Holiday giant Thomas Cook steams ahead as it celebrates its 175th anniversary

A steam train recreates the founding journey for Thomas Cook 175 years ago.

A steam train recreates the founding journey for Thomas Cook 175 years ago.

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Peterborough-based holiday firm Thomas Cook got its 175th anniversary celebrations firmly on track by retracing the journey that created the business.

Staff past and present, local dignitaries and school children boarded a steam train for the 12 mile rail trip that 175 years ago was the starting point for what is now a global travel giant.

A Victorian celebration for Thomas Cook.

A Victorian celebration for Thomas Cook.

On July 5, 1841, Thomas Cook, a cabinet maker, arranged for a temperance group to travel the 12 mile journey between Leicester and Loughborough.

Now Thomas Cook has customers in 15 countries, and serves more than 20 million customers every year.

At a celebration event at Loughborough Central station, guests were treated to a Victorian extravaganza, with Black Country Museum volunteers teaming up with the ‘Victorian strollers’ to recreate the experience Thomas Cook’s first customers would have enjoyed.

Thomas Cook UK managing director Chris Mottershead said: “We are very proud to be celebrating our 175th anniversary.

Thomas Cook Sport marks its new partnership deal with Leicester Tigers Rugby Club.

Thomas Cook Sport marks its new partnership deal with Leicester Tigers Rugby Club.

“We have come a long way since 1841, but the same values and focus on the customer that drove our founder are still as relevant today as they were all those years ago.

“I am delighted to be marking this important milestone in Leicester and Loughborough, two cities which played, and continue to play, such an important role in our history.”

Thomas Cook, which employs 1,300 people at its offices in Bretton, has also marked its anniversary with a three year partnership with Leicester Tigers Rugby Club to provide travel for players and fans.

To celebrate the anniversary, Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby laid flowers at Thomas Cook’s statue in the city centre – which has stood outside the city’s train station since 1994.

Thomas Cook's 175th anniversary celebrations.

Thomas Cook's 175th anniversary celebrations.

He said: “Thomas Cook was a truly remarkable man.

“But perhaps his greatest gift was to make travel accessible - making it easier for ordinary men and women to experience life outside their home, to broaden their horizons, and to discover the world.”

Chris Rose, Leicester Tigers’ head of brand said: “With 175 years of travel experience, we’re sure that Thomas Cook will be able to provide the best service for our supporter and 1st XV travel, particularly with our numerous trips to Europe.”