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VIDEO: Britain’s Cyclists Special Excursion Train of the 50s’

By Frantiska Blazkova

In reaction to our article about Japan’s ingenious train for cyclists, one of our fans pointed us in the direction of this gem from cycling history. After the Second World War, Britain’s day-to-day and social life was slowly getting back on track and TV broadcasts were of great help with that. The series of short clips called British Transport Films (BTF for short), focused on rail travel, were fairly popular at that time and one episode was dedicated to special trains adjusted for accommodating adventure-seeking cyclists.

This particular piece, called “Cyclists Special”, documents one jolly train excursion and cycle ride to the Midlands in 1955 and we can’t say if we adore more the dapper outfits of the riders without a single trace of tight lycra (but a lot of nylon) or the communal spirit of the whole adventure. At the onset, we can see a bunch of excited cyclists boarding “cyclists special excursion” train from the London area to Rugby and the video goes on to explain how the bikes are neatly stored on hooks inside a “bicycle” carriage and marked for each rider to recognize. The video then continues to document the whole journey, along with the vital beer and sightseeing stops. The light-hearted music and grainy-sounding narration makes us plunge into deep, warm waters of nostalgia.

As a lot of people in the YouTube comment section seem to think, the 50’s through 80s’ were a golden era for bike and train travel in Britain, before cars became increasingly popular, railway companies privatised, and leisure time became more about the segregated individual than get-together matter. Also, the emphasis is put on the fact, that the riders were from all walks of life, from a student to an accountant or an electrician. You can see that the idea was always around and that it’s no novelty indeed, it’s only getting more modernised. Anyway, the underlining point is, that ways to have inexpensive, low carbon, social leisure should be always encouraged, either within communities or by state-run organizations. No matter how you feel about British Railways or their current state, let’s makes a visit to times past!