Travelling in the First-Class Carriages of the Great Western Railway in the Late 1930s

It became apparent in 1832 that Bristol had to be connected to London. A group of British businessmen sought the help of one of Britain’s most outstanding engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In 1835, the Great Western Railway was given the green light.

The Great Western Railway had long been recognized as the pinnacle of British luxury travel by the late 1930s. The service is specially designed to bring people from London to popular vacation destinations, such as Bristol, Paignton, Penzance, and Plymouth. It was planned from the start that it would outshine its northern counterparts both in terms of style and performance.

Photograph by Fox Films for the 1939 ‘Holiday Haunts’ brochure. Buffet cars offered passengers a new way of eating on trains; they could enjoy food and beverages before settling into their seats. One end of the room was a counter, and the other end was tabled. As these photographs were probably taken in the Swindon works yard, the background scenery was added for effect.

Passengers in the first-class Great Western Railway dining car could have a three-course meal, including a roast dinner, for around 3/6 (18.5p). Drinks and snacks were also available. The first-class carriages were more luxurious than the third-class carriages. There were wider seats and more comfortable carriages.

#1 Drinking in a Great Western Railway buffet bar, September 1938.

#2 Passengers in a first class Great Western Railway dining car, 1938.

#3 Passengers in a first class Great Western Railway dining car.

#4 Passengers playing cards in a third class carriage, February 1938.

#5 Dining in a Great Western Railway buffet car, September 1938.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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