Freight Lettering…

I’m often a bit disappointed by the lettering and typographic design on vans, lorries and trains….so, I’m delighted by this. I love it. Click on the picture to see it bigger.

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Lewis Hine • Railway Photographer • USA • Early 20C

The democratic and republican origins of the US has tended towards a mythologising of ordinary people and the intrinsic dignity and heroism of blue-collar America. Nowadays, this is still evident in the RnB of Bruce Springsteen…and in the long tradition of US street photography.

Lewis Hine played an important role in developing the visual representation of ordinary life. He’s most famous for his iamges of steepljacks building NYC skyscrapers…and them having picnic lunches atop the scaffold…

Here are some of his railway pictures

Hine was a socioligist who used hos photographs as evidence for social reform. He played an important role in the the reform of child labour laws…

Upton Sinclair is anothe rfigure who s important in establishing an agenda for social reform. Sinclair famously wrote about the brutal working conditions in the livestock markets, yards and abattoirs of the Chicago railhead…the book is called, The Jungle (1906).

Sinclair also wrote about the adventures of Sergei Eisenstein in Hollywood and Mexico.

More recently, the British film director, Peter Greenaway, has made a film about Eisenstein in Mexico.

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No More First Class

The government are considering ending the distinction between forst and second class on trains in the south-east…good idea, but why not all first class? Let’s elevate everyone; not drive them down…


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All the Stations • 2017

The BBC website has a story about Geoff and Vicky, who are visiting every railway station in Britain.

There’s a little film, here



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Empty Tracks • USA

The BBC website is showing a slideshow of john Sanderson’s photographs of empty rail tracks…strangely unsettling.


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Railway Loco Badges

Here are three lovely enamelled loco badges…

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Doctor Who • Pyramids • Railways

Here is a screengrab from the trailer for the new Doctor Who adventure…it has a steam loco, on a bridge, heading for a pyramid…

We love Doctor Who…the present Doctor, a slightly manic Peter Capaldi as Univeristy professor, is terrific and an obvious role-model. Yesterday’s adventure got even better when a mysterious pyramid suddenly appeared….of course pyramids can’t just appear… it’s an alien spaceship! Who would have guessed that?

Also, the Doctor is President of the World…I wish

Of course, all the world’s armies are camping near by, and are ready to destroy the thing…but, it turns out the aliens have a special tech-ray…and anyway, they just want to be loved…but not in good way.

The pyramid is also an implicit reference to George Clinton’s P-Funk afrofuturism of the early 1970s…brilliant, and with shades of Chariots of the Gods too. Brilliant!

Here is an extract from the wiki page…

Clinton has pointed to the show Outer Limits as an influence in his elaborate narrative, but more importantly, he and Bootsy Collins encountered a UFO together while driving to Detroit… Clinton recalls light bouncing from one side of the street to the other, and remarking to Collins, The Mothership was angry with us for giving up the funk without permission.

The P-Funk mythology was just one tool in the conglomerate’s arsenal. By the mid-70s, Clinton was rebranding funk as many things at once, “an aesthetic, a marketing ploy, a black cultural nationalist battle-plan and a way of being if not a spiritual discipline.” He was drawing on everything from “hipster lingo of the beboppers, early black radio deejays and the apocalyptic anti-slavemassa edicts of the Nation of Islam,” as well as the Yippies and the Black Panthers. Clinton was positioning P-Funk as a “radical response to the American police state” and “the antithesis of everything that was sterile, one-dimensional, monochromatic, arhythmic and otherwise against freedom of bodily expression in the known universe.” In its simplest iteration, Clinton posited that “funk” was equivalent with the “truth.”

George Clinton played with about thirty people on stage…and his sets went on in a jazzy way…it was all a bit anarchic and exploratory for the main stream, and that was just the music. The association with an emancipatory african-based belief system was too much for US music business and for the US political establishment…the appeal to fun was just too dangerous!

If you want a more mainstream version of the same, try Earth Wind and Fire’s brilliant boogie wonderland, marvellous

And thank you, Doctor.

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Modern Railway Posters

Here, apparently, is a poster published by SouthEastern Trains, the company that runs the High Speed railway service between Folkestone and London.

It was reported in the local news section of the BBC website, and fed from the Kentonline newsfeed…I’m  not sure whether it is a print or digital thing.

It may not even qualify as a poster…sure, there is an image and some text, and a logo…but it is spectacularly poor, it lacks any kind of visual energy or dynamism. That sense of movement in design is important in expressing the dynamic combination of technology, speed and experience through the complete integration of form and content. Scale and colour, typography and image, are the defining characteristics of the modern poster…this has text and image and er…

The picture shows the earthworks on the shingle beach that are part of the make-ready for seafront development…in the distance is the harbour arm, and beyond that is the sea, and France. Where’s the romance in earthworks and dull light? Don’t they ahve creative suite?

In the foreground is part of the Leas coastal park…this is a unique feature of Folkestone’s greensward prom and the cliff and seafront are planted with mature trees throughout…I know that nothing is as grand as ruins, but the cranky steps are not so much Las Pozos (the Mexican surrealist garden by Edward James), as just plain dangerous…

Overall, this poster is a masterpiece of bleak fantasy, and is just like something from North Korea, but not in a good way.

Considering all the things that Folkestone has to offer, this is a disgrace…

Folkestone is, as a matter of record, the sunniest place in Britain…

It is an architectural expression of the shining-city by the sea…laid out as Holland Park on sea, and with distinguished architecture in a variety of styles and with a mature tree canopy throughout…it is grand and faded, but as I said, nothing is as grand as ruins.

Even Folkestone’s modern architecture is quite distinguished. Right opposite where this pictue was taken is a 1970s development by the architects of the Barbican in London.

The view of the harbour from the Leas is a classic, and features in some of the vinatge posters of Folkestone…it is a view that allows for the combination of different elements.

Ironically, Folkestone is thriving as a place where designers and artists can work and live. The town is full of images that could have been used to greater effect.

Co-incidentally, I posted before about a poster with this same view, here

The liquid graphic style of the 1920s poster references the painterly style of Vuillard…and captures the slightly dizzying sense that you get from the sunshine, heat and sea in Folkestone.

HG Wells, Folkestone’s local author, wrote about this dizzyness in a slightly different context in hist story, The New Accelerator (1901).

Considering that SE trains are running the fastest train service in Britain, they haven’t realy understood anything…it’s shoddy, shabby and lazy, and almost anyone could do better.

The seaside is all about romance and feeling…based on the therapeutic power of the sea and the psychology of carnival and liberation…the development of the seaside was entirely facilitated by the railways and by the elaboration of a specific architecture of pleasure (desire)….Historically, this has been communicated through posters…So many connections not made.

As I said earlier, where is the feeling in this?

It’s not in this image of North Korean style, desolation by the sea…

Redcar has a steelworks by the sea and manages to have more romance than the view in this image…grr!

This scores about 2/10, they should have another go.

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Railway People c1900

I have just discovered the wonderful world of old railway photographs…and the people in them.

These guys look just like the characters in the Andrew Martin books I’ve posted about just recently.

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Railway Trades Union Banner


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