Wallis’ Locomotive Game of Railroad Adventure

From this time perspective it is difficult to appreciate just how transformative the introduction of the railways. As well as allowing people to travel at previously unimagined speeds, it heralded in social travelling, the weekend as well as opening up the economy and requiring the need for uniformity in time. Inevitably, games’ manufacturers sought to cash in on this railway boom and Edward Wallis was one such. His game, romantically entitled Locomotive Game of Railroad Adventure, was developed and first produced in 1835.

It sought to capture the thrills and spills of a railway journey by way of a game consisting of 49 squares on a beautifully printed board, illustrating stations and locations along the putative route. Dice rather than a teetotum was used, there were now no such concerns about the morality of using something associated with sinful gambling, and as the players navigated their way around the board there were, rather akin to snakes and ladders, hazards which could impede the journey, forfeits had to be paid and, to even things up, the opportunity to gain an extra go..

Reflecting the infancy of the national rail network, the game took the players on a circular journey from and back to London in two geographic loops, although represented as a continuum on the board, taking in Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Southampton, Birmingham once more, and York. The winner was the first to get round the course, although I have not been able to establish conclusively whether they had to land exactly on the winning square. Players also seem to have been provided with a certain amount of money to fund the consequences of some of the hazards that lay in store for them or to make their journey more comfortable. Quite how much and what the consequence of running out of money is unclear.

Depending upon the square you landed, you would be required to pay a fare appropriate for the class of accommodation, there were three classes, as well as the Cattle Carriage and assorted carriages for livestock and goods. Then there were squares which might be described as representing the experience of travel. If you landed on a square with a tunnel you received a token from each of the other players “to cheer you when you are travelling in the dark”. Failure to observe the railway companies’ rules and regulations. One square was labelled “Intoxicated” and the player who landed there was ticked off for travelling in such a state. The smoking of a cigar in a carriage labelled “No Smoking” incurred a fine of four. Squares labelled “Refreshment Room” and “Private Carriage” meant the player incurred extra expense while the square entitled “Lazy Lay-a-bed” meant missing a turn as your indolence had caused you to miss the train.

Railway journeys were not without their incidents and the game sought to replicate the real-life experience. Delays caused by the inclemency of the weather – snow, ice, flooding – would hold the player back as well as a stop to replenish coke and water. There were also accidents to navigate. One square was labelled “Pig run over” and if you were unfortunate enough to land there you would be fined one “for letting them stray on the line, one for the poor fellow you have made into pork, and two for that one begun to be converted into sausage meat, by taking off his snout”. Another square had the train hitting a horse. There was no mention of any human fatalities or derailments or boiler explosions which were part and parcel of the real train experience at the time. Swift progress, though, got you to the market first, in time to make a killing. The game, though, did suggest that any profits made should go to charitable causes, a mix of the well-meaning philanthropy that infiltrated some parts of Victorian capitalism.

The game also had its moments of humour, intentional or otherwise. One square pictured a bridegroom, distraught at the sight of the train moving off carrying with it his bride. For this misfortune you missed a turn.

The game shed an interesting insight into the attitudes towards train travel at the time, but in time would prove no substitute for the delights of a model railway.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.