“The Cunarder” Boat Trains

  

RETURN TO THE HOMEPAGE                                                                                                                                                                                                                               THE CUNARDERS


 

London Waterloo – Southampton Docks (Ocean Terminal)

London Euston – Liverpool Riverside

Glasgow Central – Greenock Prince’s Pier

 

Since the days of the Southern Railway before the Second World War, special trains called “Ocean Liner Specials” were operated to carry the passengers from the ocean liners that docked at the railway's Southampton Docks to London Waterloo. By 1952 British Railways had decided to give the more prominent boat trains to Southampton Docks special names, such as the Cunarder, the Statesman, the Union Castle Express, the Holland American, and the South American etc. However there were also a lot of boat trains without special names as well.

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Photo: "The Cunarder" boat train departs the Southampton Ocean Terminal bound for London Waterloo with passengers from the RMS Queen Elizabeth. The boat train is hauled by SR Bulleid "Battle of Britain" class steam locomotive No 34088 213 Squadron.


One of the more famous boat trains from London Waterloo to Southampton Docks (Ocean Terminal) at this time was “The Cunarder” which was a special Pullman Boat Train to connect with the two Cunard Queens – RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth and the Cunard Line transatlantic service to New York, USA. This prestigious boat train was inaugurated on the 2nd July 1952 when the first one left London Waterloo hauled, appropriately, by SR Bullied “Merchant Navy” class steam locomotive 35004 Cunard White Star. This boat train continued to operate until the retirement of the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth in the late 1960s and the demise of the ocean liners.

 

However “The Cunarder” boat train did not only run from London Waterloo to Southampton Docks in connection with the Cunard Queens, as there were also two other routes. The Cunard Line also sailed from Liverpool and so another boat train with the name “The Cunarder” also ran from London Euston to Liverpool Riverside in connection with the Cunard Line’s “Dominion” services to Quebec and Montreal in Canada.

 

Finally the third boat train with “The Cunarder” name ran from Glasgow Central to Greenock Prince’s Pier also in connection with the Cunard Line services to Canada. This is because the ships from Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal in Canada also called at Greenock (by anchoring offshore at Tail O’ the Bank).  

 

These two boat trains had also been running for many years like the one to Southampton but only became known as “The Cunarder” boat train in about 1952 when British Railways decided to give special names to the more prominent boat trains. These two boat trains sadly were discontinued when the Dominion service of Cunard Line from Liverpool to Canada via Greenock was withdrawn in about 1964 after the Saxonia sisters were transferred to other services or retired from service. Boat trains ceased to use Greenock Prince's Pier station in 1965 after the decline of ocean liner services. The station is now demolished and its site incorporated within the Clydeport Container Terminal complex.

 

However that was not quite the end of “The Cunarder” boat trains as VSOE still occasionally operate boat trains from London to Southampton Docks using the VSOE British Pullmans in connection with sailings of the QE2 and RMS Queen Mary 2. Indeed a special boat train was run on the occasion of the maiden transatlantic crossing to New York of the new RMS Queen Mary 2 and also to meet both the RMS Queen Mary 2 and the QE2 when they returned from New York to Southampton in tandem.


Sadly due to low demand VSOE decided to cease operating their British Pullman boat trains to Southampton Docks linking with the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2.As a result the last VSOE British Pullman boat train from London to Southampton Docks was on the 25th October 2007 to connect with the Queen Mary 2. It was the end of a glorious era.


But on the 11th December 2008 Cruise Savers Travel chartered the "Blue Pullman" luxury train from Cotswold Rail for a special boat train from Manchester, Birmingham and Oxford to Southampton Docks in connection with the Queen Victoria's "Caribbean Celebration" cruise from Southampton to the Caribbean. All passengers will have reserved seats in the first class restaurant cars on the Boat Train for the entire journey. A three course breakfast will be served on the journey south followed by a continuous light refreshment service. Cunard Line staff will be on board the train to complete the majority of check in formalities on the train so that once the boat train arrives in Southampton the passengers can board the ship without too much delay.


On the return journey at the end of the cruise on the 2nd January 2009 the "Blue Pullman" luxury train once again has been chartered by Cruise Savers Travel to meet passengers in Southampton Docks. The train will leave Southampton Docks at approximately 1130 and head north via Oxford and Birmingham to Manchester where it is due to arrive at 1630. So maybe with this  perhaps there is a future for boat trains after all!

 



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