Monday, 19 March 2012

The Tale of Dare Devil Dick

In the 1870s and early 1880s the London and South Western Railway wasn't exactly known for the speed of its trains or their punctuality. Indeed, this made the company ripe for satire, Punch nicknaming the company's management the 'Wags of Waterloo.' This snippet from 1881 in the Sporting Times is a particular favourite:

‘The most humorous piece of writing in the world is to be seen on the South-Western Railway between Fulwell and Twickenham. It is on a board, and the quaint, incisive words are, “Speed not to exceed ten miles an hour.” Even people with urgent appointments, the keeping of which means life and death as they dodder up to town at the old Thames Valley speed of four and a half miles an hour, have to shriek with laughter when they read Archibald Scott’s great joke. People tell with bated breath how there was once and engine-driver, appropriately termed Dare Devil Dick, who got six miles an hour out of Thames Valley train, and was seen by a directors, and was sacked for furious driving, and was hired by the Midland and sacked for slowness, and now, having qualified on the S.W.R., is earning an honest livelihood by driving a hearse.’[1]

 [1]  The Sporting Times, Saturday, 29 October 1881, p. 1

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