This is from an old blog I did, but as I’m constantly referencing it, I thought you, Gentle Reader, might be interested in an update. Before writing Changeless in late 2008, I knew there would be travel involved. I began by asking myself: How efficient were trains back in 1874? How long would it take to get from London to Scotland? There seemed no simple answer on the net, so I had to draw my own conclusions. And here is how…
A horse at a forced pace can cover c. 50 miles a day, depending on terrain and weather. A desperate man in very good physical condition can handle the same distance on foot. One horse, one rider could do 200 miles in 24 hours but the horse would probably die. Lets call that 4 mph normal, and 8.5 mph at a push. In my world werewolves in wolf form can move faster than horses at a run, giving them about a 10 mph, but they can only do so at night.
In 1956, the 789-mile Madras-Bombay stretch was done in c. 29 hours by the Madras Express mail carrier (the fastest train on its route). That’s about 27 mph. My characters in Changeless were traveling north of Glasgow into the Highlands towards Dunblane, I only needed a lose estimate. It’s 414 miles from London to Glasgow. So a train of a similar type to the Madras Express would take 16 hours or so. (Modern direct fast trains from London take about 6 hours to get Scotland, meaning we are now over 2x faster than the Victorians.) But no passenger train of the Victorian era traveled so fast through the UK, my Victorian time or the real one. There would be stopovers and passenger pick ups. So let us, for the sake of argument, double that time to 32 hours.
After all, this is my universe I get to make adjustments as I see fit.
So from London to Glasgow
By train: 32 hours, or a day and a half. But given Victorian leisure ideals, it’d probably take more like 2 full days on a sleeper train.
By horse: 103 hrs or 4 full days, but with resting each night, detours, and other stops, I’d say it’d take a little over 8 days.
By horse at top speed: 49 hours (switching mounts 2x), lowering that to save the horse to around 60 hours, that’s 2.5 full days, adding in overnights to sleep, a fast messenger would arrive at the end of day 3 with a winded horse.
By werewolf: 41.5 hours, but he only has moon darkness, which is about 8 hours each night in September. So it would take him 5 days.
By dirigible: in my world, these are said to move at about half the speed of a train, so it would take 4 days. But they are safer than ground transportation, as neither vampires nor werewolves will travel by air.
The estimates are probably a little high given weather and terrain.The interesting thing is, of course, that the advent of the steam engine would have eliminated a major advantage initially held by werewolves, namely that they could move across the landscape faster than daylight folk. Coincidence? Or is this the reason humans are so strongly in favor of increased transport speeds?
So, Gentle Reader, I wrote the original post is for 1874 all about travel times, train vs. werewolf vs. dirigible vs. horseback. Then a few years later, when I was working on Curtsies & Conspiracies recently, I need to do it again. Only this time I went back in time to 1852 when technology was more primitive.
My original post concerned London to Glasgow, a little over 400 miles. Then I calculated Exeter to London or there abouts, which is 200 miles driving in modern times (because there it no direct route, as the crow flies it’s more like 160). So in 1874 it would take 4 days (96 hrs) get 400 miles by dirigible (c. 4 mph). Ugh, that’s slow. Why did I write myself into that corner? Oh yes, Alexia had to be on board for a while.
“Giffard’s first flight took place on September 24, 1852. He traveled almost 17 miles (27 kilometers) from the Paris racecourse to Trappes moving approximately 6 miles per hour (10 kilometers/hour).” (From this online source.) But that was with the wind and untroubled by weather.
My tech is more advanced in Sophronia’s world that in real Victorian times (although less so than in Alexia’s day), so that in the second book of the Finishing School Series Giffard is flying the first aetherographic dirigible in the spring of 1852 instead of the first working dirigible ever. However, before he came along, floating had to be slower. So I made my Finishing School dirigible fly at 2 mph. That’s about 80 hours, plus some extras for shilly-shallying to get to London. So . . . 4 days. Its amazing how much time it took me to figure this out. But it gave me some good idea on plot and action, and that’s the important bit.
Just goes to show, pay attention in math, you never know when you are going to need it!
Now of course, I’m working on the Custard Protocol Series, which is well into the future, about 20 years after the Alexia books. So everything has advanced again. The aetherosphere has been conquered completely as a means of travel, and once people can get inside it, in my universe, it looks and acts in an entirely different manner than Sophronia or Alexia might have supposed. Since I’m conceptualizing aether as the Victorians did, neither air nor water but some other “elemental phase” (much in the same way light is both particle and wave) I get to have lots of fun with this fantastical part of my world. Above the atmosphere and beyond!
Ah travel, these days I’m either thinking about it, calculating it, or engaging in it myself.
Speaking of, Prudence is calling me, characters must get out of Bombay and into the surrounding countryside, scandal is afoot on four paws. Or is it?
Your Tisane of Smart . . .
The Hackney Coach in the 1830s
Your Writerly Tinctures . . .
5 Tips to Trap Your Characters
Dancing Through the Universe reviews Heartless
Quote of the Day:
“What is meant by Highland clans? Tribes of Scotch Highlanders, who bore the names, and anciently lives upon the lands, of their respective chieftains, to whom they showed every mark of attachment, and cheerfully she their blood in their defense: these chieftains, in return, bestowed a protection upon their clans, equally founded on gratitude and a sense of their own interest.”
~ Mangnall’s Questions, 1830