Railways and the Scouts

Cambridge District Scout Archives

In the first years of Scouting the railway system was the primary means of moving goods and materials over long distances.  The ‘big four’ railways were big employers, very evident in the town, providers of housing and the centre for goods in and out.  Scout societies were based within railway companies as witnessed by letters in The Scouter in the 1930’s.  No evidence of direct Scouting involvement with the LNER is found in the Cambridge District Scout Archives.

Cambridge Archives

The central importance of the station is indicated by the hiring there of a notice board for Scout activities.  This stopped in 1925.

The 1st Cambridge Sea Scouts ‘purchased the Alert for £50 (with mast and sail) and having been delivered by train was dragged from the station with the band leading the way’. 

1912 The 1st Cambridge camp report ‘Entraining was carried out without a hitch as on our arrival we found our reserved carriage waiting for us and our baggage , which had been taken down the previous evening, already on board.

1919                The 5th Cambridge having travelled to Marston, Oxfordshire ‘the railway company very kindly placed a van at our disposal’

1920 – 1925 A Scout noticeboard was maintained at the station as a means of communication.

1923 GWR issued ‘Camping Holidays on the GWR’, suggesting that it appreciated how often it was used by organisations camping, that it needed to get order in camping organisations on the railway or maybe to counter the increased use of lorries and buses.

1925                We arrived on the Saturday afternoon at Lowestoft station and had to push our gear in a hired handcart                                                                                  Ken North

1925 5th Cambridge (Perse) unloading the train on return form camp. A horse drawn cart took the equipment to the school (see companion piece, ‘Home from the Station’, in ‘Horses)

Trains were booked for District events and ‘Compartment Reserved’ signs for Troops are found in some of the early records.

1931 in The Scouter mention banks (Bank of England and Barclays) and all four of the ‘big four’ pre-nationalised railway companies; LMS, LNER, SR, GWR as having or proposing Scout Societies within their workforce.

1932                Trek Carts taken to pieces and loaded in the Guards van accompanying Boy Scouts to and from camp, will, in future, be conveyed free of charge.      HQ notice   The Scouter

1933    District asked IHQ if it was usual for Scouts to provide escort to the Railway Queen.  The reply was that it was not known.  Request turned down

  • French International Jamboree in 1947 – from Cambridge station
  • Sutton Park International Jamboree 1957- a day trip of 400 from Cambridge

The following timetable is from 1948 and plans an overnight journey to camp. It is not clear where the scouts were to ‘bed down’ on the outward journey.

13th Cambridge

Special fares

Many references to the reduced fares for Scouts are found in the local and national scouting press.  They often relate to escorted groups, but do not appear to be exclusively Scout or Guide prices. 

1949                For those young people going to camp by voucher or arranged beforehand

  • Under 16         Half the ordinary fare for the return journey
  • Under 18         Ordinary single fare for the return journey
  • One adult to eight young people is allowed to travel at the ordinary single fare for the return journey
  • Also now at weekend (With some exceptions)

1953    Coronation Camp Sandringham         ₤1/-/-   Scouters          5/-      Scout  They walked from the station (2½ miles) and a British Rail lorry was provide for the baggage.  Two troops asked if collapsible trek carts could be used and one used trek carts for their camp gate.

1956    54th Cambridge           Sandringham Jamboree         ‘Troop to share a railway container with the 12th

1978    ½ price fares for 14 – 18 year old (ie Child rate)

C T Wood’s album

JWR Archivist Jan 2019