Travel in 1875 [illustration]


London & North Western Railway Northbound Tourist Express, hauled by F.W. Webb’s “Precedent” locomotive No. 2175, running alongside the Grand Union Canal at Brinklowe, Warwickshire, with colourful narrow boat “Sarah” heading in opposite direction to Braunston. By C. Hamilton Ellis. Carriage Panel picture  commissioned by George Dow, for British Railways London Midland Region, c. 1951. Print panel size 25”x 10”, picture image 23”X 7.5”


In the days when the majority of railway carriages were of the separate compartment type, rather than the open saloons of today, the only alternative to looking out of the window to making unwelcome eye contact with the strangers opposite, was to stare at the luggage rack. A number of railways adopted the scheme of displaying two or three sepia photographs of places served by the line in the space between the opposing passenger’s heads, and the luggage rack. These were of the “Promenade at Cleethorpes” variety, and were still in situ in elderly carriages, long after the straw boaters and long dresses of the figures depicted had ceased to be fashionable. Between the Wars, attractive water-colours of villages, landscapes and historic buildings were commissioned from well-known artists for use in new rolling stock.

However, apart from the occasional viaduct, few were of direct railway interest. Around 1950, George Dow, P.R& P.O of the London Midland Region, and already a noted railway historian, decided to brighten up travel in bleak austerity Britain, by commissioning railway author and artist Cuthbert Hamilton Ellis (1909-1987) to produce 24 oil paintings on the theme of “Travel in…” featuring  colourful trains and ships which had belonged to companies swallowed up in the former London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1923. This, featuring a scene in 1875, was No.  10 in the series.

The locomotive gave its name to a class of 62 locomotives introduced by Webb, not long after he succeeded John Ramsbottom in charge of the LNWR locomotive department in 1871. They should not be confused with the “Improved Precedent” class carrying the same names and numbers, nominal rebuilds, but in fact replacements for the earlier locomotives, built between 1887 and 1897. One “Improved Precedent” class loco “Hardwicke” has been preserved in the National Collection.


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