Slip coach

In British and Irish rail transport, a slip coach or slip carriage is passenger rolling stock that is uncoupled from an express train while the train is in motion, then slowed by a guard in the coach using the brakes, bringing it to a stop at the next station. The coach was thus said to be slipped from its train. This allowed passengers to alight at an intermediate station without the main train having to stop, thus improving the journey time of the main train. In an era when the railway companies were highly competitive, they strove to keep journey times as short as possible, avoiding intermediate stops wherever possible.


If the express was on the centre track the coach was stopped short of the station and a shunter would move it to the right platform.[1] Some trains would carry a number of these coaches to be slipped at different stations, and sometimes more than one coach would be slipped at one particular station. In some cases the coach would, after stopping at the intermediate station, then be attached to a branch line train to proceed to the terminus of the branch, so passengers from the express train for stations on the branch did not have to change. Special coaches were built for slipping, usually composite, containing accommodation of all classes, and would also contain a small brake section where a guard would operate the brakes and where parcels could be stored.

To reverse the journey, the passengers would board the slip coach at the intermediate station, which would then form part of a local train to the next station on the line where the express was scheduled to stop, and coupled to the express train there to be taken to its destination.


The initial examples of coaches being slipped appear to have been for the purposes of running round a locomotive for the purposes of hauling a train in the other direction. The technique involves the locomotive detaching and drawing away from its coaches and taking points onto another line or siding, the points then being switched so the coaches could freewheel into the station being braked by a guard. The locomotive was then able to go and attach to the opposite end of the train and was not left sandwiched between the train and buffers at the end of the line. The technique was introduced by the London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) in the late 1830s. Samuel Wilfred Haugton, the locomotive superintendent of the Dublin and Kingstown Railway following a visit to the L&GR in September 1849 brought the technique it back in Ireland where following alternations to locomotives and installation of semi-automatic points it remained in use for several years.[2][3]

The first certain example of mainline coach slipping practice being carried out was at Haywards Heath on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in February 1858. In 1914, almost 100 cars were slipped daily and there was a peak of 200 working slip cars.[4] Improvements in the acceleration of trains, the introduction of fixed multiple unit trains, and the high cost per passenger of operating slip coaches, meant that the operation had mostly died out by the mid-20th century.

The Great Western Railway followed suit in December 1858, when certain express trains from Paddington to Birmingham began to slip coaches at Slough and Banbury.[5]

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway introduced its first slip service in 1889, five trains per day from Leeds to Manchester each slipped two coaches at Rochdale. Further slip service were introduced over the next three decades, and they continued into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) era until they were withdrawn c.1927 during the LMS economy drive.[6]

The Southern Railway abolished the practice in April 1932 with the electrification of the Brighton Main Line.[7] The last two slip coach operations on the London and North Eastern Railway were out of London Liverpool Street in 1936. These were the 18:00 which slipped coaches for Waltham Cross using old GER 6 wheeled slip coaches and the 16:57 express to Clacton-on-Sea which slipped a couple of coaches at Marks Tey for Bury St Edmunds using a bogie corridor slip coach of modern design, with a corridor "trailer".

All ceased during World War II, with only a small revival by the Great Western Railway after the war. The last slip occurred on a Western Region of British Railways service from London Paddington at Bicester North on 10 September 1960.[8][9]

Slip coach has widely been replaced by dividing trains where for example an 8-coach train would split in 2 portions e.g. a portion to serve a main line and the other to serve a branch line spurring off the main line in question. Dividing trains are common in Southern England where there are many commuter lines.

Slip coach collisions occurred at Marks Tey in December 1906 and Woodford & Hinton in December 1935.[10]


Coach slipping was practiced in Ireland on the Great Southern and Western Railway (GS&WR) line out of Dublin Kingsbridge and on the Great Northern Railway of Ireland (GNRI) between Dublin and Belfast. The GS&WR began introducing slip coaches in November 1900.[lower-alpha 1][11] Up to 7 down trains used slip coaches. Stations involved were: Sallins for Tallow; Kildare for Kilkenny and Waterford; Portarlington for Athlone; Ballybrophy for Limerick and Thurles for Clonmel.[12] There was also a brief trial of slipping a coach at Conniberry Junction from Kilkenny trains for Montmellick.[13]. The GNRI in 1932 were dropping a coach for Drogheda northbound from their 15:15 train to achieve a 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) schedule to Dundalk, the first scheduled mile-a-minute run in Ireland.[14] In the reverse direction a slip coach was noted for Warrenpoint.[15] The Drogheda was the second last slip coach to be discontinued, the last was the slip coach to Kildare from the 09:30 Dublin to Cork in 1940.[14]

In fiction

In the 18th series of Thomas & Friends, three slip coaches from the Great Western Railway are introduced, and belong to Duck. In Chapter 15 of A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler, the protagonist mentions having booked a seat on the Athens slip coach of the Orient Express.

See also


  1. There had been an unsuccessful trial slipping wagons off of trains into North Wall in 1887


  1. Rex Conway's Steam Album, Sutton Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7509-4626-1, p 81.
  3. Murray, Kevin (1981). Ireland's First Railway. Dublin: Irish Railway Record Society. p. 168. ISBN 0-904078-07-8.
  4. Kohlstedt, Kurt (8 June 2018). "Slip Coaches". 99% Invisible. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  5. MacDermot, E.T. (1927). History of the Great Western Railway, vol. I: 1833-1863. Paddington: Great Western Railway. p. 652.
  6. Marshall, John (1970). The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway, volume 2. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. pp. 236–9. ISBN 0-7153-4906-6.
  7. Kidner, R.W. (1984). Southern suburban steam 1860-1967. The Oakwood Press. p. 11. ISBN 0-85361-298-6.
  8. The Last Slip Coach Railway Gazette 2 September 1960 page 266
  9. The Last Slip Coach The Railway Magazine issue 714 October 1960 page 675
  10. Slip Coach Collisions Railway Gazette 22 May 1936 page 987
  11. Murray & McNeill (1976), p. 53.
  12. Murray & McNeill (1976), p. 136.
  13. Murray & McNeill (1976), p. 68.
  14. Baker (1972), p. 94.


  • Fryer, C. E. J. (1997). A History of Slipping and Slip Carriages. Usk: Oakwood Press. ISBN 978-0-85361-514-9.
  • The Railway Magazine. July 1936.
  • Rex Conway: Rex Conway's Steam Album, Sutton Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7509-4626-1
  • Murray, K.A.; McNeill, D.B. (1976). Great Southern & Western Railway. Dublin: Irish Railway Record Society. ISBN 0-904078-05-1.
  • Baker, Michael H. C. (1972). Irish Railways since 1916. Ian Allen. ISBN 0711002827.

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