Fascinating newly colourised images capture scenes in and around Britain’s railways as the system was nationalised almost 75 years ago – and the architect of subsequent track closures, Richard Beeching, making various public appearances on the network.
In one image, 67-year-old rail worker Philip Martyr pauses to read a poster announcing the nationalisation of the railways at Charing Cross Station in London on December 30, 1947.
In another, taken on January 12, 1948, at London Paddington station, the logo on a road wagon of private rail firm Great Western Railway (GWR) is spray-painted.
In this picture taken at Paddington in 1948, the logo on a road wagon of private rail firm Great Western Railway (GWR) is spray-painted
A train driver named G T Till examining the very first British Railways logo at Waterloo Station in London on February 15, 1949
Rail worker Philip Martyr pauses to read a poster announcing the nationalisation of the railways at Charing Cross Station in London on December 30, 1947
Under the nationalisation of the railways, all the rolling stock received new colours. This process is shown taking place at railway sheds at Derby in an image taken on May 25, 1948
Others show a train driver named G T Till examining the very first British Railways logo at Waterloo Station in London on February 15, 1949, and Richard Beeching examining a railway model at an exhibition in London on November 19, 1963.
The incredible images have been newly released by the TopFoto Archives and painstakingly colourised – offering a new view on Britain’s rail history as today’s ministers usher in a new epoch.
Shortly after World War II, Clement Attlee’s Labour party nationalised Britain’s railways through the 1947 Transport Act, although the decree didn’t come into effect until January 1, 1948.
The Battle of Britain locomotive hauls the luxury Pullman Thanet Belle from Margate in June 1948
Two young train spotters consult the British Railways Locomotive handbook in 1949
In this picture taken on August 30, 1948, passengers Miss Dorothy (left) and Rosalie Edwards of Portman Square, London, buy magazines from 11-year-old Fred Edwards (no relation) of Euston. Dressed in the newsboy style of Charles Dickens’ time, Fred is deputising for John Howard Davies, the boy ‘star’ of the Oliver Twist film
A wheel-tapper, Mr Richard Osborne, wearing a specially designed lamp cap powered by small batteries carried on his belt. This picture was taken on February 8, 1949, at Kentish Town, London
An interior view of the new Trianon Bar situated in the ‘Pegasus’ carriage on the new Golden Arrow train, introduced on the Southern Region of British Railways on June 11, 1951
Piles of parcels at Euston Station, London. The backlog was caused by a strike that included porters, van drivers, and 500 members of the Euston branch of the National Union of Railwaymen, who were suspended from benefit by their union executive for taking part in an unofficial strike on December 11, 1948
Previously, the railways had been managed by four companies: Great Western Railway; London, Midland and Scottish Railway; London and North Eastern Railway, and Southern Railway. When the government took over these assets, they collectively became known as British Railways.
In the 1960s, physicist and engineer Richard Beeching published his ideas on increasing the efficiency of Britain’s railways. He identified 5,000-miles-worth of tracks and 2,363 stations that he believed should shut in the infamous ‘Beeching Report’.
These closures were heavily protested, although many eventually went ahead.
Richard Beeching at Paddington Station, London, on February 22, 1962
In this picture taken at Paddington in 1962, Beeching is seen looking at his watch to check if it’s time to set off
Richard Beeching at Bluebell Railway Company in Sheffield Park on April 1, 1962
A crowd watches on as Beeching gets to grips with the levers at a Bluebell Railway Company signal box in Sheffield Park on April 1, 1962
Beeching, who served as Chairman of British Railways for a short time, is continually associated with the mass loss of local rail services. Some services have reopened, and some are run as heritage projects, but many remain closed.
In the 1990s, the railways were privatised by Margaret Thatcher but after three decades, Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has now announced plans to scrap this franchise system.
The government will now manage ticketing, timetables, and track maintenance under the title Great British Railways.
The Bluebell excursion train pulls into Haywards Heath with Beeching on board on April 1, 1962
Beeching examining a railway model at an exhibition in London on November 19, 1963