GWR publicity collection

Courtesy of the Great Western Trust

All railway companies, both large and small, sought to advertise their services to as wide an audience as possible. They were sometimes competing to carry the same goods or passengers and had to employ whatever means possible to raise their company above that of others.

In the early days of the Great Western Railway, publicity was limited to the publication of handbills, advertisements in newspapers and the publication of timetables. Guide books from independant publishers started to appear as travel for pleasure became both easier and more popular, and these provided a degree of free publicity for the Company who would often contribute photographs and other material. The publication of books for sale to the general public did not really get underway until 1904 but by the end of 1947 millions of publications had been sold and the GWR had gained a well earned reputation as a publisher of quality material. It is reported that much of the published works were sold at near cost-price, the aim was to build prestige, reputation and traffic for the Company who were effectively getting the public to pay for its publicity.

In addition to the many books there were, amongst others, several series of postcards and even sets of 'magic lantern' slides which were available on loan to give illustrated talks. All squarely aimed at promoting the greater use of the Great Western Railway, with a particluar eye on holiday traffic.

One other vital form of publicity was generated by the publication of train timetables and maps of the GWR system, and we have a number of examples of both in our collection. A vast number of railway posters were produced over the years, some of which were based on specially commissioned paintings by respected artists of the period. Some of these paintings would also serve as the basis for jigsaw puzzles too. Sadly, original posters are well beyond our means, so we are grateful to the Great Western Trust for this image of one advertising our neighbour Oxford which once boasted two stations, being served by both the GWR and the LMS.

The actual books vary in size and the thumbnails on these pages should not be taken as being an indication of their actual or relative sizes

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