Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Monday, 12 January 2015

The Cheltenham Flyer.

Title: "Behind Time".
Anonymous 19th-Century English Engraving depicting a Stagecoach.
Charles Dickens mentions a Stagecoach, 
called "The Cheltenham Flyer",
which travelled between Cheltenham and London, 
in one of his novels.
Private collection.
Source: Own work. Own photo at an art auction.
Author: Georges Jansoone (JoJan).
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Cheltenham Flyer.
Circa 1935. Behind "Castle"-Class 4-6-0
No. 5009 "Shrewsbury Castle".

One of Sir Felix Pole's last actions, as General Manager of the Great Western Railway, was to introduce the "Cheltenham Flyer" (or the "Cheltenham Spa Express" as it appeared in the official timetables), which ran between Cheltenham St. James and London Paddington at an average speed of 71.4 m.p.h., making it the world's fastest Train for several years.

On 6 June 1932, the "Cheltenham Flyer", behind No. 5006 "Tregenna Castle", achieved an average speed of 81.6 m.p.h. over the Paddington to Swindon section of the route, which was the fastest average speed ever achieved by a Train in normal passenger service.

One of the most popular Great Western Railway posters of all time,
The artist was Charles Mayo. The poster, produced in 1939, depicted The Cheltenham Flyer.

One area that the Great Western Railway's (GWR) managed to attract a lot of publicity was in the speed of their services, and one of the GWR Expresses - The Cheltenham Flyer - was groomed to become the fastest Train in the world. This amazing record was first achieved in 1929, with a booked average speed of 66.2 mph from Swindon to Paddington.

Maintaining this speed was easy on 'Brunel's Billiard Table' [Editor: The Western Railway Line running from Paddington to The West Country] especially as 'Castle'-Class Locomotives were employed for the 'Flyer'. 

However, in 1931, Canadian Pacific Railways took the record for a few short months until the GWR raised the average speed to 69.2mph. As an extension of the speed theme, the artist Charles Mayo, in 1939, produced one of the most popular Great Western posters of all time (see, above), which depicts The Cheltenham Flyer.

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