Leicester’s City Mayor, Peter Soulsby led celebrations at Leicester train station today, marking the 175th anniversary of Thomas Cook’s first public excursion train from Leicester to Loughborough in 1841 and the birth of modern day tourism.
The City Mayor laid flowers at the foot of the Thomas Cook statue, which has stood outside the station since 1994, and announced the launch of a new walking trail which guides visitors around historical points of interest related to the travel pioneer.
Building on the success of King Richard III and Leicester City’s phenomenal premiership performance, it’s hoped the trail will add to the appeal of Leicester as a tourist destination.
City Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby said: “I’m sure that this trail will help to show those many visitors that are coming to Leicester in increasing numbers, just what a wonderful 2000 years of history we’ve got, and just how influential Thomas Cook was in shaping the Victorian city that is so prominent, and so valued today.”
The commemorative celebrations also saw the retracing of the first original journey, a 12 mile trip along the central railway line, culminating at Loughborough’s Great Central Railway Station. The City Mayor was accompanied by around 500 fellow travellers including local dignitaries, school children and Thomas Cook employees, past and present.
Chris Mottershead, Managing Director of Thomas Cook UK and Ireland said: “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to trace the first tour that Thomas Cook organised 175 years ago.” Black Country Museum volunteers were on hand to help recreate an authentic experience to that of passengers on the 1841 train.
Thomas Cook now serves more than 20 million customers every year in 15 countries. Mr Mottershead added: “Our job is to ensure our customers go to the safe and secure destinations that are relevant today and that they want to go to.”
As a tribute to the birth of the modern day package holiday, the first 175 passengers to travel from Leicester to Loughborough after 10am were issued with 5p tickets, the same price as the initial journey that took place 175 years ago today.
Also present at today’s celebration was Derek Seaton, author of ‘The Local Legacy of Thomas Cook’, who described him as one of the ‘great pioneers of the 19th century.’ Mr Seaton said: “He attempted something that had never been done before, so to me he was a hero.”
By Jennifer Morris