THE STEAMING SIXTIES No.7 Southern Shore
The map of the Southern, or rather the South Western part of it, rather resembles a river flowing east, that dendritic, tree-like pattern that ends 'upstream' at its extremities in the west in branches, though 'twigs' are what some of its farthest reaches call to mind. In winter a South Western branch to the seaside might be a branch like any other yet, especially in summer, they became linked directly to London, as a sequence of expresses were timed to make a succession of main line connections, dropping off coaches in an intricate system that would be wholly impossible with the stock, low staffing levels and simplified layouts we have now. Not to mention the closed and lifted branches!
This access to the capital was unique; nowhere else in the country could you board a coach at your local sleepy station, amid fields, hedgerows and twittering birds and expect next to be in London, more than 200 miles away.
It derived of course from the West Country and its singular attraction to Britain's growing army of holidaymakers. It was what historians called the 'seaside holiday habit' (making it appear slightly disreputable) and they came not just from London but from the Midlands and the North. In a direct through coach your bulging suitcase, hoisted with a sigh of regret (or maybe not, given the weather) into the luggage rack within sight and sound of seagulls and the sea, didn't move till the slamming of doors and the steam and smoke of Waterloo. A perfect system!
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