Saturday, 3 March 2012

"Begs to Acknowledge Receipt" - The Importance of the Railway Form

One of the hidden stories of the nineteenth century railway companies is their development of standard forms. Clearly, this isn't that much stimulating of a topic, and to my knowledge there is only one book that looks at how railway stationary was evolved, and even then it focusses on the American railroads.

But this is important area of British railway history that should not be ignored. If we consider that in the early years of the industry most railway company stationary constituted simply lined books and letters, the development through the decades of standard forms and record books tailored to individual departments' needs was a business innovation. Shown on the left is a form that was sent by the London and South Western Railway's Good's Manager's Office in 1901 to confirm that a letter had been received. The main feature to note is that within the standard, pre-formulated text there are spaces where the company's clerk could write the relevant details. Indeed, like many others the railways produced, this form meant that those sending out large numbers of receipts did not have to write out great tracts of text each time and, therefore, their use would have sped up business processes.

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