only be obtained by having the room of some size, almost insulated by broad passages, and with windows on all sides; or having the sides formed by glazed partitions. Considerable assistance might be afforded to the bar-woman, to enable her to see in every direction, by looking-glasses, judiciously disposed without and within the bar, as these would reflect places and persons which could not otherwise be seen. The situation of the bar, in a narrow building, may be at the end of the entrance-hall, with one side looking towards it, and the one opposite looking towards the yard. In size, the bar need never be large; because, though, in small public houses and inns, it is used as a shop or store-room, as well as an office, yet, in general, it is used in the latter capacity only. Here the books of the inn are kept, and orders given to the cook, the keeper of the cellar, the ostler, or the stable-yard keeper; and here also all monies are given in, which have been received by the different servants or waiters. Adjoining the bar there is usually the private room of the master and mistress of the house; and the larder and general store-room are commonly near, and within sight of it.

The Accommodation of the Stable-court ought to be proportionate to that of the house. In a conspicuous situation, at the entrance to the court, there ought to be the office of the superintendent of this department, which should command a view of the interior of the stable-yard; and also, if possible, be seen from, and look to, a window in the bar-room. In very extensive country inns, the stable-yard should be a distinct part of the establishment from the farm yard, for obvious reasons; but in small establishments they may often be combined, the cattle-courts being altogether separated from the courts for post horses, travellers’ horses, and carriages. The principal buildings in the stable yard of an inn are the stables, coach-houses, and houses for corn and fodder. There ought also to be an ample harness-room, a room for boiling or steaming food for sick horses, an hospital, a shoeing-house or smithy, and a wheelwright’s shop, or place for repairing carriages. There are other minor accommodations which will readily occur. In all large establishments there ought to be a riding-house; and the business of a riding master might be very well combined with that of innkeeper.

The Accommodations in the Grounds are first and principally a dairy, a poultry house, and an ice bouse; there ought also to be a complete farmery; a kitchen-garden, with forcing-houses; an orchard or a vineyard, according to the climate; and a large park for guests to take exercise in on horseback or in carriages, and for a herd of deer, as well as other animals for profit and pleasure, including what is called game. Near the house there ought to be lawns and pleasure-grounds for pedestrian exercise.

In Public Houses, or Inns of an inferior Description, all these accommodations must necessarily be very limited: the park may be dispensed with; the farmery included in the stable-court; and the pleasure-ground limited to a bowling-green, tea-gardens, and place for playing at skittles or other games.

The Situation of an Inn, or Public House, for ordinary purposes, should in general either be on or near a public road, or on the margin of a canal or river; but the particular points along roads or other lines for public conveyances on which inns should be placed are subjects which require some consideration, especially in new countries, where most people travel in stages or coaches, which stop for refreshment only at certain distances. The great object ought to be, so to arrange the stopping places, as that the inns may always be built in dry healthy situations, with extensive and agreeable prospects; we say extensive, because one object, with all travellers, is, to form some general idea of the country through which they pass. With respect to inns of recreation, it is obvious, that to place them on any other spot than one of great natural beauty can never be a voluntary act; since situation and accompaniments, much more than the plan of the dwelling, will naturally be the principal inducements to guests. Under inns of this sort, we of course include those of watering-places, baths, springs, fishing and shooting stations, and various others, which it would lead us beyond our proposed limits to describe.

A Country Inn in the Italian Style; having, besides public rooms, Thirty Bedrooms, and Stabling for Twenty Horses.



Accommodation. The general appearance is shown in fig. 1295; and the ground floor, fig. 1298, consists of an entrance porch, a; vestibule and staircase, b; two parlours, c; passage, d, to the garden, x; store-room, e; bar, f; family sitting-room, g; back parlour, h; back stairs, i; water-closet, k; tap-room, l ; kitchen, with oven and hot water boiler, m; back-kitchen and scullery, n; coal-house, o; larder and pantry, p ; dust-hole, q; boot-closet, r ; covered yard for gigs, chaises, &c., sstables, t t; coach house, u; privies for servants, v v; stable-yard, w; garden, x; veranda for skittles, y; and liquid manure tank, z. The chamber-floor, fig. 1296, has two sitting-rooms, a a; and a large room for balls, or public meetings, b; the ceiling of this last room is on a level with the ceilings of the rooms of the attic story, and is marked, in fig. 1297, by the same letters. All the other rooms in the chamber-floor and attic story, figs. 1296 and 1297 (thirty in number), are sleeping-apartments.

Construction. The walls are supposed to be of brick, and the roof covered with Peake’s Italian tiles, such as are shown in § 50 or in § 1368 ; the eaves being supported by wrought cantalivers. To render the bed-rooms fire-proof, the joists may be covered with plain tiles bedded in Roman cement, and having a coating over them of the same material; the tiles and cement being closely joined to the brickwork of the walls, and the skirting being formed of stucco or cement. The floors, after being made a year or more, may be washed over with oil, and painted either a plain colour or an imitation of any particular kind of wood, marble, or stone. The ceilings may be formed in the same manner. The staircases may be of cast-iron, the treads being covered with stone plates. The garden, x, is shown with a circular grass-plot in the centre, and a border of evergreen and deciduous shrubs and flowers next the walls. The kitchen-garden and farm are not seen in this plan.

General Estimate- The cubic contents of this building are 201,908 feet; which, at 5d. per foot, is £4203 : 8s.: Ad., the probable cost of an edifice in this style, plainly finished, in the neighbourhood of London.

Remarks. The ground plan of this Design was contributed by Mr. Taylor, and the elevation has been supplied by Mr. Robertson. The inn seems well adapted for country business; having large rooms for meetings, a spacious covered yard for the protection of carriages of every description, and abundance of stabling. A large kitchen garden will be required for such an establishment, unless there be a market-garden close at hand.