Posted by: travelrat | January 22, 2016

The Train


I’m trying hard to think of the last time we travelled anywhere in the UK by train. That is, a regular train, not a preserved ‘heritage line’. Time was, trains were inefficient, dirty, rarely on time … but inexpensive. Now, they’re clean, efficient … and expensive. I gave up travelling to the World Travel Market by train, and took to using National Express coaches several years ago, when the rail fare to London passed the £50 mark.

Recently, though, we went to Brighton to see a show, and worked it out that the train would be a tad more convenient than driving there.

Time was, there was a railway station at Amesbury within walking distance of where we live. But, it’s long gone now; we had to drive into Salisbury. We’d carefully hoarded £1 coins for the parking fee … but found, on arrival, the ticket machines only accepted credit cards; if we wanted to pay cash, we had to go to the ticket window and queue.

We’d bought our tickets for the train online … and, is it just me, or is it more complicated than it used to be? In the olden days, it was simply:

‘I would like a second-class day return to Brighton, please’

‘Certainly, Sir! That will be seventeen shillings and sixpence’

‘Thank You!’

Then, assuming the train arrived in the foreseeable future, I’d just get on it. And, I could come back on any train. Not any more.

These days, you are committed to one train only, and, if you miss it, I assume that’s your hard luck. If you booked online … well, the ticket machines are proof of the old saying that you never let anything electronic know you’re in a hurry!

However, once on the train, things greatly improve, and you can just settle down and enjoy the ride. After all, a route along the South Coast ought to be a scenic one, should it not? Er, no! There is an occasional glimpse of a marina, or a river estuary, but most of the time, the sea is out of sight. And, the scenery out of the window is pretty ordinary.

But, we arrived in Brighton on time … and I have to admit that the journey, ordinary as it was, did improve on the drive along the A27, with, seemingly, a roundabout every few hundred yards.




  1. I used to travel by train all the time, now I rarely do it. As long as I get a seat, I used for find it very relaxing, I love the sounds of a train, the speed, and the fact that in a few hours you can be somewhere new! Occasionally you’ll find you sit next to someone really interesting, I quite like people watching in the carriage. I hope you liked Brighton!

    • Hi, Michaela!

      I think the last time we travelled on a ‘regular’ train was Eurostar/Thalys to Maastricht. But, we travelled up to London by National Express … the train fare would have been pretty close to our fare to Maastricht!

  2. I get the train all the time as a) my child can run around, b) I can drink wine (or gin) and c) my car is rubbish and I hate driving. If you book in advance (and I mean WAY in advance) you can get a cheap(er) ticket.
    Do you remember the days of the smoking carriage and doors that you open by opening the window and reaching down to the handle on the outside? I remember as a teenager giving the ticket inspectors the run around and hiding in various toilets also (naughty!)
    The trains in India make me appreciate how luxurious our ones here in the UK are, with their cushioned seats and buffet carriages. Still I love the chai and biryani wallahs you get on sleeper trains there and the people selling all manner of plastic household goods and cheap jewellery on the crazy local trains in Mumbai. The best thing about Indian trains though is the price – 15rs (equivalent to 15 pence) to travel the length and breadth of Mumbai (150rs first class) compared to the nearly £10 it costs for a London daily travelcard!

    • Indian trains have always been on my bucket list, ever since I read an article about the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway when I was ten years old. Maybe you’ve read ‘Around India in 80 Trains’ by Monisha Rajesh?

      Yes … the leather window strap! My Grandad once ‘liberated’ one, and used it as a strop for his razor for years!



  3. I grew up taking the train to school in England and now that the trains are coming back to Los Angeles I take the train as much as possible. Enjoyed your post!

    • Coming BACK? I suppose that’s a reaction to the log-jammed roads? We have the same thing in Britain, too, establishing tramways and light railways, usually running over routes the trams used to use before they were withdrawn in the 50s/60s.

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