Timetables from the Past - More than mere train schedules

These colourful and informative timetables are probably not missed by most travellers today, but the rail enthusiasts deeply regret their loss.

By Rail Enthusiasts' Society

A BB&CI timetable, from 1945 by Warren MillerRail Enthusiasts' Society

Railway timetables are ephemeral publications; once out-of-date they are of little use and are soon discarded.

In the very early days of railways, the railway companies themselves published basic timetables, often limited to the services provided by the railway concerned. It fell to private publishers to compile and sell more comprehensive timetables. In Britain, Thomas Cook and George Bradshaw were the main timetable publishers.

“Newman’s Indian Bradshaw” was a popular timetable in India for many years, but Indian Railways’ “Trains at a Glance”, as well as the various zonal timetables, eventually superseded it.

A BB&CI timetable, with a bookmark, from 1945 by Warren MillerRail Enthusiasts' Society

The October 1941 edition of the Bombay Baroda and Central India (BBCI) railway gives information on much more than train times. A calendar of fairs and festivals is included, encouraging travel to these events by train. Also included is a list of the dates on which various sections of line on the BBCI were opened.

Among the general information is the fact that the population of Bombay (now Mumbai) was 1,486,971. The BBCI advertised attractive circular tour tickets around India, and tour number 3 covered 5,520 miles across all major stations in India.

Infomation of the meals provided on the train by Warren MillerRail Enthusiasts' Society

75 years ago, travellers had a good range of dining options, between refreshment rooms and dining on the train with meal orders being taken at a preceding station. Dining carriages existed but were not common.

Movie advertisement in BB&CI timetable, from 1945 by Warren MillerRail Enthusiasts' Society

As new editions of timetables were published frequently, movies, consumer products, and services were often advertised in them. In this picture, stills from a new movie occupies one whole page of the timetable. Apart from that, a coloured bookmark is also used for advertisement.

Illustration of the plans for the tourist carriages by Warren MillerRail Enthusiasts' Society

In the years before the Second World War, the railway offered tourist carriages for charter, aimed at the European traveller planning a tour.

The Bengal Nagpur Railway timetable gives details and floor plans for the two tourist carriages that it provided.

The BBCI’s timetable shows details of nine broad gauge and nine metre gauge tourist carriages, along with 16 pages of tourist information on temples, tombs, forts and other sites.

However, this feature of the timetables disappeared during the war.

Advertisement of a good value circular tour tickets of the train by Warren MillerRail Enthusiasts' Society

To keep costs low, paid commercial advertising was often included on the back cover and often on the inside as well. Subjects varied, but popular products were jewellery, watches, electrical goods and hotel accommodation.

To encourage tourist business, the railways offered good value circular tour tickets, with flexibility in travel dates and break-of- journey.

A manual of 'Preparing for Post War Travel' by Warren MillerRail Enthusiasts' Society

The Great Indian Peninsula Railway promised travellers improvements in its post-war equipment and services on this colourful cover from its December 1942 timetable. The locomotive illustrated looks very American though.

Now with internet access and mobile applications, the concept of printed timetable looks out of date. Although, they are missed passionately by rail enthusiasts.

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