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In a text I'm translating, I've come across the concept of a market train. To my misinformed understanding, market trains might be those trains that carry crates and boxes for commercial purposes, but this doesn't seem to be the case (despite the train having a freight engine).

Rather, the carriages (we're talking a WW2 era train here) are meant to transport a large number of people from the main town to a satellite town which is called a "market destination" - a place where everybody in town has an aunt or a cousin.

What does "market" mean in this context? How else can I call this kind of train?


The text comes from an obscure roleplaying game manual published this century and inspired by a book by Alan Furst called The Polish Officer. The game is set in Poland around the day when the Germans invaded Warsaw.

I see in comments about market-day trains and to be true there's this passage in the manual:

They are market coaches for carrying people out of the city on Sundays and holidays

and:

[It] will look like an innocent market train, the sort that putters between cities on week-ends making every stop on the line.

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    It's a goods train, not a "market train". – FumbleFingers Jan 3 '17 at 17:03
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    @Mick: I used to work in the UK bus industry, where some companies still run "market buses". They've usually got surplus buses (and drivers) in between the morning & evening peak periods, so they can run the off-peak buses on the cheap (allowing poorer people in rural areas to get to town for a realistic price & travel time). Before Beeching we had a lot more railway tracks serving smaller population centres, so trains would have been used in the same way. – FumbleFingers Jan 3 '17 at 17:39
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    @FumbleFingers so market as in economical, cheap? Why don't you make that an answer? – Zachiel Jan 3 '17 at 17:59
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    Alan Furst is a much overlooked spy thriller writer. He is American originally. I recommend all his books. – Lambie Jan 3 '17 at 18:10
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    @Zachiel: I didn't mean to imply that "market" means "cheap". I've never come across the concept of "market coaches" per your first example, but this Google Books search suggests it's a misuse anyway (those examples all say the market trains don't run on Sundays and holidays). But if we assume the actual rolling stock really was "spare" at weekends, they could have perhaps used them to run cheap "peasants' day out" trips. It's not part of modern English usage, though. – FumbleFingers Jan 3 '17 at 18:11
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The meaning is explained in a 1876 House of Commons document:

Mr. Samuda testifying 4 April 1876:

I think it is perfectly clear that a market train, that is to say, a train running only on a Saturday, perhaps once a month or once a fortnight, was not within the exemption.

See also the 23 June 1917 article Market Train Service in The Country Gentleman, Vol. 82.:

"I live sixty miles from a city market, and although I would like to ship my fat calves, sheep, pork products and other surplus farm produce to the town trade, the transportation charges on small shipments and the slow..." ...

To cater to the needs of just such small operators a few of the leading railroads have operated special market trains, either daily or once weekly, through a territory which extends from seventy-five to one hundred miles along their route from a large city. ...

One road runs a market train once a week from a point sixty miles from the city

  • This may well be correct, but I think it is fair to say the term is scarcely ever used these days. – TimLymington Jan 19 '17 at 18:30
  • @TimLymington OP says "we're talking a WW2 era train here" – DavePhD Jan 19 '17 at 18:32

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