Leicester

Thomas Cook steam train marks 175th year since first excursion

Photo of Thomas Cook aged 55 Image copyright Thomas Cook
Image caption Thomas Cook had to be his family's main breadwinner at 10 years old when his stepfather died

The man who gave his name to travel firm Thomas Cook has been remembered at an event marking its 175th anniversary.

The company ran a steam train to mark its first-ever excursion organised by Mr Cook.

It was 1841 when Mr Cook, a cabinet maker, arranged for a train to take 500 people at a shilling a head on the 12 miles from Leicester to Loughborough.

Ex-Baptist preacher Mr Cook wanted people to attend a temperance meeting, which promoted abstinence from alcohol.

Image copyright Thomas Cook
Image caption Thomas Cook's first journey was the 12-mile ride between Leicester and Loughborough

Born in Melbourne, Derbyshire, he said he did not start the company to make money - yet the firm's annual report in 2015 stated that it had 20m customers, 21,813 staff and sales of £7.8bn.

Image copyright Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Image caption Cook also offered this trip to Egypt
Image copyright Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Image caption Thomas Cook began offering trips round the world, including from this ticket office in Jerusalem

Paul Smith, the company's archivist, said: "He wasn't in it for the money; it was very much this idea of moral and social improvement.

"Thomas's idea was to approach the Midland Counties Railway and say if they halved their price, he could guarantee twice as many people would travel.

"It was all about trying to negotiate with transport providers and later hotels to offer cheaper prices so that more people could experience travel."

Image copyright Thomas Cook
Image caption Paul Smith said in the firm's archives there are 10,000 brochures

Mr Smith said it was Thomas Cook's son John who was more "commercially minded" and later "internationalised" the company with offices in the US, Egypt and India.

He added: "[Thomas Cook would] be amazed and quite surprised his name is still around and adorns all of these shops, brochures and aeroplanes, and I'm sure he'd be very proud of his part in it."

Image copyright Leicester City Council
Image caption Five hundred passengers travelled from Leicester to Loughborough for a shilling each

To celebrate the milestone, Leicester railway station staff sold tickets to Loughborough for five pence (one shilling) to the first 175 passengers travelling after 10:00 BST on Tuesday.

Leicester's mayor Peter Soulsby also laid flowers at Thomas Cook's statue and launched a new walking trial for visitors to the city.

Image copyright Leicester City Council
Image caption Re-enactors helped to recreate the train journey taken 175 years ago

Thomas Cook (1808-1892)

Image caption Thomas Cook's legacy is honoured with a statue outside Leicester station
  • Thomas Cook was born in Derbyshire in 1808
  • His father died when he was three and his mother remarried
  • At 10 he became the family breadwinner after his stepfather died
  • At 17 he was formally baptised and later became a Baptist missionary
  • After travelling the East Midlands selling Bibles he settled in Rutland and met his wife
  • They joined the temperance movement and organised the now legendary train trip to Loughborough
  • Cook died aged 83 in 1892 and the company was taken over by his son John

Source: Thomas Cook 175


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