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Vintage-Style Railway Posters Celebrate Centenary of Bradshaw’s Railway Guide

August 29, 2013 by Jools Stone

Canada vintage train poster

Few things evoke the golden era of rail travel better than vintage rail posters. If you find yourself hankering after the charming retro artwork of days gone-by, then you’ll probably enjoy these new versions, courtesy of hotel site HRS.

100 years ago George Bradshaw published the world’s first guide to rail travel, Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide, now celebrated by Michael Portillo’s popular BBC TV series Great Railway Journeys, while 50 years before that saw the opening of the London Underground.

In celebration, HRS has commissioned this series of vintage-style railway posters. Depicting some of the world’s greatest trains from the age of steam onwards, these posters pay homage to the original advertisements used to attract rail travellers in the first part of the 20th century. 

Flying Scotsman poster

The boom of our railways sparked major change in Britain, stoking the fires of the industrial revolution and opening up leisure travel to the masses. It wasn’t long before steam locomotion crossed the English Channel and rail services began to spread across Europe.

George Bradshaw first produced his Continental Railway Guide in 1847, publishing Europe’s new railway timetables, but it was the 1913 edition of his guide – an 1100 page tome – which really opened up the continent to British tourists. 

As well as timetables, Bradshaw’s guide carried overviews of towns and cities, recommended ‘watering holes’, tips on places to go and to avoid, ticket prices and anything else the intrepid train traveller of the time might need. The guide was updated monthly, from 1847 right up to 1939, when World War II broke out.

Vintage tube poster

The London Underground opened in 1863 with its Paddington to Farringdon line. Whatever your views on the Tube today, there’s no denying that London would be a different city without its subterranean transport network, which aided the city’s expansion over the decades. 

Mallard train poster

A third milestone this year might be the 75th anniversary of the Mallard breaking the world speed steam record, a record which remains unbeaten today.

Sadly the posters are not available for sale just yet, but you can see hundreds like them in the archives (and online) of the National Railway Museum in York.


As a rather sad footnote, earlier this month we learned of the demise of Thomas Cook Publishing, the people behind what is perhaps Bradshaw’s modern-day equivalent – the excellent guide book Europe by Rail and the printed European Rail Timetable, which was until very recently updated monthly.

Like Bradshaw’s, TCP’s rail guides date back to the 19th century, so this really feels like an end of an era for rail information publishing.

Hidden Europe magazine provides a fitting eulogy to the firm in one of their recent Letters from Europe articles.

Siberian express poster

1 Comment »

  1. Kirsty Knaggs says:

    Great post!

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