Since occupying The Old Ticket Office, Entikera Ltd have understandably developed an interest in the history of the building together with its operation and place within the GWR. A small but constantly growing collection of items has been gathered, some of which are on general display in the Old Ticket Office. As it is a working environment which must take into account the varying constraints imposed upon space, provision for displaying these items is limited which means that the bulk of the collection is necessarily held off site. There are however always a good number of items and old photographs to see as they are rotated several times a year.
It would be impractical to try to document online everything held, however particular portions, such as certain book series and GWR jigsaws, are dealt with in greater depth and can be seen by following the appropriate menus.
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These pages serves as an introduction to those items in our collection which do not easily fall into other broader categories and they will be added to as appropriate.
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There are a number of items of clothing in the collection. The one shown here is a GWR Porter’s jacket of unknown origin and date, possibly from 1930s but looking almost unused.
Also in the collection is what is believed to be a GWR Porter’s cap, again of unknown origin and date, but the peak and button suggest that it dates from the 1860s. The cap is fairly small and might have been worn by a boy porter. One visitor thought that the picture of an engine on the button associated it more with the Taff Vale Railway which became a part of Great Western Railway on 1 January 1922.
The collection holds a number of brass GWR buttons from different periods and in a variety of styles.
Edmondson date punches
In the collection are two Edmondson ticket date punches. They are both actually made by Waterlow & Sons of London, with serial numbers 4063 and 4254 respectively. They have both been restored to fully working condition and are complete with spools, ribbon and original date type. They are of unknown origin and date but serve to illustrate the type of equipment which would have been present in the ticket office. Operation was purely mechanical. When a ticket is pushed into the slot it is gripped by the moving jaws which serve to press it against the ribbon and date type. The ribbon would then be automatically advanced by a ratchet mechanism. Every morning the ticket clerk would have to reset and ink the ribbon and change the date type which is held in place beneath the knurled knob seen near the middle. Marks on the counter top show where the original machines used to be fixed when in use.
This system of dating pre-numbered tickets was devised by Thomas Edmondson, a trained cabinet maker, who became a station master on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway. Previously, railway companies had used handwritten tickets, but it was laborious for a ticket clerk to write out a ticket for each passenger. He devised a complete system using pre-printed tickets that was both faster and one which could be audited as the takings had to be reconciled against the serial numbers of the unsold tickets at the end of each day. The tickets were printed on card cut to 1 7⁄32 by 2¼ inches, with a nominal thickness of 1⁄32 inch. Stocks would have been kept stacked in racks within a cabinet so that the next ticket in sequence could be taken from the correct rack. Whilst stations held stocks of tickets for popular destinations and classes of travel, blank tickets were also available for use when an appropriate pre-printed ticket was not held at the issuing station.
You can also read about Thomas Edmondson and his invention in a fascinating article written by Geoffrey SkelseyClick or tap to view the article
(pdf document format), which was first published in ‘Backtrack’ Vol.22 No.8, January 2008, and is reproduced here by kind permission of the Editor.
Other associated items in our collection include a box of date type, two hand punches as used by Ticket Inspectors, hand stamps for overprinting tickets with the endorsements 'Child' or '⅔rds Rate', and a ticket printing die for a ticket from Evesham to Paddington.
GWR pen nib
Typical of the sort of item which would have been found in a station office, this pen nib looks to be little used. It would have been slipped onto a wooden holder and dipped into a pot of ink. The ink would have been held in the elongated hole by capillary action and be slowly fed down the split in the nib towards the tip whilst writing. By applying varying pressure and changing the angle of the nib relative to the direction of writing, the width of the line could be changed, and some beautiful script could be produced. There is no indication who produced this nib but it is more than likely to have been produced by one of the many manufacturers operating in Birmingham. By the 1850s, Birmingham was the world centre for steel pen and steel nib manufacture and it was said that over half the steel-nib pens manufactured in the world came from Birmingham. The trade declined rapidly after WW2 and had all but disappeared by the 1960s.
This small item is shown here about full size, but a larger image can be viewed by clicking or tapping the thumbnail image.
Another item which would have been found in a station office, or indeed most other places would be this aluminium ashtray dating from the 1930s. It is about 5¼" in diameter. We were a bit dubious at first as to whether it was a genuine Great Western Railway item, but were reassured after we spotted an identical one when we had been fortunate enough to be invited to visit Sir William McAlpine's private museum at Fawley Hill near Henley during 2019.
Some other examples
Great Western Railway Magazine, July 1931
The early operation of the railway was overseen by the Railway Police whose constables were responsible for a particular 'beat'. As well as undertaking what we would think of as normal police duties, they were also responsible for ensuring the safe operation of the railway which included the controlling of rail traffic and operating the signals. They had to ensure there was a suitable time delay between trains entering each section of track and thus, hopefully, avoid a collision. There was however no reliable way in which they could be warned if a train had broken down, was simply running slowly, or of any other threat to safety, and this inevitably lead to some bad accidents. Signal boxes as we would now recognise them only started to appear in the early 1870s when the fixed block method of controlling the flow of rail traffic was adopted and technology became available to allow for the remote control of signals and telegraphic communication was developed. Signalmen became responsible for the operational aspects of the railway, with the railway police becoming responsible for law and order along the railway.
Some other examples
Great Western Railway Magazine, July 1931
Most of the early railway police constables carried an elaborately painted wood truncheon and we are fortunate to have a fine example of these rare items in our collection. Probably dating from the 1860s it is decorated with the Royal Crown and the initials GWR for the railway company. Larger images can be viewed by clicking or tapping either thumbnail image.
There were many changes in the way that the railway police were organised over the years with the various constabularies eventually becoming the nucleus of today's British Transport Police. You can read a detailed history of this specialised force on the British Transport Police website.
Signal box Train Register
One very important item in old manual signal boxes was the Train Register. In this book were meticulously recorded the details of every train movement controlled by the box. Such registers can still be found in use in any manual signal box such as those operating on many of the present day heritage and preserved lines. We sadly missed the opportunity to buy an example from the signal box at Culham some years ago but did find this unused one to add to our collection.
Race to the Ocean Coast board game
As well as producing all the jigsaw puzzles for the GWR, in the very early 1930s Chad Valley also manufactured a board game for them called Race to the Ocean CoastClick or tap to see the game being made. There was a choice of destination and the routes, all starting from Paddington, were laid out on a board which opened out to be about 21" x 14½" in size. Players' counters took the form of metal locomotives each painted to match the colour of one of the routes on the board. The game sold for half a crown (2/6) but only appears to have been available from early 1930 until 1931. With total sales in the region of 5,500 it may not have met expectations and so was quietly dropped. So far we have not been able to buy a complete game, but there is an example of the board in our collection.
Race to the Ocean Coast game advertisement
Literature of Locomotion, 1931 but this advert must have been drawn before the final designs had been arrived at. The box lid illustration looks to be similar to that used for the Speed jigsaw puzzle and not Britain's Mightiest as produced, also the game board is shown opened up rather than folded in its box.
GWR Hotels matchbook cover
It may be surprising to learn that until 1868, smoking in a railway train or on a railway station was a criminal offence. A Bill for the Regulation of Railways before parliament at the time had an amendment introduced which compelled railway companies to provide smoking accommodation on every passenger train. Thereafter passengers were allowed to smoke provided they travelled in one of the designated compartments. Since 2007 smoking has again been forbidden both on trains and at stations. The GWR had sold small ‘Vesta’ tins containing non-safety matches with a striking ridge on the base and carrying various advertisements on the lid. These were superceeded in the 1920s by the book match, by now of the safety variety, and all made by Bryant & May. Advertisements printed both on the inside and outside of these matchbooks promoted many of the services offered by the GWR and many millions were sold. By their very nature these were disposable items and examples are therefore quite rare. We are fortunate to have in or collection an example, probably dating from the early 1930s, promoting the four hotels which the GWR ran at that time.