Here is a lovely engine badge from the modernisation period of British Rail in the early 1960s. This was the first big AC engine.
And here is a lovely painting of the engine…terrific. Actually, this picture is based on a photo of scale model with the background blocked out. Lovely effect though.
And here is a poster that shows the speeding train…
I’ve been thinking about these enamel badges. In their earliest form, they were sold to raise money for railway orphans…accordingly, the badges showed the most famous engines from the 1920s and 1930s. Usually, these were the big express locos from the routes to the south-west, and up the east coast and west coast main lines to Scotland. Streamlined engines always seem to have been popular, perhaps because they were faster.
So these little badges capture all the speed, glamour and style of old-time railway travel.
Andrew Martin describes these routes in, Belles and Whistles (2014).
Here is a most interesting little pamphlet. It’s from 1935 and describes a lecture given by Sir Stephen Tallents about the opportunities, benefits and challenges in relation to promoting the activities of the Post Office.
I’m interested in this because the GPO commissioned posters. The pamphlet has some lovely illustrations, with posters by Edward McKnight Kauffer and Graham Sutherland.
Indeed, I have written books about these posters and this organisation as a pioneer of machine-age modernity in Britain.
Notwithstanding these efforts, the GPO is best known nowadays for the pioneering efforts of its Film Unit. This played a crucial role in the development of the British documentary film movement.
I love the picture of the engineer and the track-side telegraph wires.
The thing I am most excited about though is the model railway layout that the Post Office used to display.
These are colour lithographs published by the Swiss National Tourist Office during the 1940s. They were printed by Wolfsberg, in Zurich.
The artist is Alois Carigiet, and the prints are from a series called, Beautiful Switzerland…
It turns out that Carigiet is famous as an artist, children’s book writer and illustrator, and as a poster artist.
I love the idea of the Alpine sublime in these pictures, and of the slight delirium of space, light and altitude, rendered by the optical disturbance of sharp light, and with harsh contrasts of light and shade…
I like that, in a couple of the prints, there are trains and railways, and paddle-steamers.
I already posted about the history of the Alpine sublime, here
I’ve posted before about the feelings of vertigo that derive from the sensation of speed and excitement associated with train travel…it’s all very Freudian, and psycheadelic.
It turns out that the first writing by Lewis Caroll (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass) was for a magazine called, For the Train (1856). That’s perfect.
The 19C philosophy of nonsense, deriving from Caroll and Edward Lear, provides an important wellspring for thinking about different realities…and anticipate the counter-culture of the 1960s and post-modernism.