Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tickets, Please

In its early days horse-drawn rail was used almost exclusively to carry freight, but passengers rode on the Swansea to Oystermouth rail service shortly after it began operating in 1807. As train travel developed, it quickly became a matter of class. Panelled coaches, which had well-padded seats, allowed first-class passengers to relax in comfort. Second-class coaches were simpler in style but usually had seats, while passengers in third-class open wagons were showered with soot spewed out by the engine.

The first railway station opened at Liverpool Road, Manchester, in 1830, complete with a waiting room and separate booking halls for the first and second class passengers. A booking clerk named Thomas Edmondson, who worked on the Newcastle & Carlisle Railway, invented preprinted tickets in 1837 to save him writing out the same details for each traveller. For passengers unable to read, some railways issued tickets with pictures that represented major towns: a sack of cotton for Manchester, a fleece for Leeds, after their main industries.

As more rail services were set up, timetables became necessary. The first was published in 1838 by the London & Birmingham Railway. In 1839 George Bradshaw, a Manchester printer, produced the first timetable of all services. The growth of timetabled railway operations led to standard time being adopted throughout the UK. However, they gave 'no guarantee of punctuality', as the South Yorkshire Railway admitted in 1851.

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