Saturday, October 01, 2011

Spreading one's person over the territory of the little man; or, notes on loving thy fellow passenger

New research interests (the origins of which I've been meaning to write about) have led me to examining Anglican thinking about society and international relations in the 1930s.

Said research has led me to the Guardian, which refers not to the better known contemporary paper of that name but rather an Anglican (more specifically, Anglo-Catholic) newspaper. In looking through the volume for 1935, I ran across the following comment which has nothing to do with my project but  -- since I have spent some fair amount of time on British trains in my life -- I found interesting.

Comfort for the Third-Class

The third-class railway traveller is being better cared for than he was twenty-five years ago, and at Euston Station last week visitors were able to compare a typical train of 1910 with one of the best of 1935. The improvement in the third-class accommodation proved the eagerness of the railway companies to consider the needs of the poorer traveller.

The best of all reforms is the provision of arm-rests; no longer will the bulky traveller be able to spread his person over the territory of the little man, for each will get the space that he has paid for. It is a pity, however, that while the long-journey traveller is being thus considered the unfortunate passenger on the suburban services is but little better off than he was forty years ago. On some lines, indeed, he is worse off, for whereas once upon a time the rule was ‘five a side,’ to-day, by a slight widening of the coaches, six are packed in.

‘Six a side’ in trains to-day has been the cause of more bickering and ill-feeling on the way to work or on the homeward struggle than any amount of political argument. Moreover there are often about eight other passengers standing in a compartment, to the discomfort and irritation of all. It is difficult for a man to love his neighbours on a journey from, say, Liverpool Street to Ilford.

'An Onlooker's Diary', Guardian, 10 May 1935, p. 304. (Paragraph breaks added)

A question to those who might know this kind of thing: when did 'third class' rail travel disappear?

I mean as an explicit category, of course, and not as a subjective experience.

(The 'historical bycatch' series; explanation.) 

3 comments:

Alex said...

I think probably nationalisation. BR redesignated them to "First Class" and "Standard Class" early on.

John Carter Wood said...

Thanks Alex!

partim said...

Bit late, but it turns out there is a twist (or two).

Third class was abolished throughout Europe in summer 1956 or, more correctly, former first class disappeared and the other two moved up.

For Britain, German Wikipedia says that most railway companies dropped second class already in the 1910s and only kept first and third. In 1956, third became second and in 1987 second became standard.