BOAT TRAINS TO SOUTHAMPTON – From Cunard Lines to the RMS Titanic and the SS United States.

“The Cunarder” boat train departs the Southampton Ocean Terminal bound for London Waterloo with passengers from the RMS Queen Elizabeth. The boat train is hauled by SR Bulleid “Battle of Britain” class steam locomotive No 34088 213 Squadron.

BOAT TRAINS TO SOUTHAMPTON – From Cunard Lines to the RMS Titanic and the SS United States.

Colonel John J. Astor IV waiting to board the First-Class boat-train at Waterloo Station for the ill-fated RMS TITANIC.

Social History looks at the boat train.



The special ‘Boat Trains’ conveyed passengers from Waterloo Station in London alongside the great ocean going liners at Southampton Docks. In this photograph the boat train is moving towards Ocean Dock with passengers for the Union Castle Line’s Edinburgh Castle. The Queen Mary can be seen at Berth 46/47 on the other side of Ocean Dock.

These were special trains which connected with a passenger ship, such as a ferry or ocean liner.

“The Statesman” all Pullman boat train, hauled by SR Bullied “West Country” class steam locomotive 34007 Wadebridge, stands at the Southampton’s Ocean Terminal waiting to convey the passengers from the S/S United States ocean liner to London.

In England, since the days of the Southern Railway before the Second World War, special trains called “Ocean Liner Specials” were operated to carry the passengers from the ocean liners that docked at the railway’s Southampton Docks to London Waterloo.

Service aboard the trains was deluxe for passengers sailing by ship in First Class.

A veritable cornucopia of delights and a reminder of the past glories of Nine Elms shed; the store of boat train headboards. From front to back can be seen; Union Castle Express, The Cunarder, Holland-America, Canberra P&O Orient Line, Holland-Amerika, Oriana P.O. Orient Line, and Greek Line.

By 1952 British Railways had decided to give the more prominent boat trains to Southampton Docks special names, such as the Cunarder, the Statesman, the Union Castle Express, the Holland American, and the South American etc. However there were also a lot of boat trains without special names as well.

“Union Castle Express”

The special ‘Boat Trains’ conveyed passengers from Waterloo Station in London alongside the great ocean going liners at Southampton Docks. Passsengers are on their way from the “Union Castle Express” to the Union Castle ship Capetown Castle, which left for South Africa on the 6 October 1949.

One of the more famous boat trains from London Waterloo to Southampton Docks (Ocean Terminal) at this time was “The Cunarder” which was a special Pullman Boat Train to connect with the two Cunard Queens – RMS Queen Mary and RMS Queen Elizabeth and the Cunard Line transatlantic service to New York, USA.

This prestigious boat train was inaugurated on the 2nd July 1952 when the first one left London Waterloo hauled, appropriately, by SR Bullied “Merchant Navy” class steam locomotive 35004 Cunard White Star.

This boat train continued to operate until the retirement of the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth in the late 1960s and the demise of the ocean liners.

However. that was not quite the end of “The Cunarder” boat trains as VSOE still occasionally operate boat trains from London to Southampton Docks using the VSOE British Pullmans in connection with sailings of the QE2 and RMS Queen Mary 2. Indeed a special boat train was run on the occasion of the maiden transatlantic crossing to New York of the new RMS Queen Mary 2 and also to meet both the RMS Queen Mary 2 and the QE2 when they returned from New York to Southampton in tandem.

Sadly due to low demand VSOE decided to cease operating their British Pullman boat trains to Southampton Docks linking with the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2. As a result the last VSOE British Pullman boat train from London to Southampton Docks was on the 25th October 2007 to connect with the Queen Mary 2. It was the end of a glorious era.

Boat trains operated between Boston and Portland, Maine – to connect with the Eastern Steamship night boat to Canada.

Titanic, Canberra, P&O Orient Lin, Greek Line, holland america, Holland-Amerika,Oriana, P.O. Orient Line , rms queen elizabeth , rms queen mary , RMS TITANIC,ss united states , The Cunarder ,Union Castle Express

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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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