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By Peter Thorpe on

Railway tourist guides: part 2

Search Engine Assistant Peter Thorpe reveals a less well-known aspect of railway advertising.

From the end of the 19th century the railway companies steadily increased the marketing of their networks to entice the tourist and holidaymaker. When talking of railway advertising, many people automatically tend to think of the vast number of very attractive pictorial posters produced to promote holiday destinations around the country. However, posters were just one part of the marketing efforts of the railway companies, as many also began to publish tourist and holiday guides. I’ve shown a few examples of these pre-grouping guides below.

Top left – Glasgow & South Western Railway ‘Summer tours’ 1909. Object no. 2000-7024
Top centre – Great Eastern Railway ‘Sun Pictures of the Norfolk Broads’ by Payne Jennings 1897.  Object no. 2000-7651
Top right – ‘The Official Illustrated Holiday Guide to the North Staffordshire Railway’ by George Moores 1891. Object no. 1999-8083
Bottom – Furness Railway ‘The English Lake Land – The Paradise of Tourists’ 1916. Object no. 1999-7700

Probably the most prolific producer of such guides was the Great Western Railway, which began publishing a guide entitled ‘Holiday Haunts’ in 1906. This publication was heavily illustrated with photographs, and as well as providing a guide to the many destinations the GWR served, also provided large amounts of information about accommodation available in “Hotels, Boarding Houses,  Farm Houses & Country Lodgings”.

Holiday Haunts – Cornwall

‘Holiday Haunts’ was very successful and achieved a circulation running into hundreds of thousands.

The railways had amalgamated into four main companies after the 1923 grouping, and by the 1930s each company was producing huge amounts of publicity material. The success of Holiday Haunts was noted by the other major companies, who all produced their own holiday guides based very closely on the format of the Great Western publication.

Top left – Southern Railway ‘Hints for Holidays 1935’ (Cover illustration of bathing belle by Horace Taylor). Object no. 2000-8672
Top centre – LNER ‘The Holiday Handbook 1939’ (Cover illustration of bathing beauty by M. Dickins) Object no. 2000-8667
Top left – ‘Holidays by LMS’ 1930.  Object no. 2000-8076
Bottom – ‘Holiday Haunts on the Great Western Railway’ 1906. The guide that started a trend! Object no. 2000-7619

After the railways were nationalised in 1948, British Railways continued to produce a large amount of publicity to promote holiday travel. This included the perpetuation of the Holiday Haunts format and name, which was used for guides to all the BR regions, including this one for Scotland in 1962. Object no. 2000-8706

Holiday Haunts Scotland 1962

By the 1960s, use of the railways by holidaymakers was reducing significantly. Private car ownership became widespread and the rapid development of air travel meant that package holidays to foreign climes became more appealing and accessible to the British public. As a result, the traditional railway tourist guide died out.

BR still produced publicity to appeal to leisure travellers, but this usually consisted of smaller leaflets and booklets concentrating on specific destinations or events, and promoting cheap fares. We have a collection of such material within our archives, and have massively increased the amount of the modern publicity material that we hold through the acquisition of the Forsythe Collection of Travel & Transport Publicity Ephemera in 2009.

I hope that these two posts have provided a taste of the tourist and holiday guides we hold within our library and archive collections. There is so much material that it is difficult to do any more than scratch the surface of the subject in such a short space! If you do want to see any of the items featured, or any other items, just call into Search Engine, our research and archive centre, the next time you visit the museum.


You can catch up on part one of this post here.

3 comments on “Railway tourist guides: part 2

  1. I thought I might say something about where you will find guides in the Forsythe Collection. They are distributed in many headings but there are some which will get results quicker than others, despite any quirkiness in titles. So “BR Booklets 4 Shoeboxes (numerous pre 1948)” is a definite point of contact. As is “Holiday Haunts 3 Shoeboxes”. Also “Line Guides 1, Line Guides 2”. Try “BR Pre CI Area Guides”. There’s “Foreign Booklets (company issued and too big to file) 1 bag eg Hungarian 1914 series”. “Caledonian Railway Tourist Programmes 1904 Compilation Hardback” and “GWR Mais h/bs Two hardback titles The Cornish Riviera Glorious Devon both1928”. The two Mais titles did not appear in a search in the NRM library when preparing the transfer whereas Freeling’s Railway Companion of 1838 which is an important early guide did. Owing to the strength of the NRM’s 19c book format guide collection, our own examples on the whole did not make the move. Some were chosen and here is another group which are at the NRM “Southern Railway published Hardback Guides 3: Yachting & Two Leigh Bennetts”. Everything in inverted commas uses the descriptors used in the listing of the Forsythe Collection at the NRM Search Engine desk by which things may be retrieved.

    1. Dear Mr Forsythe,

      I stumbled across Freeling’s guide during a google search and wrote a post on his description of the journey through Warrington on my blog:
      This was picked up by a rail enthusiast in Australia who did further research into Freeling pre-dating Bradshaw and wrote a post on his blog:

      A search for further information on Freeling at the Institute’s webpages has thrown up your comment and we were wondering if you could tell us more about how his (very early) guides came about?

  2. A view of a guide in the Forsythe Collection (this one at Prudhoe) is here <;. We have given even more explanation here . It is also worth pointing out that there plenty of non railway transport guides in the Forsythe Collection at York. Using the same protocols as in the preceding comment here are examples: “BWB ICG” (Inland Crusing Guides”, “Orient Pacific Guide 6th c1900 Hardback”. In the Midland Red material there should be a number of their hardback tour guides of the 1960s and similar genre items are in the Ribble files. There is a fulsome 1939 Macbraynes guide at the start of that file.

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