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Carriage return

Last Saturday’s episode of Jekyll found our hero(es) taking a short train journey – but doing so in a carriage more suited to a 1970s sitcom than a 21st century drama.

For some reason James Nesbitt boarded one of those old-fashioned doors-opening-outwards compartment contraptions with seats facing each other like in a Two Ronnies sketch. Yet the carriage appeared bedecked with contemporary accoutrements such as timetables and safety information. And the stations it passed through had modern ticketing machines.

This wasn’t some deliberate anachronism, as far as it was possible to tell; on the contrary, it was a proper bona fide working train running on proper tracks, albeit with doors like you get on kitchen pantries from the Edwardian era.

Such baffling sights are few and far between nowadays. There’s an episode of One Foot In The Grave which occasionally gets repeated in which Victor travels in a similar Two Ronnies-esque carriage, replete with really shoddy background CSO. There are probably countless examples in Last Of The Summer Wine as well, especially given how all the cast are too old to ride in public transport (but not tin baths).

Apart from that, no other recent instances of small screen antiquated locomotive upholstery spring to mind. Maybe there’s one ancient relic that lives in a siding somewhere, permanently hosed down with magic sealant like the Mary Rose to hold it in one piece, kept alive exclusively so that the BBC can hire it out from time to time.

A bit like Tom Fleming.



  1. anorthernmonkey

    July 10, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Hmm, as far as I remember they still run the slam door expresses on the slow line from London Victoria to Brighton.
    they had them on the leeds – bradford service not so long ago, alas all replaced with new super duper trains. Bah!

  2. Steve Williams

    July 10, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    It won’t happen for much longer, but GNER do sometimes run trains on the East Coast Main Line where you have to lean out the window and open the door, which always struck me as being terribly dangerous. But they’re the best trains, with the comfy seats and brown upholstery – it feels like a proper train, as opposed to the newer models which continually try and pretend to be aeroplanes.

    In fact, when you book tickets in advance, how come you’re told you have either a ‘forward-facing’, ‘backward-facing’ or ‘airline-style individual seat’, when the latter are all either forward-facing or backward-facing anyway. Where else would it face?

    The last time I went on a really old train with booths was about ten years ago on the old Brimingham to Walsall line, which I always used to get to and from Perry Barr. Very exciting it was too.

    What about the Metropolitan Line, those seats all face each other, don’t they?

  3. Ian Jones

    July 10, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    They do have such seats on the Metropolitan Line, and also on the Victoria, but in neither case do the carriage doors open outwards a la 1960s regional rolling stock. I once spent a memorable evening in 1995 trapped in an old fashioned railway compartment stuck just outside Runcorn station. That was my last experience of such means of transport to date.

  4. Stuart Ian Burns

    July 14, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    When I had to attend a conference in Southend on Sea not *that* long ago I traveled on a train from London to there that was exactly like this one. I hate progress — these things had character.

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