The National Railway Museum posters are a captivating collection comprising more than 11,300 items dating from 1804 to the present day. The collection includes examples from the pre-grouping railway companies, the Big Four, British Railways and some items from private operating companies. Railway posters have given us some iconic images of bathing beauties, ramblers, high speed locomotives, fantastic architecture and gorgeous scenery, not to mention such well known characters as Sunny South Sam and the Jolly Fisherman; it’s no wonder they are always popular with our visitors and researchers.
We always want to keep the collection here up to date and relevant, and for this reason we never stop collecting. In recent months I have been speaking with a number of current rail franchises to acquire new posters for the collection so that we can create a snapshot of today’s advertising output. This will enable us to see how the different operators communicate with their passengers and how they promote their routes.
The new posters we have collected for the museum and those which, as passengers, we see on stations on our everyday journeys, have lots in common with the historic items featured in our collection. Themes such as the great British countryside, taking the train to avoid traffic jams, comfort and speed are just a few of these recurring ideas that have been used since the beginning of railway advertising. They also bring humour to the collection, with Eurostar in particular drawing on and parodying common ideas of Britishness. Their posters feature recognisable figures such as the Queens Guard, the London taxi driver, Alfred Hitchcock and Margaret Thatcher.
Some of the new speed themed posters we have acquired from CrossCountry, Eurostar, London Midland and Virgin were displayed in our recent exhibition ‘It’s Quicker by Rail’ which was part of our Mallard 75 season. You can see some examples from East Coast in the exhibition ‘Movable Feast’ up on the Search Engine balcony in the Great Hall. ScotRail were also kind enough to supply us with some posters.
We’ve been really pleased to work with the rail operating companies on this project to acquire new works and I hope that it will be ongoing. Ben Hall, CrossCountry’s Customer Communications Manager said;
“At CrossCountry, we value the impact that posters still have as part of our wider marketing and communications activities. Since the start of the CrossCountry franchise in 2007, we have published a variety of eye-catching poster designs to promote and inform customers of our routes, products and services. We are very pleased to have had a number of poster designs – past and present – acquired by the National Railway Museum for use in the National Collection.”
Here are some images of the new posters we have acquired.
Posters not presently on display in the museum are available to view by appointment in Search Engine, the museum’s library and archive service.