Caution! Railway safety since 1913

Passenger safety

Safety education wasn't just used for railway workers. Although railway travel was relatively safe compared to railway work, large numbers of passengers were still injured or even killed. Sometimes this was the railway companies' fault, and other times it was a consequence of the actions of the passengers themselves.

Companies used safety education to try to show passengers and children how to avoid the dangers of the railway, from getting in and out of carriages safely to preventing trespassing on the lines. They took advantage of the latest technologies and ideas to give safety messages, trying to be as eye-catching and interesting as possible.



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22. London & North Eastern Railway passenger safety poster, 1924

The playful cartoon style in this poster gave a serious warning about falling from the platform.



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23. British Railways passenger safety poster, 1939-1945

The Second World War brought many new dangers, including low levels of lighting making it difficult to see whether a train was in a station. This poster gave hints on coping with the blackout.

Blackout - Look out!


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24. Southern Railway child safety poster, 1947

Children trespassing on the railways is not a new problem. Unfortunately there has long been a dangerous attraction, as this poster from 1947 shows.



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25. British Railways passenger safety poster, c.1950s

Opening doors as trains arrived into stations might save time, but it also risked hitting people standing on the platform. This gentle appeal to people’s good nature asked for greater care to be taken.



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26. British Rail passenger safety poster, c.1970s

A new approach to child trespass for a new era. This poster showed more of the consequences of playing on the railways than previous safety education.

Ten silly boys, playing on the line. One couldn't run so fast, and then there were nine.


27. 'The Finishing Line' safety film,1977

Regarded by many as a cult classic, this disturbing film imagined the consequences of a school sports day played on the railway lines, to warn children of the dangers of trespassing.



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28. British Rail passenger safety poster, c.1990s

Aping Roy Lichtenstein and the pop art of the 1960s, this poster used bold colours, lines and a sense of movement to attract attention.

The fool! The train was moving!


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29. First Great Western passenger safety information card, 2005

Safety education is now found onboard trains – fold out cards like this show passengers what to do in an emergency, and are as much to do with reassuring travellers as with providing information.



30. Network Rail TV advertisement, 2013

The latest in a long line of safety education initiatives, harnessing the power of TV and the internet to promote safety when crossing railway lines.



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31. Passenger train crash, Balby Bridge, 1947

Not all incidents could be prevented by safety education. 18 people died in this crash between two trains at Doncaster, caused by a signalling error.



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32. William IV Shilling dating from 1834-1837, damaged in the fire at the Quintinshill Disaster, 1915

A further reminder of the limits of safety campaigns, which could not eliminate all human error. This coin melted in the heat of the World War One Quintinshill disaster, in which over 200 soldiers were killed when three trains collided and the gas-lit wooden coaches caught fire.


Safety beyond the railways »

Background: BR Warflat