About the blog

British railways are run on a foundation of paperwork. Everything must have an instruction; a list; a rule. The railway was once such a huge, chaotic system that the only way to manage it was with reams and reams of paper. Today the system is much more compact but the mountain of literature upon which it is run is greater than ever. This is simply a collection of pages from railway documents. They may be old or new, interesting or tedious, large or small. Most are obscure and esoteric. Many feature interesting diagrams and all share the same strange mix of dry railway language and exotic nomenclature that has hardly changed in 200 years. I love these documents and have a large collection to share. If you want to see more of something or less of another, please get in touch or leave a comment.


Saturday, 7 April 2012

Leave the driving to us...

Brochure - Motorail Leave the long distance driving to us; British Rail Intercity, 1990

British Railways originally started a service conveying passenger's motor cars between Kensington Olympia and Perth in June 1955. By 1966 the concept had become a brand - Motorail - and had grown to encompass many more routes as well as both day and overnight trains. If you have ever travelled any distance in a typical 1960s car, you will instantly understand the appeal of not starting your holiday by driving one from Newton Abbot to Inverness but rather handing your car over to a porter at the station, spending the long journey North relaxing on the train and being presented with it once more upon arrival. Though always relatively expensive, Motorail was popular for a time but eventually the growth of foreign holidays and increasingly comfortable and reliable cars led inextricably to the demise of the network in 1994*. Privatisation was the final nail in the coffin as the railway became increasingly unable to cope with the complex operational burden of these services.

This 12 page brochure dates from 1990, when services had been curtailed to three Northbound daytime (two from Euston to Carlisle/Edinburgh; one Bristol to Edinburgh) and five overnight (Euston to Carlisle/Edinburgh/Fort William/Aberdeen/Inverness; Bristol to Edinburgh) departures per day. Southbound services followed the reverse pattern. It gives comprehensive information on the whole Motorail package. To take the Euston to Fort William service as an example, each Adult would pay £110 Return for a standard class twin berth sleeper cabin (£65 per child) and the one-way ticket for the car would cost between £75 and £200 depending on length and the time of year. On board insurance for the vehicle was an optional extra at a cost of 50p per £100 up to the value of the car. The leaflet is replete with photos of Scottish scenery and a happy looking nuclear family enjoying their Motorail holiday; dad watching with interest as an Austin Montego is unloaded from the train in Inverness, mum eating a sandwich and grinning broadly at a mountain through the train window, the 2.4 kids excitedly preparing for bed in the sleeper cabin and - bizarrely - the whole family relaxing on the bonnet of their red Ford Sierra in the middle of a boggy field, while dad points out an eagle or a flying saucer or something... 

*First Great Western reintroduced a car carrying service between London and Penzance in 1999 but it wasn't a great success and was wound up in 2005. By all accounts it wasn't very well marketed, as well as suffering from limited availability and eye-watering prices.

The oxygen of publicity..

Handbill - Holiday Runabout Tickets; B18524, British Railways (Scottish Region), Printed by McCorqudale, Glasgow, March 1956

So far all the posts on this blog have been concerned with publications aimed at an internal railway audience. Today I'm going to show a few of the more interesting publicity leaflets in my collection, starting with this handbill advertising special holiday tickets in the Angus and Perthshire areas. It is printed on very thin paper and is a remarkable survivor of the pre-Beeching railway. Of the 13 stations mentioned only 6 remain open in 2012; these being Arbroath, Broughty Ferry, Carnoustie, Dundee Tay Bridge, Montrose and Perth. In fact the line from Perth to Bridge of Dun (actually Stanley Jn to Kinnaber Jn) closed  to passengers in 1967, remaining partially open to freight traffic until 1982. Incidentally you can still take the train to Bridge of Dun though it is no longer part of the national network. The station is preserved by the Caledonian Railway*, a heritage railway which operates steam locomotive hauled trains from its grand Victorian terminus in Brechin during the summer months.

The fare seems good value at only £1 (around £18 in today's terms) for seven days unrestricted travel within a relatively extensive geographical area - you can even take your tandem for an extra 15 shillings! By way of comparison, a standard class adult day return ticket from Montrose to Perth today will cost you £15.80 and Scotrail will politely decline to convey your tandem.

*Well worth a visit! See www.caledonianrailway.com

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Self help..

From - PASSENGER SELF HELP TROLLEY MANUAL; British Railways Board, August 1983 (issue 2)
This is quite a charming and unusual little booklet. It's an A5 sized, cardboard covered collection of memos and drawings relating to the sort of galvanised metal and yellow plastic adorned trolley (manufactured by Middlehurst Ltd*) which used to be umbiquitous at railway stations up and down the country. It has six sections viz. - 

1. Circulars 
2. Code of Practice: Use and Control
3. Maintenance and Repair Procedures
4. Spares: Catalogue Numbers
5. Drawings
6. Repair Monetary Limit: Details

All sections are typed and are quite crudely reproduced. I've not really got very much to say about this one, but it's worth a look nonetheless.

*Remarkably, you can still buy one new!


From - USER GUIDE for the operation of CENTRAL DOOR LOCKS on InterCity Slam Door Coaching Stock; BR33070/50 Issue 2, British Railways Board/Intercity, April 1996.

It may come as a surprise to you to learn that the external doors on passenger trains were not routinely locked - even while travelling at speeds of up to 125mph - until as late as 1994. This change in practise followed a series of unfortunate accidents involving passengers falling from moving trains in the late 80s and early 90s, though the problem had been ever present on the railway from the very beginning. On slam door trains the central door locking (CDL) consists of a pneumatic bolt which drops from above into a unit on the door to hold it securely closed, even though the external handle may be operated. As its name suggests, the equipment allows all the doors on a particular side of the train to be locked or unlocked by the guard from a single location on that side of the train. If you've ever travelled on an InterCity 125 type train (HST in the railway vernacular) then I'm sure you'll be familiar with the the reassuring 'clunk!' noise which comes from the CDL units just after the train stops at a station and again just before it starts moving. It is interesting to note that on conventional slam door trains there is no interlock between the door locking and the brakes or traction equipment, so the train can still move with the doors unlocked or, indeed, with the locking bolts correctly dropped but the doors still wide open. However, the train brakes will apply if someone uses the emergency egress handle while the train is moving.

This is a fairly brief publication at a mere 27 pages including appendices. It comes in a smart blue A5 sized folder which features both the famous Newell and Sorrell designed InterCity logotype and a rather oblique stylised keyhole motif as well as the rather long-winded title. The document features a number of full colour diagrams and photos and is printed on heavy satin paper. Evidently InterCity had money to burn!

*Central Door Locking is termed secondary locking in railway parlance. The door handle and catch are known as the primary lock on slam door rolling stock. As well as the primary and secondary locks, each door is capable of being locked out of use when the train is not in service or when the door is defective with an independent mechanical lock operated by a square-ended key known as a 'carriage key'.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Sleep on it..

From - Mark III Sleeping Coaches Working Instructions; BR33076/2, British Railways Board, 1981

The Mark 3 sleeping coaches were introduced between 1981 and 1984 to allow the withdrawal of the Mark 1 sleeping coaches, dating from the late 1950s. The need to replace this ageing fleet was brought into sharp focus by a disastrous fire which occurred on an overnight train near Taunton in 1978, in which 12 people were killed and a further 15 suffered serious smoke inhalation. Lacquered wood interior panelling contributed to the intense conflagration; foam mattresses were used in the berths, which produced toxic smoke when burned and the vehicles lacked smoke alarms or any form of emergency lighting. The designers of the Mark 3 sleeping cars were determined to learn the lessons of Taunton and a great deal of emphasis was put on preventing fire occurring, through clever use of modern fire retardant materials, and preventing the spread of any fire which did occur. The new vehicles were also designed to be very much more robust than their earlier counterparts - they were built as a monocoque shell rather than simply as a body stuck on a separate underframe by a couple of spot welds. Over 200 such coaches were built in Derby but even as they were rolling out of the works, sleeper services across the UK were being scaled back or withdrawn entirely and the fleet never fulfilled its potential. Today 102 Mark 3 sleepers remain in use on the national network, with sleeper services being operated by First Great Western (London Paddington to Penzance) and Scotrail (London Euston to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Fort William, Glasgow and Inverness).

This booklet dates from the beginning of production of the Mark 3 sleeper coaches - it is marked "Preliminary edition" on the cover. The various features and systems are described in excruciating detail and there are numerous illustrations throughout. The drawings are all signed by one David Gibbons, who illustrated many of the BR33056 series driver's manuals of the same era. While researching this post, I discovered that there is an award winning British comic book artist by the same name*. At the risk of adding 2 and 2 together and coming up with 19, I wonder if he did a bit of light industrial work on the side in the 80s?