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Luxury Railway Travel (Hardback)

A Social and Business History

British History Transport Victorian Era 20th Century Trains and Railways 19th Century

By Martyn Pring
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 366
Illustrations: 70
ISBN: 9781526713247
Published: 30th October 2019

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£35.00


Guest blog post: The Inquisitive Archivist

A guest post written by author Martyn Pring for the Mary Evans Picture Library blog, The Inquisitive Archivist: Travelling in Style.

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British luxury rail travel was not just the domain of the Pullman Company. In fact, they were far from the only providers as railway companies in Britain were extremely active from late Victorian times competing for leisure business. Various railway operators were at the forefront of deluxe rail travel services across pre-grouping, Big Four and BR eras when first-class travel was increasingly adapted for the needs of the business community. Recently Britain’s railway heritage has been responsible for kick-starting a modern tourist spectacle as specialist operators run luxury day excursion, sleeping-car and fine-dining trains.

Martyn Pring has carried out considerable research tracing the evolution of British luxury train travel weaving railway, social and travel history threads around a number of Britain’s mainline routes traditionally associated with glamorous trains. Drawing on contemporary coverage, he chronicles the luxury products and services shaped by railway companies and hospitality businesses for Britain’s burgeoning upper and middle-classes and wealthy overseas visitors, particularly Americans, who demanded more civilised and comfortable rail travel.

By Edwardian times, a pleasure-palace industry emerged as entrepreneurs, hotel proprietors, local authorities and railway companies all collaborated developing upscale destinations, building civic amenities, creating sightseeing and leisure pursuits and in place-making initiatives to attract prosperous patrons. Luxury named trains delivered sophisticated and fashionable settings encouraging a golden age of civilised business and leisure travel. Harkening back to the inter-war years, modern luxury train operators now redefine and capture the allure and excitement of dining and train travel experiences.

Martyn's extraordinarily beautiful book is more than a collection of classic railway posters - it describes a way of life that's now lost in the mists of the twentieth century. When the Queen travels to Sandringham in Norfolk she travels by train, the same train that I used to get from Stevenage to Kings Lynn on my nightly commute home when I first moved to North Norfolk. I dare say her carriage is fitted out slightly differently to the one in which I used to sit, but the fact is that luxury railway travel in the way described in Martyn's book is no longer available, at least not in the UK. There is a lot of focus on Scotland, and some of the adverts inevitably pander to the "upper" classes with illustrations focusing on the "12th", with excursions from Kings Cross to all parts of Scotland. Martyn looks at the changing face of luxury, and it is fascinating to see the glorious artwork from the early years of the twentieth century. Things changed in the 1950s - I guess it was a time of austerity, but the posters from British Rail were matter-of-fact, harsh even, compared to the brilliant illustrations from previous decades, when no expense was spared in commissioning the top artists. As a piece of social history, this book is faultless, and a precious reminder of luxury and class distinction. It was John Major who famously said that there were no longer any social classes. There are, and the divide now is bigger than ever, bigger even than that described by Martyn in this fabulous book. Exceptional.

Books Monthly

Review article: 'Nothing can beat the romance of luxury train travel between the wars' as featured by

Spectator (online & print) – reviewed by Christian Wolmar

This book will definitely please the train enthusiast but also the general reader as there are many photographs, newspaper articles and those exceptionally important advertising posters. If anything I love the advertising posters, so unique and brilliant of their age. I’ve always enjoyed train travel but not living close to a railway service, travelling by train was always a rarity but always a special. To me it was always the speed, whether stood on a lonely platform stuck in the middle of nowhere and the train thunders past or to me just being able to travel so far. Like this book, the book is about luxury travel and reading this excellent book really does make you want to travel on some of the luxury lines around the world.



The opulence and the journey of the classes through rail travel show how the railway really did become a form of luxuriousness and something you could aspire to and experience. Reading the book and looking at the various advertisements for destinations and rail travel sends you back as the reader back to that era when rail was the king, especially when it came to holiday travel. This is a very classy book with clearly a lot of effort from the author, Martyn Pring with regards to writing, research and pictures. It is a first-class book and most definitely an excellent present for a railway enthusiast.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

A look at luxury train travel mostly focusing on the UK from the 1860s to today.A few mentions of other train lines in the world. But most of the focus is on luxury travel across the UK. I reccommend for those who have an interest in rail history and English history.

NetGalley, Shelly Myers

For those of us who have a rather romanticised perhaps even fantasised view of railways, luxury rail travel is a notion that appears very near the heart of it. Therefore such a book which even though it devotes its later pages to the present day redefinition is a homage to the golden days of the late Victorian and Edwardian era which witnessed such luxury travel as an integral part of a normal timetable instead of being the preserve as like today of specialist tour operators.

Firstly the book defines what is meant by luxury then shows how with the assistance of the patronage of royalty and the development of tourism to previously little trod parts of the UK the competing private companies were ever eager to outdo each other by promoting and providing luxury and opulence. This coincided with a rapid change in the social structure caused by industrialisation and a new flourishing middle and upper middle class.

This book I'm sure will not only please the train buff but also the general reader as there are many photographs, newspaper articles and those all important advertising posters (an art form in itself) that bring an added resonance to the text. Coach development, food and associated features like the great Gothic station hotels are all covered and by the end of the book the reader I'm sure will be seeking the relevant tour operators to experience if only for a day what such a feeling of traveling on a railway in luxury is actually like.

Amazon UK Review

As featured on Visit Cornwall

Visit Cornwall

Luxury Railway Travel is a fantastic and interesting book. It is well written and really descriptive.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

I am a rail enthusiast with a passion for history, so this book hit the mark perfectly for me. The author, Martyn Pring, did a masterful job covering the history of luxury rail travel in the United Kingdom from the 1860s to today. I like that he included information about the food served, as well as the magnificent station hotels. The book is well-researched, engrossing, and very thorough. The photographs, newspaper articles, and advertising posters that illustrate it make the book even more appealing... I found this a very enjoyable read.

NetGalley, Kathy DiDomizio

For those of us who have a rather romanticised perhaps even fantasised view of railways, luxury rail travel is a notion that appears very near the heart of it. Therefore such a book which even though it devotes its later pages to the present day redefinition is a homage to the golden days of the late Victorian and Edwardian era which witnessed such luxury travel as an integral part of a normal timetable instead of being the preserve as like today of specialist tour operators.

Firstly the book defines what is meant by luxury then shows how with the assistance of the patronage of royalty and the development of tourism to previously little trod parts of the UK the competing private companies were ever eager to outdo each other by promoting and providing luxury and opulence. This coincided with a rapid change in the social structure caused by industrialisation and a new flourishing middle and upper middle class.

This book I'm sure will not only please the train buff but also the general reader as there are many photographs, newspaper articles and those all important advertising posters (an art form in itself) that bring an added resonance to the text. Coach development, food and associated features like the great Gothic station hotels are all covered and by the end of the book the reader I'm sure will be seeking the relevant tour operators to experience if only for a day what such a feeling of traveling on a railway in luxury is actually like.

NetGalley, G Heard

I'm fascinated by trains and this was an excellent and well researched history book.
i found it engrossing and informative, a very good read.
Recommended!

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

For people I know who like their trains history, this would go down very well. They get all the ins and outs of different services, and extended appendices covering even more detail. So this is a clear and solid everyday purchase for those spotters thus inclined, and by no means a one-off luxury... this is very well put together. Four and a half stars.

NetGalley, John Lloyd

A look at train trail - a focus in the UK from the 1860s to today. Some mentions of other rails in the world. But is a look at luxury travel across the UK. Good for those who have an interest in rail history and English history.

NetGalley, Alexandra Roth

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Intriguing and well written.

Long fascinated by the glamour and luxury of early railway travel, I was excited to see a book fully dedicated to the subject. Pring is clearly a fellow enthusiast, and that love for the subject matter comes through in the text, making for an infinitely readable piece of nonfiction.

Pring does an admirable job of presenting his information in a thorough and complete manner that befits narrative nonfiction: Dense and informative but never dry.

This book focuses solely on British railway travel, and I’d love to see Pring take on the same topic for either continental Europe or America in this future.

NetGalley, Samantha Edelman

About Martyn Pring

Martyn Pring is a career marketing professional having worked across both private and public sectors, as a researcher at the Department of Tourism, Bournemouth University, and more recently, as an independent researcher with interests in culinary tourism, destination marketing and luxury branded sectors as well as travel writing. A self-confessed railway buff from a young age, and as a result of family connections, retained interests in maritime and aviation travel sectors. Martyn lives and works in Dorset.

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