Published: 03 September 2013
The southern section of the West Coast Main Line (WCML) celebrates its 175th anniversary on September 17. The London to Birmingham Railway was the first long distance intercity route in the World and maybe coincidentally or maybe not, Virgin Trains is running an unusual series of book signings in the anniversary month.
These will be high speed book signings on Virgin services travelling at up to 125mph and are thought to be the first-ever on-train ‘high speed’ book signings in the UK. Several well-known authors will be taking part such as the Scandi-crime writer, Jo Nesbo; highly acclaimed British writer Joanna Trollope; launching ‘The Austen Project’ with a reworking of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility and renowned comedian and author, Ruby Wax.
The trio of authors are about to, or just have launched their new books and have teamed up with Virgin to offer Virgin Trains’ passengers an exclusive opportunity to grab a signed copy while travelling on the WCML.
The high speed book signings will be in the First Class coach G, the next carriage to Standard Class accommodation. Passengers will need to take notice of the announcements as they will say when an author is on board and signing.
To preplan obtaining a signed book, passengers can check the details of when a given author is travelling by visiting the Virgin Trains Facebook page.
Today’s Virgin Trains travel at a maximum of 125mph serving 45 WCML stations between Euston and Glasgow via the West Midlands, Merseyside, Manchester and Edinburgh. The three authors will be on Virgin’s services across these routes from September
Commenting on the launch of the ‘High Speed Book Signings’, Jim Rowe, Virgin Trains Senior Communications Manager says “Authors routinely travel the country to book signing sessions so we thought why not use the time travelling to sign some more. It is a fact: nowhere else will our authors sign books faster than on our Virgin high speed trains”.
When the London to Birmingham Railway opened on September 17, 1838 travel was a more sedate affair taking four hours on an express train between Euston and Birmingham Curzon Street. All trains called at Wolverton, the half-way point so passengers could use ‘facilities’ as trains did not have any toilets or refreshments.
Wolverton became a major station and all trains stopped there for 10 minutes meaning that the refreshment rooms became a frantic mass of activity when a train called. The locomotive was also changed as they had reached their limit of operation for the coal they could carry and the crews also needed a break from the jarring experience on the footplate.
A first-hand account of travelling by train on the L&BR is contained in ‘The Full Works’, a book published to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the WCML opening.
This account is spread over eight pages and details costs, and how dangerous it was to travel through tunnels and putting your head out of the carriage while in motion!
The Guard rode on the outside of the train at this time which was rope hauled between Euston and Camden for the first few years on a continuous rope arrangement because the gradient was too steep.
The book also details the Battle of Wolverton in 1834 when the line was being built over the Grand Union Canal whose investors did not want the railway at any cost. It also gives details of the timescale and cost of building the line which compares directly with HS2 costs and timetables.
The Royal Train has been based at Wolverton for nearly a century and the inside story of this is also told with some behind the scenes pictures including the Queen’s bedroom on the Royal Train.
The author of The Full Works is rail.co.uk’s editor, Phil Marsh. He will be at the Milton Keynes Museum on Sunday September 8 and at Wolverton Works on Sunday September 15th, both places between 12 noon and 4pm and will be signing his latest book.
There is a Wolverton and WCML 175th anniversary exhibition at the Wolverton Creed Street Arts Centre runs from September 11 to October 2 inclusive while a parallel, but featuring different pictures runs from September 12th at the Milton Keynes Museum until October. Most of the photographs and artwork have not been seen in public before.
The illustrations start in 1837 at Camden showing the engine shed which was built and originally was to be the terminus station before permission was granted by Parliament to extend the railway to Euston, in those days known as Euston Square.
A decade earlier, Trevithick’s ‘Catch me Who Can’ railway operated circular novelty rides on a location where Euston Square station is currently located.
This is a musical By Brad Bradstock & Eric Thompson on Saturday 28th Sept (Doors & Bar 7:30pm Performance 8:00pm). Every Town was once a Village... Every Village has a story to tell. A special live session of funny, poignant and evocative songs celebrating the 175th Anniversary of the historic Railway Town of Wolverton. Colourful characters and tall tales brought to live in this intimate session performed by Brad Bradstock and Eric Thompson.
Tickets £5 (includes programme) and this is always a sell-out so book early.