1850s: Travellers find love on stage coaches - but not on trains!

Updated: Oct 30, 2020


'Blowing his horn' from Coaching Days and Coaching Ways

Writing in in the mid 1850s, Samuel Shergold, observed that coach travellers were more likely to find love on a stage coach rather than on a train, and concludes, perhaps in our eyes, in a very unPC way:


You cultivated the acquaintance of some agreeable fellow, who had begun to interest you by his manners. You heard every man’s business; where he came from and where he was going; where his father and mother lived; how many brothers and sisters he had, and what was his occupation.


One told you he was going to London to get employment; another, that he was going to France; a third, that he was going to India; and a fourth, that he was going to the d— l; and so forth.


Now, compare this to the taciturn sulky way of travelling by railroad, and you will immediately see the difference. There was an advantage and an interest in travelling by coach which travelling by rail can never communicate. In the former you saw men and their faces, and acquired some information in the latter, you learn nothing except the number of persons killed or injured by the last accident.


A young man who entered the coach at eight o’clock in the morning at Brighton, took his seat, perhaps, opposite a young lady whom he thought pretty and interesting. When he arrived at Cuckfield he began to be in love; at Crawley he was desperately smitten; at Reigate his passion became irretrievable, and when he gave her an arm to ascend the steep ridges of Reigate Hill, a just emblem, by the bye, of human life, he declared his passion, was accepted, and they were married soon after.


Nothing of this sort ever occurs on railroads. Sentiment never blooms on the iron soil of these sulky conveyances. A woman was a creature to be looked at, admired, courted, and beloved in a stage-coach; but on a railroad a woman is nothing but a package, a bundle of goods, committed to the care of the railway company's servants, who take care of the poor thing as they would take care of any other bale of goods.


It is said that matches are made in heaven; it may likewise be said, that matches were often begun in the old stage-coaches, and that railroads are the antipodes of love.

Source: Recollections of Brighton in the Olden Time, by a Native Thereof, Samuel Shergold, 1853, P19

Illustration from: Coaching Days and Coaching Ways, by Outram Tristram, 1893


Contributed by Malcolm Davison.