Sarah Siddons at Railfest 2012, National Railway Museum, York

Keith Larby

Biggin Hill, United Kingdom

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Originally part of a fleet of 20 electric locomotives Sarah Siddons was built in 1923 by the former Metropolitan Railway for its London – Chesham / Amersham – Aylesbury (and beyond) services which until WW2 sometimes even included a Pullman carriage offering light refreshments. These engines hauled trains over the electrified section between London and Harrow-On-The-Hill (or, after 1925, Rickmansworth) whilst steam locomotives operated services over the rest of the route. The use of electric locomotives to haul passenger trains ended in September 1961 and initially Sarah Siddons was one of eight locomotives which escaped the “knacker’s yard” – four went to British Railways (London Midland Region) for electric locomotive testing purposes and four remained with London Transport for “operational” reasons, such as acting as depôt shunters.

Eventually however their nostalgic value was realised and two have been preserved. Whilst Sarah Siddons has been kept in fully operational condition and sometimes takes part in leisure-orientated events such as “Steam on the Met”. Until railway privatisation some railtours even saw her hauling British Railways InterCity carriages on both the Underground and the 3rd rail Southern Electric networks.

Named Galatea and Mayflower (after two yachts contesting in the 1886 America’s Cup) the two Pullman carriages were actually introduced in 1910 and using different electric locomotives were the first electrically hauled Pullman’s “anywhere” globally. They were for first class passengers only and as usual there was a supplement (extra charge) for travelling in them. Initially this was either 6d (ie: six pence in real money or 2½p in modern decimal money) or 1s 0d (ie: one shilling, which equated to 12 pence in real money or 5p decimal) according to distance travelled, although later this was reduced to just 6d for all journeys. In addition to offering freshly cooked light refreshments they were also fitted with toilets, which – as was usual in those days – discharged on to the tracks and were even allowed to be used whilst travelling through tunnelled sections of the route. Their demise came as a wartime economy in October 1939, and it is reported that neither survived.

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