© Railway Wonders of the World 2012-
Passenger and Mail Communications in Great Britain and Northern Ireland
THE NEPTUNE AT CROYDON AIRPORT. The aircraft illustrated is one of the D.H.36B four-
IN planning a system of internal air transport in the United Kingdom those concerned have had to bear in mind various considerations which are peculiar to the country. The area to be served comprises a large island (England, Wales and Scotland), part of another large island (Ireland) and numerous small islands, all of which are in need of facilities. Distances between important centres are relatively short and between these centres, where there is no interruption by sea, fast and frequent services are generally provided by the railways.
Although an aeroplane is far faster than the fastest train, the overall speed of any air service is necessarily slowed down by the time taken by surface connexions at either end of the route between the city and the airport. This delay is relatively great on short routes such as exist in Great Britain, but it is negligible on routes such as those across the United States or between England and India.
Other things being equal, for journeys of less than 150 miles the aeroplane, with its road connexions to and from the airports, will not generally be faster than the fastest train. For distances beyond 150 miles the aeroplane’s advantage in speed will become progressively greater until a point is reached where the railway is completely outclassed.
A few examples will make this clear. The air journey from Croydon to Castle Bromwich, the airport of Birmingham, 107½ miles, takes only fifty minutes; but forty-
When a still longer journey is contemplated, air transport is quicker by a large margin. The air journey time from London to Glasgow, 368½ miles by the direct service, is only three hours twenty minutes; even with the eighty minutes’ addition for the road connexions, the overall time of four hours forty minutes is nearly two hours quicker than that of the fastest railway service, by the Coronation Scot, 401½ miles in six and a half hours.
There are certain classes of surface transport other than direct railway routes with which the air can compete on still better terms. When a railway line has to pass over mountainous country or to conform to the indentations of an irregular coastline, the trains are necessarily slow or follow a roundabout route. The air route is not affected by mountain gradients, and aircraft can take short cuts across gulfs and estuaries. Thus, for example, the air service between Glasgow, Perth and Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland, is much faster than the train service, which involves climbs over mountain passes. Again, the short air route of 24 miles between Bristol and Cardiff, in South Wales, is much more expeditious than the railway route, as the aircraft fly across the Bristol Channel in a quarter of an hour, whereas the trains have to make a detour of thirty-
THE ANNUAL OVERHAUL. The Venus is one of the D.H.86B express air liners operating on the London-
When the barrier of the sea slows down the overall speed of surface transport, because of the necessity of transhipment, railway connexions are at their greatest disadvantage in comparison with the air. For example, the Ulster Express from London reaches the Lancashire port of Heysham, 239 miles from Euston, in four hours and a half; but no fewer than seven hours are required for the sea crossing of 138 miles from Heysham to Belfast, including the time of transhipment from the train to the steamer.
The morning aeroplane from Croydon to Belfast, 330½ miles, takes only three hours five minutes. Forty-
Royal Mail Route
A still more striking example is afforded by a comparison of the services between London and the Channel Islands. Aircraft regularly fly between Heston Airport, Middlesex, and Jersey Airport, 181 miles, in an hour and a half. Road connexions make the overall time three hours. The combined train and boat journey takes between eleven and twelve hours.
With these considerations in mind, companies wishing to attract regular passengers to air routes in Great Britain and Northern Ireland have concentrated on the longer routes and on those which would otherwise involve sea passages, mountain climbs or long detours.
Based on this logical principle, British internal air services are becoming more and more comprehensive from year to year. The railway companies, in particular, are fully alive to the potentialities of air transport, and it is to them that the country owes some of its most progressive air schedules.
In 1929 the four mainline railway companies -
The first of these services was operated by Imperial Airways on a charter basis for the Great Western Railway between Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and the Devonshire cities of Exeter and Plymouth. This service was begun in 1933 with a three-
In the following year -
The service over LMS territory is that between London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Belfast and Glasgow. For several years past Railway Air Services has been awarded the contract for the carriage of mails by this route.
AT SPEKE AIRPORT, six miles south-
For the summer season of 1938 the schedules between London, Belfast and Glasgow have been revised and improved. One aeroplane leaves Croydon daily except Sundays at 9.30 a.m. and flies to Birmingham, Liverpool and Belfast, with an optional call at Stoke-
The connecting coach for the 9.30 service from London leaves Victoria Station at 8.45 a.m. for its twelve-
At Croydon a four-
The company owns, besides D.H.86B aircraft, several D.H.89A Dragon Rapides. The D.H.89A Dragon Rapide is a twin-
Having left Croydon at 9.30, the aircraft flies past the western suburbs of London and is soon over the Chiltern Hills. It crosses the Chilterns beyond Chesham (Buckinghamshire). A few minutes later it is over the RAF station at Halton, near Aylesbury, the county town of Buckinghamshire. Beyond the little town of Buckingham, which has given its name to the county of which it was formerly the county town, the liner flies over the Warwickshire boundary. It passes between the almost adjoining towns of Leamington and Warwick, on the west, and the city of Coventry, on the east.
Across the Irish Sea
In fifty minutes the D.H.86B lands at Castle Bromwich Airport, five miles east of Birmingham and 107½ miles from Croydon. At Castle Bromwich it may pick up some passengers, who have left the centre of Birmingham at a quarter to ten.
The next stage is one of 73 miles to Speke Airport, six miles south-
Speke is an important air junction. The Belfast and Liverpool routes diverge here and there is a connecting service, operated by Isle of Man Services, Ltd, to the airport of Ronaldsway, in the Isle of Man.
D.H.89 RAPIDE AIRCRAFT are used on some of the R.A.S. routes. They are powered by two Gipsy Six (Series I) engines of 200 horse-
At 11.15 the Glasgow liner takes off; the Belfast craft, which has flown from Croydon, follows five minutes later. The Belfast aeroplane passes the city of Liverpool, whose unfinished cathedral is a prominent landmark, and then flies down the estuary of the Mersey, between Liverpool, on the Lancashire bank, and Birkenhead, on the Cheshire bank. The Cheshire coast is left at Wallasey, in the Wirral Peninsula.
The aircraft flies over the Bar Lightship, off the mouth of the Mersey, and is soon over the southern end of the Isle of Man and the airport of Ronaldsway. In continuation of its flight over the Irish Sea, the aeroplane crosses into Ulster near the mouth of Strangford Lough. A few minutes later it lands at the aerodrome in Belfast Harbour, having covered a distance of 150 miles from Speke Airport in an hour and a quarter. Until recently the landing was made at Newtownards, eleven miles east of Belfast. The fifty minutes’ road journey from Newtownards to Belfast is now avoided.
The Glasgow aeroplane, having left Speke, flies north-
The afternoon aeroplane from Croydon to Belfast leaves at 3.25 and lands at Castle Bromwich at 4.15. Five minutes later it takes off for Manchester, reaching the new airport of Ringway, 62 miles away, at 4.50. Ringway, situated near Wilmslow, Cheshire, and about eight miles south of Manchester, is now used by Railway Air Services instead of Barton Airport, which lies six miles west of the city.
After a stop of five minutes the aircraft has a short journey of 24 miles to Speke Airport, Liverpool, which it reaches in fifteen minutes. Noteworthy features of the east-
At 5.25 Speke is left and the Irish Sea is crossed to Ronaldsway, in the Isle of Man. Forty-
ENGLAND, SOUTH WALES, NORTHERN IRELAND AND SCOTLAND are served by R.A.S. aircraft. Associated companies run services to the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, the Hebrides, and the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Where the routes cross the sea, the saving of time, in comparison with surface transport facilities, is remarkable. Thus London and Belfast are only four hours apart by air (including road connexions), but the train and boat journey requires 11½ hours.
Between Belfast and Glasgow there are three services on most days in either direction during the summer months. The distance of 105 miles is flown in fifty-
An interesting service is that between Manchester and Shoreham Airport, Sussex. The route taps the territory of the LMS, Great Western and Southern Railways. Although a direct course is not taken, the journey is completed in an overall time of three and a half hours.
The aeroplane leaves Ringway Airport, Manchester, at 8.55 a.m. and lands at Speke, Liverpool, at 9.10. At 9.20 it takes off for Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, reached in forty minutes. After a wait of five minutes at Castle Bromwich the liner leaves at 10.5 for the 84-
The next stage is from Bristol to Southampton, 62 miles, flown in half an hour. The route is over Westbury, Salisbury Plain -
Southampton, reached at 11.30, is left five minutes later. Fifteen minutes are allowed for the 19-
The Great Western territory is partly covered by a service between Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter and Plymouth. The overall time of the air journey is seventy minutes. The liner flies daily in summer, except on Sundays, once in either direction. As, however, it spends the night at Cardiff, there is an extra service between Cardiff and Bristol. These airports are 24 miles apart.
At 10.35 a.m. the aeroplane leaves Cardiff, arriving at Bristol at 10.50. Ten minutes later it leaves Bristol for Cardiff, which it reaches at 11,15. From Cardiff a third crossing is made of the Bristol Channel. The aeroplane reaches the Somerset coast at Watchet, on the fringe of Exmoor, and flies over the Brendon Hills into Devonshire. Exeter is an optional call and Roborough Airport, Plymouth, 92½ miles from Cardiff, is reached in fifty minutes from the Glamorganshire coast. This service, too, is balanced by a return service in the same time.
A Sunday connexion between Bristol and Cardiff is provided by the aeroplane which flies on Sundays from Cardiff via Bristol to Southampton and Ryde, Isle of Wight. This journey takes seventy minutes in either direction. The route combines parts of the Manchester-
The Isle of Man is in air connexion with Blackpool (Stanley Park Airport, formerly Squire’s Gate), Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds (Yeadon Airport). These services are operated by Isle of Man Air Services, Ltd. The journey from Ronaldsway to Leeds, including the various stops, takes two hours. In the height of summer the traffic is heavy and additional aircraft fly non-
Other Isle of Man services are Carlisle (Cumberland)-
From Jersey to the Shetlands
The Channel Islands are served by Jersey Airways, Ltd. Jersey Airport is connected with London (Heston Airport), 181 miles in 90 minutes; with Southampton, 129 miles in 65 minutes; with Shoreham, 140 miles in 65 minutes; and with Exeter, 120 miles in 60 minutes.
In Scotland the air services are in the hands of Scottish Airways, Ltd. This company took over in 1938 the services of Northern and Scottish Airways, Ltd, and of Highland Airways, Ltd. Scottish Airways, Ltd, operates for an affiliated company, Western Isles Airways, Ltd, services between Glasgow and the Hebrides. Railway Air Services is not directly interested in this unification of Scottish routes, but the LMS Railway is interested, in conjunction with British Airways, Ltd, and David Macbrayne, Ltd.
An important Scottish service inaugurated in April 1938 is that between Glasgow, Perth and Inverness. Another connects Inverness, Wick (Caithness) and the airport of Kirkwall, capital of the Orkneys. The journey of 118 miles is completed in 80 minutes. By train and boat the passenger would take the best part of a day. From Kirkwall Scottish Airways operates a connecting service to (80 miles) Sumburgh, the airport of the Shetland capital, Lerwick. Thus it is possible to travel by air, with four or five changes, from the Channel Islands to the Shetland Islands -
Some impressions of a flight in stormy weather from Glasgow to London should reassure the most timid passenger. Shortly after eight o’clock on a May morning in 1938 intending travellers went to the R.A.S. office in Glasgow Central Station, showed their tickets and were weighed, with their luggage.
CABIN OF A D.H.86B BIPLANE. The ten seats are upholstered in blue leather, which covers the walls as well. Each passenger can adjust the ventilation near his seat. The seats are provided with lap belts for the use of passengers when the aircraft is taking off or landing. Under each seat is a lifebelt, to conform to Air Ministry regulations, as the aircraft may fly for part of the journey over the sea. At the far end of the cabin is the door leading to the cockpit for the pilot and the radio officer. Above this door one of the circular skylights is partly seen.
At 8.15 a large Rolls-
The interior arrangements of the aircraft are well planned. In front is the cockpit, accommodating the pilot and the radio officer; the cockpit is separated from the passenger compartment by a door. The ten seats for the passengers -
Everything is ready. The Venus taxies into the wind and takes off. This is done so skilfully that the inexperienced passenger scarcely knows the moment that the aircraft becomes airborne. On this particular morning, though it is fine in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, there are heavy clouds not far away.
Past England’s Highest Peaks
The pilot flies south, climbing into the clouds. The ground vanishes from sight and the aeroplane is in a black mist. In an instant -
While the passenger is trying to identify the various peaks, they are slipping behind, and the Venus is passing over Morecambe Bay, that deep indentation which divides the Furness District from the rest of Lancashire. Passengers see the railway viaduct across the estuary of the River Kent, which flows into the bay.
The Fylde Coast of Lancashire soon comes into sight and the pilot, still keeping out to sea, treats the passengers to a close view of Blackpool. The piers and the tower are distinctly seen from what the uninitiated think is a height of only a few hundred feet. In reality the Venus’s height is about 3,000 feet. Here the visibility is poor again, the aircraft bumps a little. The nervous passenger takes heart, however, after having read in the “Information for Passengers” that the “ups” and “downs” are caused by gusts of wind and are “nothing to worry about”. In a few minutes the Venus passes Liverpool, although the city is all but invisible in the mists, and lands gently at Speke Airport.
The airport buildings of Speke are modern and are provided with everything calculated to make air travel congenial. The passengers leave the Venus, expecting to change into the Belfast aeroplane, which has arrived a few minutes earlier. Today, however, it has been decided to send the Venus on to Croydon and to use the Belfast craft for the journey back to Glasgow. The Belfast passengers, therefore, join those from Glasgow in the Venus. All of them who smoke have doubtless taken advantage of the few minutes’ halt at Speke to light cigarettes or pipes. Smoking on board is strictly forbidden, although the D.H.86B type of aircraft is exempt from this restriction under Government regulations. The maximum penalty for endangering life in an aircraft by smoking is a fine of £200 and six months’ imprisonment.
Now all is ready for the next stage of the journey. The passengers embark, the pilot taxies into the wind and takes off. The Mersey is crossed into Cheshire, and the Midlands are approached. The country looks as flat as a map in an atlas, although it is, in reality, gently undulating. The weather now, unfortunately, becomes bad and the untravelled passenger wonders where he is. Today neither the Stoke-
After but little delay, the Venus circles over Heston and then over Croydon. As the aeroplane crosses the Thames, the river is just seen through the mist. The Venus makes a perfect landing. The passengers, grateful to those who have perfected blind flying, land at Croydon and are swiftly taken by coach to Airway Terminus, Victoria Station, London.
PREPARING FOR THE DAY’S FLIGHT. The Jupiter, another of the D.H.86B biplanes, is receiving its daily attention, which includes refuelling. The cruising fuel consumption is 35½ gallons an hour. The ultimate range with 114 gallons of fuel is 450 miles, and with 191 gallons 750 miles. Between 12 and 16 gallons of oil are carried. The total all-
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