The advent of steam hauled railways in the 1820s quickly revolutionised passenger travel and the transport of goods across Britain and the wider world. This is an early train ticket for a journey from Liverpool to Warrington.

In the early 1800s, inland transport was limited mainly to horse drawn carriages and canal boats. The invention of the steam engine changed everything. Rail travel as we know it today began in the North East of England with the opening of the famous Stockton & Darlington Railway. This was a steam hauled railway, open to the public and designed to carry passengers as well as goods. It was the first of its kind in the world.

Railways expanded quickly across the country. The Liverpool to Manchester line opened in 1830, hauled by steam engines modelled on the famous Rocket, designed by Robert Stephenson. This was a momentous occasion and the public opening ceremony was attended by some of the most important dignitaries and celebrities of the day. These included the Duke of Wellington (who was then Prime Minister), Sir Robert Peel (Secretary of state) and William Huskisson (MP for Liverpool).

The Warrington link opened a year later in 1831 and became a major player in goods and passenger transport, linking both north to south and east to west. Tickets like this were cut from an order book by a ticket clerk who filled in the details of the train time and the price paid. The right-hand side was issued to the passenger, the left side retained as the railway company’s receipt. Since this ticket is complete with both halves and the time and price blank, it’s likely that it was never issued. The back of the ticket reads: Smoking in First Class Carriages is strictly prohibited.

By road, the journey from Liverpool to Manchester took 4 hours, costing 10 shillings inside a horse drawn coach and 5 shillings if you sat outside. By train, the same journey took one and three-quarter hours, and cost 5 shillings, or 3 shillings and sixpence in an open wagon. Compared to canal transport the savings in time and cost for carrying goods were even more significant. The journey took 20 hours by barge and cost 15 shillings per ton. By rail it was only 10 shillings per ton.


Did you know..?

William Huskisson became one of Britain’s first railway fatalities on that day. During the opening ceremony, he climbed down onto the track to speak to the Duke of Wellington, who was in an adjacent carriage. He was hit by an engine passing in the opposite direction and died later in Eccles, where he had been rushed by train to receive medical care.


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Sources & acknowledgements

This object description and its related educational resources were researched and written by our team of historians and education specialists. For further information see the item’s home museum, gallery or archive, listed above.