The Flying Dutchman

Have you heard about the Flying Dutchman Train? This was a passenger train service that used to operate between Exeter and London Paddington from 1849-1892. Originally it ran over the Great Western Railway (GWR).

A few years down the line the train was moved to Bristol & Exeter Railway. Following the expansion of GWR, the train changed its destination to Plymouth and Penzance for some time. This train got its name from a racehorse named The Flying Dutchman. The thoroughbred horse became popular after winning both St. Leger and Derby that took place in the year 1849.

The 09:30 train in 1845 operating between Exeter and London Paddington used to take five hours. It had to stop at various places including Didcot, Bath, Bristol as well as Taunton, which translates to 4 hours of moving during that year. In 1848, the train left London Paddington at 09.50 and took 55 minutes to reach Didcot after covering a distance of 53.1 miles. In terms of speed, the Flying Dutchman train was moving at a speed of 57.9 miles per hour thus making a start-to stop world record. At 11:45, the return train left Exeter back to Paddington.

In the year 1849, the train acquired the name Flying Dutchman. During the same year, it decided to add another stop at Chippenham. Despite this, the service provider maintained the overall time the train was supposed to move between the two destinations. The up train had to leave at 12.30 and arrive at London Paddington at 17:00 in the evening. In the 1850’s, the train’s performance deteriorated greatly.


There was also an introduction of transport services from London Waterloo to Exeter, which took duration of 4 hours on average. In 1862, the 4 hours journey time used in the 1840’s was restored at the train had to leave Paddington at 11.45. This did not work for the company forcing it to extend the time 5 hours and 5 minutes. In addition, the train had to leave Paddington with a total of seven coaches.

Two of the coaches used to be detached at Swindon, one at Weymouth, two at Newton Abbot, Torquay and one at Cheltenham. The train had to move with the remaining three coaches all the way to Plymouth. In October 1867, everything became very hard for GWR and the train had to cancel its operations the same year.

In 1869, the train resumed its services from London Paddington to Exeter. In 1871, it accelerated its speed when London and South Western Railway (LSWR) started offering a service taking a duration of a few hours hours starting from Waterloo. The train changed its journey time to 4 ¼ hours to Exeter. It went ahead to reduce the time to Plymouth to 6 ¼ hours.

In addition, it operated up to Penzance during the summer season although it had to move for three more hours to reach this destination. In 1867, LSWR decided to extend their main line up to Plymouth as well as introduced a train that took 4 hours only to reach Exeter. The last time Flying Dutch offered transport services was on 29 May 1892 when it moved from Paddington. The following day, it became a standard gauge train and had no name to distinguish it from other trains.