This cover has over 100 years of typically British humour, around the topic of railways, in cartoons, jokes and comic verse. Not surprisingly, recurring themes in each, are overcrowding, late trains, cancelled trains and incomprehensible station announcements. “I’ve been reading Gray’s Elegy all day, and no one has noticed”, – Announcer in 1944. One sometimes thinks that little changes… Certainly attempts to defraud the railways feature in each. “A kid your age should not be smoking”. “I ain’t a kid, I’m thirteen”. “In that case you must by an adult ticket!”-Punch
“The boy looks a lot older than three, you must buy a child ticket”. “He is only three, but he worries a lot!”- Laughs. You will find that similar cartoons appear in both, sometimes as a kind of mirror image. (Drunk staggers into signal box, sees signalman pulling lever “A pint of Burton best bitter, Guv’nor!”)- Punch ( Busty barmaid, well exercised by pulling pints, gets wartime job a signalwoman). – Laughs
This publication repay study for the details of fashion and daily life which the cartoons portray. Punch in particular has always been regarded as a valuable social commentary on its times. None of the items are dated, but the advent of the Metropolitan Railway is covered, as is the arrival of the Central London Electric Railway – the “Twopenny Tube”. Ladies with “bustles”, firmly date cartoons to the 1870s, while the Clubland “Sportsmen”, with their “Piccadilly Weepers” – extravagant side whiskers – could only belong to the 1860s. They would have been laughed off the street in any other decade! A reference to the Spithead Fleet Review dates a cartoon to Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee year – 1897. While much of the content is “Metropolitan” in content – (and not just the Railway!), the cartoons do stray out into the country (tailless cat, dogs having eaten their labels etc.) The railway staff are depicted as speaking a kind of “Mummerset” dialect (“How long will the next train be? “Oi don’t roightly know to t’ nearest inch. . About four carriages and an engine Oi s’pose”. However, one cartoonist does make a reasonable shot at the Geordie dialect, while his carriages carry “YORK” destination boards and the curly NER monogram which dropped out of use in the 1880s. One surprising item appears in a cartoon from the 1880s, with a “Photograph Yourself” machine on a station platform… “Selfies” are nothing new!
Laughs is also very much of its time. Commuters, their favourite train cancelled, see it replaced by a train load of tanks, two Yank soldiers try to thumb a lift from a non-stop train, women wear scarves as turbans and slacks while a meek elderly City clerk, finds himself squeezed between two enormous soldiers in full kit… Contemporary favourites from newspapers appear – Giles’ family from the Daily Express, “Useless Eustace” from the Daily Mirror, and “Young Ernie” from Reynolds News. There is also a selection of Heath Robinson cartoons from the Great Western Railway’s “Railway Ribaldry of 1935.
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