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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Buying train tickets in
1940s and 1950s Britain

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The ticket office

Typical 1940s and 1950s British railway ticket office

Station ticket office, photographed in Milestones Museum, Basingstoke. Note the how much use is made of wood, and also note the station clock which was very important for catching trains on time, as few people had watches.

We bought tickets for train journeys at the station ticket office and paid by cash. There were no credit cards. I don't know whether some people paid by cheque, but I do know that it seemed very hit and miss whether shop keepers would accept cheques.

We had to allow plenty of time for buying tickets because we couldn't predict how long the queue would be at the ticket office. They couldn't be bought in advance.

The ticket office at my local station kept pre-printed single and return tickets for most popular destinations in top-fed bottom-dispensed vertical stacks. There was date stamp used to frank the back side of ticket, both ends for a return.

Douglas Adam

The date stamp for dating the tickets made a sort of 'thunper- thumper' sound.

Malcolm Keen

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Tickets for ordinary travel

Tickets for ordinary travel were small and made of thick, rough paper. The ones I remember were pale green. Return tickets were the same size and had to be torn in half with one half for the outward journey and the other half for the return journey.

1940s train ticket

Train ticket. Detail of a screenshot from an old film with the destination imaginary. The thumb shows scale.

Old British return train tickets, (designed to be torn into two halves) and used as shown by the clip

Used return tickets, photographed at a distance behind glass in York Railway Museum. They are clearly used because they are clipped and they are return because they are in two halves, designed to be torn apart.

As far as I remember there were stacks of them within easy reach of the booking clerk who was selling them. All he had to do was to reach for the appropriate ticket, date it, hand it over and take the money. Tickets were not specially printed for each journey.

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Platform tickets

Tickets to get onto a platform to see people off were known as 'platform tickets'.

Machine for selling platform tickets at stations, 1940s

Machine for selling platform tickets, so that well-wishers could get onto the platform to welcome arriving passengers or see off departing ones. Photo taken in the Steam Museum at Swindon.

Although platform tickets could be bought at the ticket office, there were also machines which sold them. They always seemed to cost a penny (in old money), as did a visit to a public lavatory.

Pile of unused UK platform tickets

Pile of unused platform tickets, photographed behind glass in York Railway Museum.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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Season tickets

Front of 1954 UK train season ticket Back of 1954 UK train season ticket

Front and back of a1954 train season ticket, courtesy of Francis Duck. It seems that that as late as 1954 there was still a third class and that the fare for a return journey of approximately 15 miles for just under 10 weeks was £1-18-00, ie not quite £2 - an indication of inflation!

Most workers - including my father once he was back from the war - bought season tickets which worked out cheaper for making the same journey every working day. Working from home was very rare indeed.

Season tickets were larger than tickets for single journeys, about the size of a modern credit card.

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Tickets for Her Majesty's Forces

As a child in the 1940s, I remember women talking about their men on leave from the war having a 'travel warrant', but I was too young to pay much attention. Fortunately Alan Bennett has provided a separate page on travel warrants.

Were any other types of personnel, apart from members of the forces, issued with special train tickets?

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