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Christmas on the railways

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Christmas is always a busy time for our railways, as a significant portion of the population plan to visit friends, family, or use it to get away from all that festive stuff. But the extra pressure on the railways can push the service – and its passengers – to the limit.

We’re lucky enough to be in a rail renaissance at the moment, but it’s easy to forget the downside of all that work and investment: short-term disruption. The railway companies are often between a rock and a hard place in choosing when the biggest disruptions should occur. The holiday period when travellers are primarily using services for leisure? Or during January when everyone is back in commuting-mode again? Touch choice. This pressure on the service isn’t anything new, as this little festive archive selection demonstrates.

'Xmas - Your Ticket, Your Parcel, Your Gifts', Southern Railway poster, 1937. (Img ref: 10308353)

‘Xmas – Your Ticket, Your Parcel, Your Gifts’, Southern Railway poster, 1937. (Img ref: 10308353). The railway has always been crucial in shifting the massive amounts of festive post.

Railway Executive Committee poster. 'Your Christmas Parcels must reach your friends before Christmas Day' c 1940s. (Img ref: 10175039)

Railway Executive Committee poster. ‘Your Christmas Parcels must reach your friends before Christmas Day’ c 1940s. (Img ref: 10175039)

A station luggage handler surrounded by Christmas parcels and suitcases at Waterloo, December 1936. (Img ref: 10308463).

A station luggage handler surrounded by Christmas parcels and suitcases at Waterloo, December 1936. (Img ref: 10308463).

Poster produced for Great Western Railway (GWR), London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and Southern Railway (SR) to remind customers that the transportation of weapons, munitions and servicemen had to take priority over the delivery of Christmas parcels. (Img ref: 10175007)

Poster produced for Great Western Railway (GWR), London, Midland & Scottish Railway (LMS), London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and Southern Railway (SR) to remind customers that the transportation of weapons, munitions and servicemen had to take priority over the delivery of Christmas parcels. (Img ref: 10175007)

Railway workers in a control room on the Southern Railway, Christmas 1940. These workers booked freight onto certain trains, and recorded the items needed transporting to their destination when they were unloaded from the train. Control room workers also dealt with problems along the track, such as with signals or points. This photograph was taken during the Second World War and, as an official photograph, needed to be passed by a censor. (Img ref: 10451590)

Railway workers in a control room on the Southern Railway, Christmas 1940.
These workers booked freight onto certain trains, and recorded the items needed transporting to their destination when they were unloaded from the train. Control room workers also dealt with problems along the track, such as with signals or points. This photograph was taken during the Second World War and, as an official photograph, needed to be passed by a censor. (Img ref: 10451590)

Rail passengers eating Christmas dinner, 18 December 1936. Photograph by Edward G Malindine. (Img Ref:10318088)

Rail passengers eating Christmas dinner, 18 December 1936. Photograph by Edward G Malindine (Img Ref:10318088)

Christmas party on board a train, December 1985. (Img Ref: 10465805). Quite possibly after a little too much British Rail Claret.

Christmas party on board a train, December 1985. (Img Ref: 10465805). Quite possibly after a little too much British Rail Claret.

From all of us at the National Railway Museum, we wish our blog readers and visitors a very happy Christmas. And we also hope your trains deliver you on time and as planned.

Written by Dan Clarkson

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  1. Ben young

    And happy christmas to you all too, thanks for the archive images.

  2. David Ware

    It looks as though several of the passengers in the last picture will need either coffee and aspirin or Irn-Bru in the morning…but what? No silly hats?

    A happy Christmas to you, from a southern corner of the States–and thanks for not just this fine post but the long-term pleasures of the NRM blog.

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