Public awareness of railways through the ages

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70014IronDuke

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I decided to start this thread after the way the Monopoly Board Stations' discussion was moving. I felt it needed a new title for broader appeal.

Interesting that the general picture which seems to be got, is that the Monopoly "LNER connection" stems from Waddingtons being Leeds-based, and their folks having used the LNER for travelling between there and London.

I've always felt, "four London termini in the game -- what with the 'Big Four' companies of that era, the obvious thing would have been to have one station for each (I'd envisage Kings Cross, Euston, Paddington, and Waterloo)"; but reckonably, that's because I'm a railway enthusiast. I'd envisage that in those times, an overall majority of the population -- those who had no particular interest in this issue, or didn't have it thrust in their faces by the circumstances of their lives -- didn't have the "Big Four" thing prominently on their radar. With the LMS also having a presence in Leeds, the Waddingtons guys would (one feels) at least have been aware of the LMS as well as the LNER; but likely enough, the Great Western and the Southern were -- with their not having a specific interest in this stuff -- pretty much
outside their ken.

I am, or was, under a very different understanding. Speaking of the inter-war
years, I feel that just about any professional person - and quite a few of the so-called working class too - in the UK would have a definite awareness of the 'Big Four'.

Rail was more or less still the monopoly carrier for inter-city journeys, and most goods traffic was via rail. Even for the masses, the one trip to the seaside for the family holiday (if they could afford even that) would have been by rail. And if they couldn't afford it - there were hop pickers specials to take you for a fortnight's work in Sussex and Kent :)

In addition, the financial health of the railways must have been of great concern to many people, even the working class with no shares, in those days. After all, a bust railway would mean vital services were at risk.

I believe the LMS was, until c 1926, the biggest company in the world by market cap - that makes if the google-GE-Exxon like company of the day.

On top of this, it is clear that each of the Big Four were very concerned about publicity - hence Bulleid's air-smooth casings (ok, a bit late for this period) the SR's claim that the LNs were the most powerful loco in the country, the LMS attempt to beat the LNER with non-stop runs to Glasgow/Edinburgh - all that sort of stuff.

But maybe Calthorp's assumptions are more accurate. So just how much did railways enter the general consciousness before WW2 - and indeed, pre WW1 for that matter?
 
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Bevan Price

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Unfortunately, people from my parents & grandparents generations are not around to ask. But, my understanding from that period is that:

Working class people did not generally own shares - mostly they could not afford to - some could barely afford food & rent for housing. They had to be thrifty and save what little they had to buy "essentials"

Only a minority could afford an annual holiday - the most that many could aspire to might be a day trip to the seaside (or other tourist location.)

The attitude was probably "we have a railway - it will now be here forever", and, like now, who owned the railway was largely seen as immaterial. Fares were distance-based, and mostly similar for competing railways where you had the choice of 2 or more routes. Selection of routes would largely depend on convenience - of timetables and/or location of stations.

The main users of passenger services would be those who had to commute to work (numbering many less than now) , and what were known as the "middle class", some of whom could save enough money for an annual holiday.

Travelling salesmen and business travellers would also use the railways, and until at least WW1, the affluent rich would also travel by rail. I think railway advertising was aimed to tempt some of these travellers to choose holiday destinations that would bring the greatest revenue to the railway company publishing the adverts.
 

coppercapped

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The railways were in the general consciousness prior to the outbreak of the Second World War - it was the only way for most people to get about and practically all goods were brought to the local goods station by train. The local carter then delivered to the door. There were exceptions such as sea-coal, brought by coaster from the northeastern coal fields and transhipped in London docks and many small ports along the coast such as Exmouth.

Practically everything else was moved by train so most people had a good understanding of what they did, even if they did not use them directly. My grandfather was probably an exception - he worked in London and used the Great Western's 'residentials' to travel to work and back every day. Some of his stories about slip coaches which didn't and dozing off on the train and waking up in Oxford were very amusing for this 8-year old...!

The decline in knowledge and interest in the railways started, in my understanding, after the Second World War. During the war travel by train was discouraged - 'Is your journey rally necessary?' - too many people had to spend long hours travelling from posting to posting in slow, cold, delayed, overcrowded and dirty trains and, after the war was over, vowed never to have to do it again. There are stories of seamen taking 24 hours and more to get from Portsmouth to Wick (for the fleet in Scapa Flow). My father was called up in 1941 and had to go to Catterick for basic training and then to various Signals Corps camps around the country. He didn't use a train again until the late 1960s, but drove everywhere. However he was a pigeon fancier and the clubs regularly used special trains to get the birds to their race points - he sent his birds on them, but never travelled himself on them.

This attitude, and the general increase in disposable income during the 1950s and 1960s saw the number of cars on the road explode - and rail usage fell steeply. I've posted these numbers before - but they are dramatic. In 1930 there were about a million cars on the road and this had doubled by 1939 to just over 2 million. After the war in 1950 there were fewer cars - slightly less than 2 million, but by 1960 the number had more than doubled to 4.9 million. In the next 10 years to 1970 this total had again more than doubled to just shy of 10 million - growth then slowed and by 1980 there were nearly 15 million cars.

The point is that after the war, and certainly after the ASLEF strike in 1955, people no longer needed the railways, apart from the London commuters. Railways slipped off the radar. But prior to that, people were aware of them even if they weren't at the top of their lists of interests.
 
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Regarding their role in popular perception and social structures, I’ve often thought there are analogies between the Big Four railways in the inter-war years and airlines in more recent times. Not a perfect parallel, I’ll admit, but valid in part, and indicative of how our sphere of travel has increased over recent generations.

With the airlines I’m thinking more of the 1980s and 90s situation, before budget airlines proliferated and internet-based yield management ticketing. Any middle-aged and more senior forum members will probably remember the days of flimsy red-carbon-paper airline tickets bought from a travel agent by cheque, British Airways flying just about everywhere, and when going to the airport was not an everyday trip (and probably had to be done by taxi rather than train to an airport rail station).

Anyhow, comparing some points of 1930s Railway and 1990s Airline public awareness:-
  • Even if you never travelled much yourself, I believe most people would be aware who their main operator was (LMS // British Airways) and have some idea of their best-known routes (to London, Birmingham, Glasgow // to New York, Paris, Rome etc).
  • People would be aware that other companies existed too (LNER, GWR, etc // Lufthansa, Air France, Aer Lingus, etc) and if asked could probably have a good guess where they operated, but would be unlikely to know much about the extent of their networks).
  • Many people may be aware of the railway's // airline's most prestigious motive power and services as a result of the company publicity machines, the general news media and an interest in the frontiers of the technology of the day (Coronation Scots, The Flying Scotsman // Concorde and Boeing 747s).
  • Industries involved in manufacture and maintenance of the motive power would be at the forefront of the current technologies and manufacturing techniques, and be able to attract the highest caliber engineers and offer desirable apprenticeships. (Railway Works at Crewe, Swindon, etc // the aerospace industry).
Regarding travel itself:-
  • There was always a shiny, but thin varnish at the top of the travel pyramid – aristocrats in tweed jackets dining in the restaurant car of The Flying Scotsman, or film stars seen sneaking onto the Brighton Belle with some bright young thing // celebrities and self-made millionaires enjoying champagne whilst flying First Class to Montego Bay or Phuket – a lifestyle to be envied by the lower orders and promoted in the state-of-the-art advertising of the day.
  • The travel reality for most people was more mundane, uncomfortable and short-haul (cheap excursions to Blackpool or Weston-super-Mare in clapped-out rolling stock // crammed into package holiday charter flights to Benidorm or Tenerife).
  • Businessmen and some professionals may need to travel regularly to the commercial centres of the day (Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle // London, Frankfurt, Milan). Your position in the company hierarchy determined if you travelled in a First or Third Class compartment, versus Club or Economy cabin. Some would hate the travel involved in their job, other seasoned executives might demonstrate their great importance and experience by knowing off by heart the best trains // flights to take, the best seats to select and odd quirks of schedules or routes which allow you to leave later, get home earlier or get better service - even though these people were certainly not rail // aviation enthusiasts in our normal sense
    (I’ve experienced this in the airline context with colleagues who were regular flyers and would always indulge in PITA one-upmanship discussions in the hotel bar about their latest masterful flight itineraries).
  • Although the Great Unwashed were well served by cheap excursion trains // charter flights, there was a portion of the middle class who were willing to pay normal fares on scheduled services to travel to holidays in more genteel or cultured locations (Bournemouth, Grange-over-Sands // Florence, Barcelona, etc), away from the boozy mass-market destinations.
In summary, to gauge the level of public awareness, I’d say think how much various citizens knew about airlines and air travel in the recent past (assuming they’re not an aviation enthusiast) and that may be an indication of railways in the past.

Another aspect of familiarity with railways was that, years ago, a large number of people actually worked for the railways. In some places the railway company was the largest single employer and there was a good chance either a family member, neighbour or family friend had some sort of job with the railway company, which would surely bring it closer to home.
 
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ChiefPlanner

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Interesting thread. I suspect the railways were more embedded in the community than now - the local Stationmaster would have been a visible part of the social structure than today - often being a "local worthy" (the SM at Wheathampstead down the road from here was a Choirmaster and Church Organist) - much respected. People were probably well aware of the railway - as it was a key employer of local people (no contractors in those days riding in and out in vans)

Usage would vary - depending on where you were - but if you lived in South London you would have been very aware of the Southern Electric branding - on bridges , in the media and so on. Before 1928 - the railway had a very poor image - but this was transformed by "community outreach" - and the LMS , LNER and GWR played the publicity image well - think of the poster imagery of the "crack trains" -Coronation Scot / the LNE Streamliners and the Cornish Riveria Express.

However not all perfect - the LMS was critically called "The Ell of a Mess Railway" (and many local trains were known for being very dirty and run down) - the LNER n East London (according to someone I knew and who used them) was the "Late never early railway" !
 

Calthrop

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Many interesting thoughts aired, here. Posters’ predominating “take” on the matter, has me wondering whether I’ve been making too much stew out of the one Monopoly-related oyster. It was just that – as said in my post from the “Monopoly” thread – with four London stations in the game, and four railway companies (each with stations in London) serving Great Britain: it would seem such a no-brainer, for Waddingtons to have chosen one station from each of the Big Four. One would think that it would have appealed to the public – in that they could long for / covet ownership of the station of their favourite company / the one with which they had most to do in daily life.

However, so far as I know, Waddingtons were not besieged with letters along the lines of “it’s a terrific game – but please can we have a terminus for each of the Big Four, rather than all-LNER?” – not at any rate, to the extent of their making such a change to the game. And I found it a little surprising that the people in the higher echelons of Waddingtons’ staff – who must have been relatively well-educated and well-informed folk -- arbitrarily picked, as we learn, LNER venues in London because those were the ones which came, first-off, to their notice. It seems a bit surprising that they didn’t, of themselves, hit on the obvious ploy of “four Railways – four stations – one for each”.

This did prompt me to muse on whether we enthusiasts’ quasi-obsession with the Big Four in the grand age 80 / 90 years ago, when railways were of great use and importance – perhaps makes us assume (the human “everyone is like me, or ought to be” tendency) that the majority of Britain’s population at the time, were more interested in and aware of railway-related matters, than was truly the case. And to wonder whether then – and also in the pre-Grouping era – a significantly large number of Britons were just “meh” about stuff to do with railways, except where “things railway” directly impinged on their lives; and at any rate, didn’t spare a lot of thought for railway matters outside of their daily experience – only peripherally aware of those of the Big Four which they lived far away from and never used? Preponderance of opinion in this thread, seems to be that I’m mistaken about this.

There was for sure, plenty of general (not just on the part of gricers !) consciousness re the different railway companies, pre-1948 and -1923. There comes to mind Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, with the business of the hero being an orphan – discovered abandoned as an infant, in a handbag in the left-luggage office at Victoria Station. Some twit raises the question of whether it was on the LBSC, or the London, Chatham & Dover, side of Victoria: eliciting splendid put-down by Lady Bracknell: “The line is immaterial !”
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
However not all perfect - the LMS was critically called "The Ell of a Mess Railway" (and many local trains were known for being very dirty and run down) - the LNER n East London (according to someone I knew and who used them) was the "Late never early railway" !

Endless fun always to be had, from playing with railways' initials ! "God's Wonderful Railway" for the GWR -- I tend to see that as "two-edged": genuine reverence on the part of Great Western devotees; sarcasm and irony on the part of those who felt that the Great Western was too big for its boots, and nowhere near as perfect as it thought itself to be. And -- a purely silly one -- I recall reading the memoirs of a guy who spent much of his 1930s / 40s childhood in the North of England: his elders jocularly tried to convince him that "LMS" -- as emblazoned on locos, etc. -- stood for "Lamb and Mint Sauce".

The decline in knowledge and interest in the railways started, in my understanding, after the Second World War. During the war travel by train was discouraged - 'Is your journey rally necessary?' - too many people had to spend long hours travelling from posting to posting in slow, cold, delayed, overcrowded and dirty trains and, after the war was over, vowed never to have to do it again. There are stories of seamen taking 24 hours and more to get from Portsmouth to Wick (for the fleet in Scapa Flow). My father was called up in 1941 and had to go to Catterick for basic training and then to various Signals Corps camps around the country. He didn't use a train again until the late 1960s, but drove everywhere. However he was a pigeon fancier and the clubs regularly used special trains to get the birds to their race points - he sent his birds on them, but never travelled himself on them.

Certainly, plenty of lore from our parents' / grandparents' generation about the horrors of World War II train travel in Britain (and I gather that that was pleasant, in comparison with how things were rail-travel-wise in the Axis, or occupied, countries on the Continent, in those years). An aside re the previous conflict, and getting to "Caithness for Scapa Flow": I gather that throughout World War I, a daily passenger train in each direction was run for the sole use of navy personnel -- departing from each end, late at night -- between Euston and Wick / Thurso. Always overcrowded and slow, and universally referred to by its involuntary patrons, as "The Misery".

This attitude, and the general increase in disposable income during the 1950s and 1960s saw the number of cars on the road explode - and rail usage fell steeply. I've posted these numbers before - but they are dramatic. In 1930 there were about a million cars on the road and this had doubled by 1939 to just over 2 million. After the war in 1950 there were fewer cars - slightly less than 2 million, but by 1960 the number had more than doubled to 4.9 million. In the next 10 years to 1970 this total had again more than doubled to just shy of 10 million - growth then slowed and by 1980 there were nearly 15 million cars.

The point is that after the war, and certainly after the ASLEF strike in 1955, people no longer needed the railways, apart from the London commuters. Railways slipped off the radar. But prior to that, people were aware of them even if they weren't at the top of their lists of interests.

I'm also given to understand that -- in part, thanks to people's feelings about the trauma of World War II rail travel -- in Britain even shortly post-war, long-distance road coaches made great inroads into the railways' passenger business. I gather that women particularly, found coach travel preferable and acted accordingly: railways worked by coal-burning steam are, inevitably, rather dirty, with a tendency to wreak havoc on make-up / hairdos / often, articles of clothing. I was born in 1948 -- am glad that my mother was a staunch rail-user, seemingly not having a problem with the dirt factor: have various treasured memories of early-1950s rail journeys in her company.
 
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Bevan Price

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Monopoly - I doubt that many low paid factory workers were even aware of its existence.

Many would work locally, walk or cycle to work, or maybe use a local bus. Rail "commuters" would mostly be those in office / "white collar" jobs, and outside London, living less than 10 to 15 miles from their workplace - many could not afford to travel further.

Circa 1955, my late father, an office worker, got the equivalent of £4.50 per week before tax, from which he had to feed & house the family, pay bus fares to work, and get occasional "extras". Holidays were typically at a cheapish B&B near Blackpool or in North Wales. When we went to Scarborough (from St. Helens), to my disgust we went by coach because that was cheaper than the train. Before he married, his holidays had been cycling trips with his brother or friends. He was the only one of six children that my grandparents could support for a better than average school education -- no way that he could have afforded university, etc. My grandfather had at one time worked for "the railway" (LMSR or LNWR, I assume) but got "pushed out" for being a too active supporter of the union - no way they could afford family holidays by rail.

So yes - they probably knew who ran the railways, but would have little opportunity to use them very often. For many, the adverts would just show "unattainable dreams."
 

krus_aragon

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Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject:

In my family, while over four generations were born and raised within walking distance of a railway line, its role in our lives, and our awareness of it, changed greatly with the loss of passenger traffic in the Beeching cuts.

In the early 20th century, trains were the only way to travel any real distance, so they were a natural part of life. My great-grandfather took my great-grandmother by train from Amlwch to Caernarfon when they were courting, for example. He later returned (alone) to Caernarfon to buy the wedding ring! Their daughter, my grandmother, passed her 11+ exam, and thus caught a train from Amlwch each day to the county school in Llangefni. (A lift to and from the station was given by motorbike, as she never mastered a bicycle.)

Come the middle of the 20th century, my father (as a toddler) was taken by his grandfather down to the railway bridge every day to see the two o'clock train on its way toward Amlwch. I'm told my father was very displeased if they'd happen to miss the train! Then, as my father was in his teenage years, the line closed to passenger traffic, leaving a few decades' use as a freight line only. The bus and the car were now the way to get about.

When I was raised in Llangefni, the freight traffic ceased. I knew the railway line through the town and along nearby footpaths, and the location of the old station, yet I cannot recall ever seeing a train run through. As a railway line without trains, it was just part of the local geography. Family days out were always by car. Beeching's idea that people would drive to the nearest railhead didn't work, as my father would drive past Bangor and continue to Llandudno or Chester instead. We often spotted two-car DMUs from the A55 as we drove along ("Annie and Clarabel looking for Thomas"), and I remember hearing trains rush past the car park of Abakhan Fabrics, Mostyn, but British Rail was something that happened to other people, not us.

Trains were a part of my upbringing, however. I was well travelled on the Little Railways of Wales, on various family days out. I reckon that by the age on 10 I'd travelled on the Ffestiniog, Llanberis, Snowdon Mountain, Bala Lake, Vale of Rheidiol and Llangollen railways, as well as the Great Orme Tramway and the funiculars at Aberystwyth and the C.A.T. (Machynlleth). Railways were, however, the destination of a day out, not a means of getting from A to B. I was raised thinking of them as a tourist attraction.

A decade or so later, when we were living on the outskirts of Cardiff, my father and I started using the Valley Lines trains to get into the city, avoiding traffic and undercutting parking charges. Using the railway on a regular basis made it far more relevant for me, and my interest in its workings and history grew steadily from that point onwards. My father now routinely considers train travel for medium and long distance journeys, where previously he'd only done so for one or two trips to London.

In summary, a person's awareness of and relationship with railways depends greatly on how they are used. If you never make use of them, they're likely to be part of the scenery, and no more. If you visit railways, then you'll appreciate them as a visitor attraction. But unless you use railways as a means of transport, you're unlikely to have a full appreciation of them.
 

DerekC

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One point I haven't seen mentioned yet is that railways employed about 750,000 people in the period after the first world war, nearly as many in proportion to the population as the NHS does now. You could imagine that a many, many people would be related to or know somebody who worked on the railway. That must have made a big difference to public awareness.
 
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Peter Mugridge

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One point I haven't seen mentioned yet is that railways employed about 750,000 people in the period after the first world war, nearly as many in proportion to the population as the NHS does now. You could imagine that a many, many people would be related to or know somebody who worked on the railway. That must have made a big difference to public awareness.

It would have been proportionately more so as the population was much smaller in those days.
 

DerekC

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It would have been proportionately more so as the population was much smaller in those days.

Population in 1921 (according to census) was 44M. Now it's 64M - so a 45% increase. NHS employs 1.3M, so about 2% of the population now. Railways employed about 750K, so about 1.7% of the population in 1921. QED. Not that it affects the point that this added to public awareness.

Railways were perceived as a "good job" in those days - i.e. permanent and pensionable - and carried a bit of respect. They were regarded as (and indeed were) an essential service.
 

DerekC

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Does the 750,000 include the supply chain or just the direct employees?

I don't know - I assume just direct. The number comes from Christian Wolmar. Original source is quoted as "The Railwaymen" (David & Charles, 1984). I don't have a copy - maybe somebody out there does and can enlighten us.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Railways were perceived as a "good job" in those days - i.e. permanent and pensionable -

Not really - most of the staff would not be on a meaningful pension - senior clerical and management grades maybe.

However , railway employment was much valued as a reliable job with general opportunities for self advancement. (and inmost cases - reasonable working conditions compared to say working down a coal mine or similar)
 

Senex

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Does the 750,000 include the supply chain or just the direct employees?
LMS Handbook of Statistics 1927 gives these figures for the direct railway employees in 1921: 708,465 males (of whom 43,332 were juniors), and 27,405 females (of whom 1,200 were juniors), giving a total of 735,870.
 

70014IronDuke

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Unfortunately, people from my parents & grandparents generations are not around to ask. But, my understanding from that period is that:

Working class people did not generally own shares - mostly they could not afford to - some could barely afford food & rent for housing.

Apologies - I meant to write NO shares - typo now corrected.

The attitude was probably "we have a railway - it will now be here forever", and, like now, who owned the railway was largely seen as immaterial.

For the 'ordinary' worker - I agree, much like, say, Tesco or Morrisons etc today - but the same worker would be acutely aware, I suggest, of the importance of the railways to life in general.

They would understand, at least to some extent, if news was flying round that, eg the LNER might go into receivership - that this could mean serious implications on existence as-we-know-it, even if they themselves did not work directly on the railway.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
.......

My grandfather was probably an exception - he worked in London and used the Great Western's 'residentials' to travel to work and back every day. Some of his stories about slip coaches which didn't and dozing off on the train and waking up in Oxford were very amusing for this 8-year old...!

Pray tell about the slip coaches .... in another thread. Sounds fascinating!

..
The decline in knowledge and interest in the railways started, in my understanding, after the Second World War. During the war travel by train was discouraged - 'Is your journey rally necessary?' - too many people had to spend long hours travelling from posting to posting in slow, cold, delayed, overcrowded and dirty trains and, after the war was over, vowed never to have to do it again. ....

.... The point is that after the war, and certainly after the ASLEF strike in 1955, people no longer needed the railways, apart from the London commuters. Railways slipped off the radar. But prior to that, people were aware of them even if they weren't at the top of their lists of interests.
I accept that the latter paragraph is relevant, but I'm beginning to think that the earlier one is the more so.

And it was this negative 'emotional' link to rail travel, stemming from the war, that the BR marketing boyos of c 1962-63 really began to understand. And it was probably because of this that we had the huge emphasis on XP64, blue and grey corporate image stuff, This is the age of the train and all that.

The car was trendy, convenient (when it didn't break down and wasn't stuck in queues) and a huge status symbol for many in the 50s and 60s.

And it also helps explain, or rather, justify, the desperate rush to get rid of steam, not only because of economic and staffing difficulties, but - as indeed they said at the time - for the corporate image.

Maybe the marketing boyos, and the management that listened to them - actually had a more profound understanding than many of us - most especially the steam fans - give them credit for.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Regarding their role in popular perception and social structures, I’ve often thought there are analogies between the Big Four railways in the inter-war years and airlines in more recent times. Not a perfect parallel, I’ll admit, but valid in part, and indicative of how our sphere of travel has increased over recent generations. ...

I think the analogy comparison does have some value. I wonder how many travellers pre-War were actually brand loyal when there was the equal possibility of travel, and if the railways were ever able to measure this in any way.

ie if business folk travelled to London to Brum (via GWR or LMS) or families travelled to the West Country for their hols, and both the GWR and SR were equally convenient - were they brand loyal, or would they chop and change based on some marginal price difference?

Another aspect of familiarity with railways was that, years ago, a large number of people actually worked for the railways. In some places the railway company was the largest single employer and there was a good chance either a family member, neighbour or family friend had some sort of job with the railway company, which would surely bring it closer to home.

Indeed. I wonder too, if this was a barrier to vandalism. If some teenage lout (assuming they had them in the 20s and 30s?) actually had driver Ted living next door, could he possibly drop a brick onto a train from any nearby overbridge?
 

edwin_m

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And it was this negative 'emotional' link to rail travel, stemming from the war, that the BR marketing boyos of c 1962-63 really began to understand. And it was probably because of this that we had the huge emphasis on XP64, blue and grey corporate image stuff, This is the age of the train and all that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histo...ile:GBR_rail_passengers_by_year_1830-2015.png

The above is a graph of passenger journeys over the whole period of existence of railways in Britain. Focusing on 1940 onwards, there is a big drop in the "phony war" period when unnecessary journeys were discouraged. A rise above inter-war levels until about 1947 is probably due to service personnel being moved around in support of various campaigns and eventually post-war demobilisation.

However after this period, numbers hold steady through the Fifties and actually increase into the early Sixties before starting the long slide to a nadir in the era of Thatcher and Serpell. So I can't agree that the wartime experience drove people away from the railways, otherwise numbers would have fallen steadily in the decade afterwards. Also there is no evidence here that BR's better marketing in the Sixties had any positive effect - in fact it coincided closely with the start of the slide!

I think the main reasons are around mass car ownership, and the availability of good roads to use them on, which didn't really take off until the Sixties. A graph in the link below shows that in 1960 only about 30% of households had a car, rising to about 50% by the early Seventies.

http://www.racfoundation.org/assets...reat britain - leibling - 171008 - report.pdf

This provided an attractive alternative for many journeys that could only practically have been made by train previously, as well as triggering a huge increase in travel overall. Although many train journeys became impossible during this period due to Beeching etc, the first page of the link below puts this into perspective. Very little of the boom in car travel is actually at the expense of the train, with buses suffering considerably more.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/489894/tsgb-2015.pdf

I wonder also (somewhat provocatively) if getting out of the seasonal holiday market might have been one of the best things BR ever did, albeit for completely the wrong reasons. With relatively few making commuting or business journeys, the main experience of the train for a large slice of the population would have been travel to the annual holiday - large number still did this by rail in the Fifties. Much of this was of course accommodated on the oldest stock which only came out of the sidings for summer Saturdays, with journey times and punctuality also at their worst during these periods. Not only that but the resorts themselves weren't particularly attractive either, especially with overseas package holidays by air starting to become affordable.

I would imagine many people's opinion of the railways was based on these experiences. Those who did so as children and teenagers in the Fifties would be retiring from the 1990s onwards, their places being taken by a new generation with less of a preconception.
 
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