The speed of the train during prayer
P II. 87: He saw the darkening lands slipping away past him, the silent telegraph-poles passing his window swiftly every four seconds
It is possible, however, to supplement some of the statements Gifford made with contemporaneous documentation, and to provide a parallel context in which a similar observation is made.
Holmes in discussion with Watson in the railway carriage
The telegraph posts were sixty yards apart in Conan Doyle’s story. This gives an average speed of the train as it passes the posts of just over 30.5 mph. It can be assumed with “fairly accurate and very convenient” certainty that the night-train on which Stephen and Simon Dedalus were travelling from Dublin to Cork in the 1890s was moving, at the time of Stephen’s prayers, at approximately the same speed.
For some contemporary validation, we can examine timetables for the Dublin-Cork night-train in the 1890s. In 1894 the express train service from Dublin to Cork on the Great Southern & Western Railway took 3 hours 47 minutes on its journey (Thom’s Directory, Advertisements section p. 47), but the night-mail was much slower. In 1897 the evening mail “down train” from Dublin to Cork left at 7.45 p.m. and arrived in Cork at 2 a.m., a time of 6 hours 15 minutes, according to the Freeman’s Journal of 12 April 1897. This suggests an average speed of 26.25 mph. Allowing to stops and acceleration, it seems reasonable that Stephen’s night-mail was travelling at just over 30 mph as it travelled on the open route between Dublin and Cork.
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