The Cheltenham Flyer, by W.G. Chapman, Great Western Railway, 1934 [ebook]


The Cheltenham Flyer, by W.G. Chapman, Great Western Railway, 1934. Paperback book,  7.25”x 5 “, pp. 232, full colour frontispiece, B&W photogravure photos or line drawings on nearly every page. The Cheltenham Spa Express was the fastest train in the world when it was scheduled to cover the 77.25 miles (124.3 km) miles between Swindon and London at an average of 71.3 miles per hour (114.7 km/h).


This is the last in the series of “Railway books for boys of all ages” which began with the “10- 30 Limited” published in the early 1920s. Like its predecessor, “The Cheltenham Flyer” takes the form of a train journey by an avuncular figure who explains to a boy or young man, full details of GWR operations, as observed during the trip. Since the earlier volume, (on the “Cornish Riviera Express”) many changes had taken place on the GWR and the new volume describes these in some detail. It is not clear if the travelling companion is the same as on the “10-30 Limited;” probably not – by now he would surely be more interested in putting brilliantine on his hair, shaving, and thinking about girls.

W.G. Chapman was head of the GWR Information Department at Paddington, so the facts and figures can be taken as accurate. Why the “Cheltenham Flyer”? Running a regular train service at higher than average speed could create havoc with the timetable. Possibly two signaling sections in advance would have to be kept clear, and all other trains made subservient to the “Flyer. The GWR noting the publicity gained by the LNER and LMS for accelerated train services, found that there was scope to accelerate the “up” Cheltenham Spa Express between Swindon and London, claiming the “Fastest Train in the World” title, carefully ignoring the fact that this was true for just part of the train’s journey and in one direction only… Very clear descriptions of some complex technology and some wonderful photographs.



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