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Bradshaw: The biggest name in Timetables!

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Bradshaw -Timetable -cover

With all the excitement and glamour of Steam engines it’s easy to forget the simple things that made railway’s operate - such as the humble railway timetable.

When passenger railways first started in the early 1800’s there was only one name in town when it came to railway timetables - Bradshaw!

Railway timetables as a bestseller!

Railways and timetables go hand in hand, so much so that it’s hard to imagine one without the other but from the time that the Stockton & Darlington Railway opened in 1825 (The first passenger railway service in the world) it wouldn’t be until 1839 that a combined railway timetable was produced.

This was, of course, Bradshaw’s Railway companion, which collected timetables from the multiple private railway companies that had sprung up into a single volume.

The book proved to be a huge success and another book, Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide, was produced in 1847.

Despite Bradshaw dying in 1853, his name (or brand, as it now was) went on to be used throughout the rest of the 19th and early 20th century, for future books covering at India, Australia and New Zealand, as well as parts of the Middle-East!

Demand for Bradshaw’s guides decreased after the grouping of the UK’s big 4 railways in 1923, but even then it continued to be published until 1961!

What is the legacy of the Bradshaw guides?

Even though the Bradshaw guide is no longer about it still has a long lasting legacy.

From when it was first published frequent references to it in 19th and early 20th century novels, most notably being Phileas Fog in Jules Verne’s book “Around the World in 80 Days” who was never separated from his Bradshaw guide.

The guide also makes an appearance in books by Agatha Christie,  Daphne du Maurier and a Sherlock Holmes story.  It’s even mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula!

More recently both the British and Continental Bradshaw guides were referred to in Michael Portillo’s TV series Great British Railway Journeys.

And even today, 60 years after it was discontinued, the book has it’s fans. The 1913 edition of the Bradshaw guide was republished in September 2012 as a collectors edition (A possible xmas present for the locomotively inclined?)

In addition a group of enthusiasts all over the world got together and created Timetable World, an online collection of historical transport timetables and maps from around the World!

Amongst it’s many delights is an entire scanned copy of the original Bradshaw guide.

If only Phileas Fog had a smart phone!

Is there anything we should’ve mentioned?

Do you have any thoughts, comments or views on Bradshaw’s Railway companion?

Is there anything you think we should have mentioned?

If there is get in touch and let us know – you can also do it on Facebook or Twitter.


By Stuart Paterson at 3 Nov 2021, 00:00 AM