During the 1960s and 70s, rapidly increasing private car ownership was resulting in a decreasing number of passengers on railways as a whole, with rural or semi rural secondary and branch lines particularly badly affected. Reductions in operating costs, for example by introducing Pay Trains improved the situation a little, but many lines had to be closed. The challenge was to save the remainder of these “Branches on the Brink” by getting more people to travel, at a time when little money was available for publicity campaigns.
With a complete generation of children growing up, who had never been on a train, even if they lived within a short walk from a station, the challenge was to remind people that they had a local train service, that it could be worth leaving the car at home to avoid heavy traffic and parking problems, that rail travel could be cheaper than using the car, unless the car was full, and that the trains served many places of interest, reached by traveling through attractive scenery. Modest poster and leaflet campaigns promoting individual lines which had been branded” with distinctive names, were supported by a variety of economical public relations events, by involving other organisations in joint funding for competitions, guide books etc.
In the 1970s a major effort was launched to promote the group of Pay Train services in Norfolk and Suffolk with a painting competition “The Spirit Of Anglia” where an offer of reasonable prizes encouraged an entry of about 30 works of art. These formed a touring exhibition which visited major centres in the catchment area, like Ipswich, Cambridge, and Yarmouth with a Grand Final held in Norwich where the judging took place. In most cases exhibition venues were made available either ar reduced rates or free of charge. The exhibitions attracted a large number of visitors during the summer and were well covered by press and TV. The idea was not completely new; back in the early 1920s, the LMS staged an exhibition of paintings the. Themed around rail transport, by Royal Academicians. The exhibition was a critical success, and popular with visitors and several of the paintings were later used as the basis for posters, but it was an expensive exercise and in the strict economy drive on the LMS in the 1920s and 30s, could not be repeated.
Artist John Munday approached B.R. Eastern Region in 1987 with an idea he had to portray the Hull to Scarborough line and its scenery in a series of pictures, and asked if he could be given a letter of authority to enter BR premises to do his preliminary sketches. Fter two or three meetings, involving other bodies, “Drawing A Line” was born. John signed an indemnity absolving br from liability should he be accidentally injured, was issued with a high visibility vest , a permit and a free pass over the line for 12 months. During the summer of 1988, the resulting exhibition appeared at Town Halls, Libraries and “Stately Homes” throughout the catchment area, introducing the local railway to non-train users. Once again there was a vary favourable public reaction, and a good deal of media coverage.
John was so enthused, that in 1990, he embarked on a project to illustrate the work of electrifying the East Coast Main Line… But that is another story!