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Monday, 25 July 2011

The 'Golden Arrow'

The 'Golden Arrow' luxury service from Victoria to Dover is featured in today's post 25th July 2011. The express began operating c1929 starting as an all-Pullman train hauled by a 4-6-0 'Lord Nelson' class locomotive or, occasionally, by a 'King Arthur' class 4-6-0. On arrival at Dover passengers were treated to a first class English Channel crossing to Calais on a specially built ferry, Canterbury, owned by the Southern Railway (SR). At Calais passengers boarded an equally prestigious French train, the 'Fleche d'Or',  for the journey to Paris. By the late 1930's, however, the 'Golden Arrow' service included ordinary first and second class carriages in its formation as the interest in luxury, all Pullman travel, declined.  The service was terminated at the outbreak of war in 1939, but was re-introduced in 1946 when a special headboard (until 1961) was added to the front of the locomotive. This headboard was truly inspirational with a large golden arrow piercing a green circle, the latter embracing the famous words, also in gold.  British and French flags, fixed to the front of the locomotive, and a  horizontal Golden Arrow fixed to each side of the locomotive, added even more flair.
The three puzzles I have chosen are all small examples reflecting the popularity of the train as a subject for children's puzzles.

Picture number one features a 40-piece wooden puzzle by Philmar. Heading the famous service is 'West Country' class 4-6-2, No.34092 City of Wells, also the title of the puzzle. The red headboard and missing flags are a mystery. The locomotive is one of Oliver Bulleid's smaller 'Pacifics'. The artist is T.E. North and the locomotive is pictured leaving a main line station ( London Victoria or Dover?)

The second picture shows a 45-piece puzzle from Mighty Midgets, simply titled Golden Arrow. In the picture the luxury train is hauled by one of Bulleid's larger 'Pacifics' No.21C1 Channel Packet, the prototype of the 'Merchant Navy' class of locomotives.  The train is powering through a station, beneath a girder bridge, on the furthermost track. A lone porter struggles with a luggage trolley on the platform adjacent to the nearside track. The artist is T.E North.

Picture number three is of a 60-piece wooden puzzle, Golden Arrow, from Victory. An unidentified Bullied 'Merchant Navy' class 'Pacific' is heading the Pullman express away from Dover with a ship (the 'Canterbury' ferry?) as a backdrop. T.E North is again the artist (he must be one the most patronised artists of all time, in jigsaw production). Note that in the last two puzzles, North has painted the French tricolor the wrong way round - the blue should be against the flagpole.

On the website Dave Peel (an authority on locomotive headboards) indicates that the colour of the Golden Arrow circle was commonly green, but may also have been blue, probably black and possibly red, though definitive colour evidence is hard to come by.