In 2013, a train journey between London and Paris is a fairly straightforward affair with people able to jump on at St Pancras and hop off at Gare du Nord.
A simple jaunt on the Eurostar means that passengers can travel between the two countries relatively easily via the Channel Tunnel. It also allows people to further their journeys and can even be the base of a European holiday, with the route carrying on to Belgium where people can then get connections to the likes of Holland and Germany. However, it was not always this simple and it took a special steam train to develop the route.
The Golden Arrow is probably not a term that springs to mind when people think about travelling from England to France but when it was launched in 1926 it became the most luxurious form of transport. It allowed people to cross the Channel and experience the wonders of France including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre Museum. It was a real pioneer of the time and a huge hit in the UK.
Originally named the Fleche d'Or, it was an all-first-class Pullman service between Paris and Calais and then in May 1929, the Southern Railway introduced a similar service running between Dover and London. This connection meant the luxury boat train could operate a route from the capital and it boasted that it could get people to their destination quickly and efficiently.
A magazine advert in 1929 proclaimed that the improved Golden Arrow service could get a passenger from London Victoria to Paris Nord 20 minutes quicker than it had previously run. The return leg could shave 40 minutes off the normal time. While it was initially developed as a first-class train due to advancements of air travel which were creating more competition in the market, third-class carriages were added in 1931.
The Golden Arrow was an unmistakable engine, with the trains all being fitted with a golden arrow along the side as well as a logo on the front. It was regarded as one of the best ways to travel to a different country and people had the benefit of being able to take in the English countryside before reaching Dover for the ferry across to Calais. On the other side there is another train waiting to weave its way through the glorious French fields and then pulling into Paris six hours after their original departure.
As with all steam engine stories, the Golden Arrow always had a shelf life but the service managed to outlast a lot of its compatriots. In 1961, as part of the Kent Coast electrification scheme, the train became electric which shaved 80 minutes off the original journey time but sadly this was not going to last forever.
With plane travel becoming affordable and faster the demand for the rail service declined and September 30th 1972 saw the last ever Golden Arrow run between London and Paris. However, it still lives on in the spirit of the Eurostar which is making it much easier to travel between the two capitals.