• Early "intermodal" travel for passengers/mail

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by David Benton
 
I am currently reading a book set in a fictional African island during my xmas break. It is set in the 1950's. I just read a section where a newspaper from London(where else!), was available in 6 days by air, 6 weeks by "surface". I presume surface in this case was boat. It got me musing on early long distance travels. Everything i have read/seen , has been sea travel from say , London to New Zealand. It got me wondering , would it not have been faster, Say train to an Eastern Mediterranean port, boat through the Suez canal, to Northern India, train across to southern India, boat to West Australia , train to Sydney, boat to NZ.Likewise, to Africa, most boats left England , and went to Africa direct . Why not train to Southern spain/Portugal, and boat from there?. Maybe not much saving to North Africa or West Africa, but what about East/South AFrica ?.The same with early flights, I wonder if there were any plane /train combos, given the high cost of air travel?.
  by NorthWest
 
At least in the United States there were some air+train combos in the early days, but it was because planes were unable to be safely flown at night using the technology of the day.

Trains are faster than ships, but you may lose time switching things from mode to mode if schedules are missed, etc.
  by David Benton
 
Thanks Northwest. I guess the chances of something going wrong on one of the connections are pretty high. One North American example I can think of is , train to Halifax,NS, plane to Scotland, train to London. I met someone on the train to Halifax that was doing this, I think he just liked to minimise his air travel. I remember thinking , had I not already booked a ticket out of New York to london, I would have gone that route.
  by deathtopumpkins
 
The reason more transloading isn't/wasn't done between modes like you suggest is largely due to cost for freight. Every time you have to pay someone to unload a railcar and load a ship, and vice-versa, is extra money spent, which drives up the cost of shipping significantly versus just leaving it on one ship for longer.

For passengers, it significantly cuts into the time savings and passenger appeal. Every transfer requires time to unload and reload everyone and their luggage, and ideally has some fat built into it in case a connection is late. Most modern day long distance ferries, for example, require you to arrive as much as 3 hours before departure to get everyone loaded and clear customs/immigration (if applicable). So then to ensure the train doesn't regularly delay the ferry, you schedule the train to arrive 4 hours before the ferry. That starts to negate the time savings, and sitting around for 4 hours waiting doesn't really appeal to most passengers, especially if it's at an odd hour, and they have to do it multiple times in one trip. People also like to get settled into their seat/room/etc. People are willing to pay more and/or travel for slightly longer if they can do it in one seat instead of having to make multiple connections, especially if they plan on sleeping.
  by johnthefireman
 
In the 1980s I still used to get my Guardian Weekly by air mail. It was a weekly digest of the Guardian, the Washington Post and Le Monde. It always arrived weeks late, and not always in the right chronological order, but it was good quality writing which was well worth reading, especially when you had little else to read. It contained the Guardian crossword, although much to my disappointment it did not have Steve Bell's iconic "If" satirical cartoon. It was printed on thin airmail paper and an added advantage was that it made good toilet paper if cut up into small squares after everyone had finished reading it.

I recall that in 1986 we stopped receiving mail after the rebels shot down a civilian airliner taking off from our besieged town, Malakal. There were no more flights so no air mail. However after a while we noticed that we were still getting parcels and newspapers, which were coming up the Nile by barge. We went to the postmaster and asked why we couldn't get our letters by the same means. He was shocked, and said, "But they're air mail! They can't come by barge!" Eventually, after four months without mail, someone in the post office in Khartoum had the bright idea of putting mailbags onto the military flights which still came to Malakal, so we started getting mail again, albeit irregularly. It's quite a weird feeling getting four months worth of letters all at the same time and realising that all sorts of things had happened which you were completely unaware of. In those days of course there was no internet or mobile phones, and there were no landlines operating to Malakal. We got our world news from BBC World Service, often a very shaky shortwave connection. The Lutheran World Federation had a two-way radio for urgent messages but it was impounded at the police station and they were only allowed to use it occasionally under police supervision.
  by David Benton
 
deathtopumpkins wrote:The reason more transloading isn't/wasn't done between modes like you suggest is largely due to cost for freight. Every time you have to pay someone to unload a railcar and load a ship, and vice-versa, is extra money spent, which drives up the cost of shipping significantly versus just leaving it on one ship for longer.

For passengers, it significantly cuts into the time savings and passenger appeal. Every transfer requires time to unload and reload everyone and their luggage, and ideally has some fat built into it in case a connection is late. Most modern day long distance ferries, for example, require you to arrive as much as 3 hours before departure to get everyone loaded and clear customs/immigration (if applicable). So then to ensure the train doesn't regularly delay the ferry, you schedule the train to arrive 4 hours before the ferry. That starts to negate the time savings, and sitting around for 4 hours waiting doesn't really appeal to most passengers, especially if it's at an odd hour, and they have to do it multiple times in one trip. People also like to get settled into their seat/room/etc. People are willing to pay more and/or travel for slightly longer if they can do it in one seat instead of having to make multiple connections, especially if they plan on sleeping.
All valid points, for shorter distances, but I am thinking of inter continental journeys taking weeks/ months , in the early days.One early American example would be New York to California , via Panama. This was before the transcontinental railroad, and the Panama Canal.
AFAIK.Passengers would go by boat from NY to Colon, Panama, by train across to Panama City, then boat up to San Francisco. I don't know if a Train to Florida existed then , or from San Diego to San Francisco, but perhaps people did just prefer to stay on the boat as long as possible.
There are some examples , Europe to Japan , Many would take the Trans Siberian across to Vladivostok, then boat to Japan.
  by David Benton
 
johnthefireman wrote:In the 1980s I still used to get my Guardian Weekly by air mail. It was a weekly digest of the Guardian, the Washington Post and Le Monde. It always arrived weeks late, and not always in the right chronological order, but it was good quality writing which was well worth reading, especially when you had little else to read. It contained the Guardian crossword, although much to my disappointment it did not have Steve Bell's iconic "If" satirical cartoon. It was printed on thin airmail paper and an added advantage was that it made good toilet paper if cut up into small squares after everyone had finished reading it.

I recall that in 1986 we stopped receiving mail after the rebels shot down a civilian airliner taking off from our besieged town, Malakal. There were no more flights so no air mail. However after a while we noticed that we were still getting parcels and newspapers, which were coming up the Nile by barge. We went to the postmaster and asked why we couldn't get our letters by the same means. He was shocked, and said, "But they're air mail! They can't come by barge!" Eventually, after four months without mail, someone in the post office in Khartoum had the bright idea of putting mailbags onto the military flights which still came to Malakal, so we started getting mail again, albeit irregularly. It's quite a weird feeling getting four months worth of letters all at the same time and realising that all sorts of things had happened which you were completely unaware of. In those days of course there was no internet or mobile phones, and there were no landlines operating to Malakal. We got our world news from BBC World Service, often a very shaky shortwave connection. The Lutheran World Federation had a two-way radio for urgent messages but it was impounded at the police station and they were only allowed to use it occasionally under police supervision.
Brings back memories of my Travelling days, using American express offices as mail pickup points. ( I had their travelers checks , not their card).I wonder if today's young World travelers realize how different it is today , compared to 30 years ago. On my 6 month trips, I would be months between mail pickups , and news from home. An international phone call from many developing countries cost a small fortune.
I remember been in Ghana, West Africa, when I came across a crowd unloading a container of British Newspapers for recycling. The papers were newer than those in the British Council Library! Destined for lighting fires etc , I guess.
In My hippy bush living days, we used the yellow pages for toilet paper, relatively soft.
  by george matthews
 
David Benton wrote:I am currently reading a book set in a fictional African island during my xmas break. It is set in the 1950's. I just read a section where a newspaper from London(where else!), was available in 6 days by air, 6 weeks by "surface". I presume surface in this case was boat. It got me musing on early long distance travels. Everything i have read/seen , has been sea travel from say , London to New Zealand. It got me wondering , would it not have been faster, Say train to an Eastern Mediterranean port, boat through the Suez canal, to Northern India, train across to southern India, boat to West Australia , train to Sydney, boat to NZ.Likewise, to Africa, most boats left England , and went to Africa direct . Why not train to Southern spain/Portugal, and boat from there?. Maybe not much saving to North Africa or West Africa, but what about East/South AFrica ?.The same with early flights, I wonder if there were any plane /train combos, given the high cost of air travel?.
I think before the current cheap air travel was common some people and mail could go by train to Marseille and then take boat to India, and perhaps Egypt and East Africa too. It would save a few days that way. I went by ship from London to Mombasa in 1965, not many months before the sea journeys stopped. It took a very pleasant three weeks, but someone in a hurry might not prefer that. Even though several days could be saved by the train journey one of the disadvantages would be that the ship only travelled at long intervals. The ship I travelled on also called at Gibraltar and Genoa, and travellers might have made connection at the latter point, saving several days from London. The trip was arranged by the Ministry of Overseas Development in London and was, I presumed, continuing the former Colonial Office's policy when sending officials to Africa. I think they also did much the same on the West Coast for journeys to Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Gold Coast (Ghana). Both routes ended in South Africa at Durban and Cape Town. But Independence brought that policy to an end.

I went with a large group of teachers and we took the train from Mombasa to Kampala where we were to take an education course at the Makerere University there. As there were so many of us the train was extended by several extra carriages. It took two nights to reach Uganda. I think it was still steam at that time.

For more details look for Union Castle.http://www.lastoceanliners.com/cgi/lolline.pl?UCL" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I travelled on the Braemar Castle.
Last edited by george matthews on Mon Jan 01, 2018 10:45 am, edited 3 times in total.
  by johnthefireman
 
Wasn't the Blue Train originally a mail train which met the steamers at Cape Town and brought the mail upcountry? I think "inter-modal" sea and rail transport was very common in the old days. Even in a country like UK there were boat trains which were timetabled to meet the ocean liners and cross-Channel ferries to facilitate the rail-sea interface for passengers.
  by george matthews
 
johnthefireman wrote:Wasn't the Blue Train originally a mail train which met the steamers at Cape Town and brought the mail upcountry? I think "inter-modal" sea and rail transport was very common in the old days. Even in a country like UK there were boat trains which were timetabled to meet the ocean liners and cross-Channel ferries to facilitate the rail-sea interface for passengers.
Yes, I remember at Dover when one could step off the train, pass through passport control and straight on to the boat. The train was alongside the boat. I think that track has now been abandoned because of the Tunnel.
  by ExCon90
 
Yes; what was once Dover Marine, later Dover Western Docks, is now a parking lot for containers; anyone still determined to cross in the traditional way must ride the regular domestic trains (from Victoria via the old London, Chatham & Dover or from Charing Cross via the old South Eastern) to Dover Priory, then take a bus to Dover Eastern Docks, which was never a rail terminal. After arrival in Calais there is a bus from the pier to Calais Ville, and the only through trains to Paris are a couple of TGVs in the morning and evening--the rest of the time ordinary trains are used, requiring a change at Boulogne. Since all trains involved are domestic British and French, there are no "protected" connections, whereas a boat train was always held for a delayed steamer because its only passengers were those who arrived on it. All gone forever ...

Although there's something to be said for being able to have lunch in Paris and dinner in London on the same day without passing through two airports.

Happy New Year to all.
  by george matthews
 
All gone forever ...
But if I want to go to Paris or Brussels I take the Eurostar. It is much more convenient than the ferry. No time is wasted fiddling around with climbing on to ferries and being buffeted about in the waves.