I’ve been collecting Victorian and Edwardian railway photographs for several years, primarily those issued by the London & North Western Railway. Many of them are presented here in this book ‘The Victorian and Edwardian Railway in Old Photographs.’

This French photograph c. 1850 sums up the early nineteenth-century railway: an impeccably turned out locomotive with the driver wearing top hat and tails, and fireman in a cap and ‘round jacket’. (The Victorian and Edwardian Railway in Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

The Victorian period was a time of immense change, both socially and technologically. And, thanks to Louis Daguerre pioneering cheap and commercial photography, many of these changes could be captured if not on film, then in photographs such as daguerreotypes and later Cartes de Visites and Cabinet cards and Albumen prints. The first photograph was published in a newspaper in 1880 serving to make the medium even more popular.

Whilst displaying the history of LNWR locomotives, this 1904 postcard demonstrates the rapid development of LNWR motive-power for passengers and goods, and show how up to date the company was. (The Victorian and Edwardian Railway in Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

The first postcard as we would understand the term was created in 1840 but it was not for another thirty years that another Frenchman – Léon Besnardeau – would develop the ‘modern’ postcard with a picture on one side and space for a quick note and the recipient’s address on the other. Thanks to the development of photography and colour printing, by 1900 the postcard had become a staple not only for tourists and holiday makers but as a means for advertising. Forward-thinking railway companies such as the LNWR or GWR embraced this new technology, but it was the LNWR which really led the way with postcards in the period 1890-1910.

Edwardian Railway
The LNWR was proud of its history, and this 1904 postcard contrasts rail travel on the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in the 1830s (from the Ackerman long prints) with the crack ‘Anglo-American Boat Express’ that ran from London Euston to Liverpool Riverside, for the Atlantic crossing. (The Victorian and Edwardian Railway in Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

The LNWR had an excellent publicity department. From 1904 it produced a series of colour and monochrome (termed ‘grey cards’) sold in packets of six for 2d. By 1905 over 9 million had been sold. The LNWR used them to advertise its services, including a lavish full-colour set for the Anglo-American Special for the Atlantic Crossing which ran from Euston to Liverpool; colour postcards were used to advertise holiday destinations served by the LNWR including North Wales and the Lake District; and also to celebrate the new Royal Train of Edward VII. Conscious of its long history, the LNWR used its postcard series to celebrate its past achievements, published in full colour.

Edwardian Railway
The Holyhead ‘Boat’ train rushes north, headed by one of George Whale’s Experiment Class locomotives, with a somewhat mixed rake of thirteen bogey vehicles, c. 1910. (The Victorian and Edwardian Railway in Old Photographs, Amberley Publishing)

These postcards were very collectable and the LNWR was aware of this and produced single- and multi-view cards of locomotives, rolling stock and locations clearly aimed at the railway enthusiast, or as they were then termed ‘railwayac’ of the period. These LNWR cards are still highly collectable and a fascinating record of a vanished age.

Anthony Dawson's book The Victorian and Edwardian Railway in Old Photographs is available for purchase now.