RAIL CHRONOLOGY :
BRADSHAW'S RAILWAY GUIDE
AN ANALYSIS OF ITS TITLE CHANGES AND THE AVAILABILITY OF PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE COPIES FOR RESEARCHERS
Page updated 3 February 2021
It is said that in Victorian times the two books you could find in virtually every household in Britain were the Bible and Bradshaw. Doubtless, just as many people kept a Bible but rarely read it, the same applied to the Bradshaw. It was there just in case a journey was undertaken and was a useful planning tool.
So what was a Bradshaw? Early railway companies produced their own timetables but George Bradshaw (1801-1853) introduced a single guide to railways in 1839. It became monthly in 1842, by the turn of the 20th. century each issue had over 1000 pages, and it ran for well over 1400 editions until the last appeared in May 1961. For more about what succeeded it, see our National Rail Timetable history page.
Fuller histories of Bradshaw and his guide can be found in four published works:
The Story of “Bradshaw’s Guide”; Percy Fitzgerald; Field & Tuer; 1890
The History of Bradshaw; G Royde Smith; Henry Blacklock & Co.; 1939 [this work has been re-published as the first five chapters of Bradshaw’s History by V Mitchell]
The Centenary of “Bradshaw”; Charles E Lee; The Railway Gazette; 1940
Bradshaw’s History; V Mitchell; Middleton Press; 2012 [incorporating, as its first five chapters, The History of Bradshaw by G Royde Smith]
Bradshaw is an invaluable resource for railway history researchers - as the late Professor Jack Simmons explained and emphasised in chapter 12 of his The Express Train and other railway studies (Thomas & Lochar, 1994) - and two compilations to assist researchers are linked from this page. These two compilations are, to some degree, still "in preparation" (so any observations, additions or corrections will be welcomed) and are presented as dowloadable files, by following these links:
Bradshaw's Railway Guide : title changes - a compendium of the subtle (and not so subtle) title changes which the Guide went through during its 120+ years' history,
Bradshaw's Railway Guide : accessible copies - a listing of the copies of Bradshaw's Guide that are known to be accessible publicly in libraries, etc. This is still far from complete - for example, the holdings of the Bodleian Library and Leicester University Library have still to be added - so the compiler would welcome information about other sources that could usefully be added.
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