GWR books and booklets

The first sale publication produced by the Great Western Railway appeared in 1904. It was titled 'The Cornish Riviera' and was written by A.M.Broadley who was a well known writer at the time, and by 1909 he had written a further nine titles for the GWR. These books contained much travel and historical detail but little of purely railway interest, they would however still promote the services and new offerings of the GWR wherever appropriate. As with many of the sale publications which followed, the author was not credited. They sold at a price which barely covered production costs, a practice which would continue right until the end of the GWR, the Company were effectively getting the public to pay for its publicity. 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. Over the years several of the most popular books were either reprinted or published in revised editions many times, but others quietly disappeared.

Sale publications were advertised in newspapers and magazines and no opportunity was missed to publicise other books within GWR publications themselves, sometimes by the inclusion of printed flyers or, from the late 1920s, in jigsaw boxes. Starting in 1927 a small booklet was published called The Literature of Locomotion and subtitled as being a 'Catalogue of Travel Guides & Jig-Saw Puzzles, etc.' which were 'Obtainable from any G.W.R. Station or Office, Railway Bookstall, your Bookseller' or direct from the appropriate department using an included order form. This booklet listed many of the books and jigsaws that would be available at the time of publication. It was updated and re-issued, sometimes several times in a year, and went on to a final total of about 35 editions when publication ceased in 1939.

The publications which the GWR produced for sale to the general public fell into three broad categories, travel books highlighting destinations or regions served by the GWR, books covering the history of the GWR or that of places of interest which could be visited by means of the GWR, and books promoting the Company's services or technical and engineering achievements. We are not attempting to produce a comprehensive catalogue or history of the many publications produced by the GWR for sale to the public, but to simply provide a brief glimpse by showing some of those which are held in our collection.

In addition to the publications produced by the GWR for sale there were many for which there was no charge. Some of these promoted services or facilities such as the GWR docks and freight handling, others promoted housing or factories close to the railway system, and others were produced as souvenirs of visits or milestone anniversaries. There were, in addition, several early publications which at first sight might be thought to have had a cover charge but were in fact issued free. These include the "Handy Aids" series of booklets and some larger publications such as The Glories of the Thames, Inland & Marine Spas, and Welsh Mountain Railways. Such promotional and souvenir books are included in the relevant sections of our collecion.

It has sometimes been difficult to decide how to group the different Great Western Railway publications for the purposes of this website. They could be categorised by style, content, author, or publication period for example, but some do fall into very clear series. Books and booklets were sometimes published in revised or reprinted editions over several years and the format and design would have varied with the fashion of the time. The Great Western Railway published many books and booklets and our collection holds both a number of individual copies and several complete series, but not necessarily an example of every edition of a particular title.We have developed our own list showing books published by the GWRClick or tap to see our book list
(pdf document format)
which is updated whenever new information comes to light.

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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