Postcards – 156 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
from Chasewater News Spring 1993 – Part 2
‘Official’ Picture Postcards – by Barry Bull
The hobby of collecting postcards began in Edwardian times within just a few years of the first cards being accepted for postage by the Post Office in 1894, The charge for postage only being a halfpenny and the cards themselves being very cheap soon led to a collecting tradition that has remained with us through to these inflationary times almost a hundred years later.
The ‘Official’ railway cards is the term used for those cards produced by and for over 60 of the old pre-grouping companies plus those issued by the 4 post-grouping railways and British Railways. The earliest official cards generally showed views of London and various other cities and towns throughout the land. Many depicted views of castles, cathedrals, river bridges and the like, and were known as court cards.
The court cards were printed by such companies as the Picture Postcard Company and were often half-tone pictures in decorative frames with a small space to the right of the picture to write a few words. At this time the back of the card was for the address only to be written, plus of course a space for the stamp to be affixed. Examples of these early cards can occasionally be found and carry the names of such railways as the LSWR and the SECDR.
By the turn of the century, full size sepia postcards were being produced, that is, the picture occupied all of one side with the reverse being provided for both the address and message. The cards were still being produced by postcard printers with the same views being supplied for several different railway companies, it not being until about 1903-4 before the larger railway companies in particular had cards printed specifically for their use and sale only. Most of the official pre-grouping railway cards seen today date from the period 1904-14, when the production and sale of these cards was at its peak.
In this short history it is not possible to go into too much detail, but the casual observer and collector cannot fail to have noticed that by far the most common examples of cards to be seen are those of the London & North Western Railway. This, however, is hardly surprising when one considers that from 1904, when Raphael Tuck & Sons produced a set of twelve cards on behalf of the LNWR, until September 1914 when production of LNWR cards was discontinued; over 11 million cards had been sold – most at two pence for a set of six!
The LNWR cards covered a wide range of subjects. There were some 60 sets and a hundred or so non-set cards.
Interestingly, the success of the LNWR cards, undoubtedly due to their quality and subject range, was in no way matched by the concern who many feel to be elite in printed publicity – the Great Western Railway. Cards produced by the GWR tended in the main to be of rather mundane subjects in sepia. Only occasionally were rolling stock, locomotives, stations or engineering subjects featured. After the Great War the GWR produced little of significance for the postcard market and when one considers their other publicity successes, the GWR certainly disappoints its supporters in this matter.
Other prolific producers of postcards who spring to mind are the Midland Railway with nice coloured examples of stately homes and tourism resorts; the Furness Railway with a variety of Lakeland scenes; and the Great Eastern Railway with a pleasant range from seaside towns, cathedrals, the Norfolk Broads and ships.
Irish, Isle of Man as well as Scottish and English companies were well represented in postcard issues and several minor railways also produced cards. Cards issued by minor railways are avidly collectable today and may cost several pounds each, dependent on condition and rarity. Quite common cards to find from a small company are the photographic views published for, and sold by the Corris Railway. These usually fetch about £5.00 each at stamp or postcard collector fairs.
Following the 1923 grouping, the production of postcards continues albeit in smaller numbers and these cards, although collectable, do not generally reach such prices as some pre-grouping and minor railway examples.
The Southern Railway issued 140 odd cards with over 100 depicting locomotives, while both the LMS and the LNER took the opportunity to market many cards which showed their hotels, with ships and locomotives being well represented.
Other cards which still sell very well today, often commanding prices between £3.00 and £10.00 each, once again dependent on rarity and condition, are those of the various London Underground Railways. Many of these depict posters and are particularly attractive to collectors. The only ‘official’ Chasewater Light Railway’ postcards issued so far is one depicting the Neilson with the Gloucester DMU trailer, a card which owed its origins to an Adrian Pearson colour photograph. 5,000 examples were produced at a cost I recall of 2.4 pence each. I wonder how many remain unsold?Neilson with the Gloucester DMU Trailer – Adrian Pearson
I can’t say exactly how many were left, but those that were have been given to the younger visitors to the Chasewater Railway Museum – and very much appreciated as a memento.
All postcards from the Chasewater Railway Museum Collection – compiled by Barry Bull and David Bathurst (sorry, not on public view at the moment).