Trips to the seaside begin to be a feature of railway passenger traffic in the years following the Great Exhibition of 1851. That year saw Thomas Cook’s fledgling tour business take-off, after he organised trains from all over the country, especially the northern towns and cities, to take people for ‘a day out’ at the exhibition. One could say that Thomas Cook practically invented ‘the day out’ and the excursions he ran to the Great Exhibition included travel and entrance fees in their cost – the fore runner of the Cook’s package tours, for which the company became a household name.
Bank Holidays were introduced in 1871 and, as time went on, many of the towns and cities around where this photograph was taken, East Lancashire, began to hold what were known as ‘Wakes weeks’. Wakes weeks were holidays where almost an entire town might decamp to the seaside for anything from a day to a week and the railway provided the means to get them there. Following Cook’s example the railway companies began to organise their own ‘excursions’ to ‘holiday’ resorts with Blackpool being a major destination for the Lancashire mill towns. Other coastal resorts benefited, or not depending on your point of view, from the growth of the ‘day tripper’ market, Southend, Brighton, and towns along the North Wales coast and Bristol channel also saw an increase in this holiday by the sea traffic.
Yes, but, ‘what about the dressed crab’, I hear you say – well, there are connections, albeit personal ones. My very first ‘main line’ turn as opposed to shunting or station pilot duties, was with one of Hughes’ Crab’s from Copley Hill Yard to Hillhouse Yard on a loose coupled freight working. The other connection, is that for me, a trip to the seaside is incomplete unless I’ve either had a dressed crab and salad in one of the local cafes or, at the very least, bought one to take home.