Today we have the Chunnel making London to Paris travel direct and dependable. But in the early 1900's, the distance, currents and trains all created a difficult journey. Just how difficult? Read this first-hand account.
"The comparatively short journey (modern editors note: 7 - 10 hours) between one and the other of the great European capitals is one which has demanded almost all the resources of modern science to overcome the natural drawbacks attending its peculiar features. Paris is, by rough calculation, about 260 miles from London which distance must be covered by the voyager in three stages.
having very little to do with the land conditions on either side, but depending upon the state of the sea beyond. Sometimes it is smooth as a mill-pond and at others most dangerous. Its condition is usually specially reported in all the morning papers. No finer line of steamers traverses it than the magnificent boats of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company, which, while the most luxurious of excursion steamers, are built to ride the stiffest gales like a Transatlantic liner.
The London, Chatham, and Dover Railway. — The Dover and Calais route, which is in high favour with the very best classes of American tourists, runs from Victoria Station, London, to Dover pier, and from Calais pier to Paris over the Northern Railway of France. Length of journey between seven and eight hours, of which about one and a quarter are spent on the sea. Passengers are carried from Dover to Calais (the shortest sea passage to France) by the magnificent S.S. Calais-Douvres, Empress, Victoria, and Invicta, owned and controlled solely by the Company. The London, Chatham, and Dover Company's trains run from Victoria, St. Paul's, and Holborn Stations, through the prettiest and most picturesque parts of Kent, and passengers have the privilege of stopping over at Rochester to visit the Cathedral and the Castle, and at Canterbury to view the Cathedral (containing the tomb of the martyr Thomas a'Becket), and other places of interest.
It will be well to note that Mr. A. Thorne, late at H. B. Claffiin and Co.'s, of New York, but now the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company's American Representative, is at the service of Americans intending to travel by their line for any information or facilities in his power to render. He may be addressed at the Company's offices, Victoria Station, London.
The South-Eastern Rail-way's London terminus is at Charing Cross. The Paris terminus of the line is at the Gare du Nord. This route lies by way of Folkestone and Boulogne, occupying seven and a half hours for the journey, of which one and a half are spent at sea. By special connection passengers may, however, cross by way of Dover and Calais, if they prefer, in the same time. The South-Eastern Railway trains also run a special cheap service at night of second and third class carriages. Besides Charing Cross, South-Eastern Railway trains also run from London Bridge and Cannon Street Stations.
The London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. — Commonly called the Newhaven and Dieppe route, because of its trans-Channel service being between these ports. Its stations are - in London, Victoria, and in Paris, the Gare St-Lazare. The journey takes about ten hours, of which one third is spent on the sea. Rouen is the principal stopping place en route. From Paris to Dieppe is run over the Western Railway of France."
The London and South-Western Railway from London to Paris via Southampton and Havre gives a journey of nineteen hours, of which eight and a half are spent on the sea.
Railway fares between LONDON and PARIS
1ST/2ND Class. One Way
London, Chatham & Dover Ry. £3.00/£2.36
Mail Via Dover and Calais. $13.52/$10.53
South-Eastern Railway. Via £ 2.15/£2.00
Folkestone and Boulogne.$13.31/$9.68
Express London, Brighton & S. C. Ry. £2.95/£2.23 Daily
Via Newhaven and Dieppe.$8.37/$6.20 Daily
London & South-Western Ry. £2.15/£1.19 Mon.Wed
Via Southampton and Havre.$7.98/$5.81 & Fri. even.
Text reprinted and translated from: Travel Guide for Americans
Paris artistic: Indicateur des salons russes, anglais et américains en France par C. W. Jarrett Knott
Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Philosophie, histoire, sciences de l'homme
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