By 1862 the feminist movement was gathering pace and sensation writer Mary Braddon was scandalising readers with Lady Audley’s Secret, a thrilling novel of crime and detection that makes full use of the developing railway network as Lucy Audley changes her identity and travels the country in order to survive.
The Railway Traveller’s Handy Book of 1862 was on hand to help the bewildered female traveller navigate this new world, offering help with everything from refreshment room etiquette (to save time it was most efficacious to ‘Call out distinctly and in a loud voice’ the monosyllable ‘tea’ or ‘soup’); to working out the timetable, for ‘although we are acquainted with a few of the initiated to whom Bradshaw is as easy as ABC, we have never yet met with a lady who did not regard it as a literary puzzle, while the majority of the sterner sex have failed to master its intricacies.’
For all its convenience, rail travel held hidden dangers both accidental and more sinister. Becoming trapped in a carriage with itinerant card sharpers was one pitfall to avoid, while ‘Male passengers have sometimes been assaulted and robbed, and females insulted, in passing through tunnels.’
Our heroine, Lucy, is travelling alone on the coastal train from London Victoria to Kent. Danger is everywhere, from the attentions of that charming man on the train platform to the temptations of holiday revelries by the sea…