Three Men in a Boat takes place at the end of the 19th century, mostly on the River Thames.
The Thames rises in Gloucestershire, and flows eastwards in various twists and turns to the Thames Estuary and the North Sea – 215 miles in all, the longest river in England.
The source of the Thames is at Kemble, and the river then passes through Oxford, Reading, Maidenhead, Windsor, Staines, Kingston and London. From Teddington Lock (pictured in google map) onwards, the river is tidal.
The river journey in Three Men in a Boat starts just above Teddington Lock, at Kingston-upon-Thames, and they call at or pass by various towns and landmarks, as well as venturing through several of the locks that control the non-tidal river upstream of Teddington. They continue as far as Oxford, a journey of about 91 miles – almost half the length of the Thames.
Although most of the book takes place on the river, the expeditions begins in central London with a train journey from Waterloo station to Kingston-upon-Thames.
Waterloo station was opened in 1848. It was intended to be a through station, with a line into the City of London. Over the next few decades, more buildings and platforms were added haphazardly, so that by the time of Three Men in a Boat, it was the butt of jokes and was considered to be the most perplexing railway station in London – so much so that from 1900 the whole lot was pulled down and a new station constructed (which itself was badly damaged in World War 2).