Edmondson Ticket (Front and Rear)
Edmond­son Tick­et (Front and Rear)

Michael Farr sets out below his approach to print­ing Edmond­son-style rail­way tick­ets.  It fas­ci­nat­ing from both a print­er’s per­spec­tive and a rail­way per­spec­tive.  If you have infor­ma­tion about either print­ing these tick­ets; or oth­er spe­cial­ist areas of let­ter­press please get in touch!

Personal background

Tick­ets came first for me, hav­ing begun my col­lec­tion when offered one num­bered 000 (the first of the series) for my dai­ly jour­ney to school in Bris­tol from Sea Mills sta­tion to Clifton Down.

Print­ing fol­lowed soon after­wards when I joined mem­bers of the Bearpit Press at Clifton Col­lege. We used an Adana No 3 H/S and had a rea­son­able range of type, the most pop­u­lar faces in “prop­er” cas­es and the oth­ers in the small Adana 36 divi­sion drawers.

The two hob­bies came togeth­er when I joined the Talyl­lyn Rail­way Preser­va­tion Soci­ety, the first rail preser­va­tion project in the world. They used Edmond­son tick­ets, ini­tial­ly print­ed by Edmond­son and lat­er by Har­lands (of Hull) and Williamson (of Ash­ton-under-Lyne). In addi­tion to the tick­ets for reg­u­lar jour­neys I could see a need for short runs for spe­cial trains and events. The nor­mal capac­i­ty of a Talyl­lyn Rail­way train was about 200 – 240, a work­able quan­ti­ty for print­ing by hand.

You need to remem­ber is that every tick­et needs one (or prefer­ably two) ser­i­al num­bers and there is like­ly to be a coloured over­print let­ter, sym­bol or stripe and word­ing may be required on the back as well as the front of the card. Thus 240 tick­ets may need feed­ing and print­ing 1200 times.

Ticket material

The tra­di­tion­al mate­r­i­al was paste­board, pre-cut to the size pio­neered by Thomas Edmond­son in the 1830/40s, 21/4 x 13/16 or about 57 x 30 mm. The cen­tre lay­er of the sand­wich was a cheap board with thin white or coloured paper lam­i­nat­ed to it. British Rail were will­ing (though they did not adver­tise the fact) to sup­ply small quan­ti­ties of the tick­ets they bought from the Dick­in­son Robin­son Group to bona fide ama­teur tick­et print­ers. When BR com­put­erised rev­enue con­trol DRG dis­man­tled the paste­board machinery.

Most of the inde­pen­dent tick­et print­ers now buy their pre-cut board from Wens­ing of Apel­doorn, Hol­land. It is not paste­board and the rough sur­face on the back of the card (pre­sum­ably to help its trans­port through pow­er-oper­at­ed machines) is dif­fi­cult to print sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly by hand, but the resul­tant tick­ets look good.

Using the Adana machine

I have tried mak­ing spe­cial fit­ments to mount on the plat­en but expe­ri­ence has shown they are not nec­es­sary for print­ing body text. I have filed away a lay bar so it clears the box around the out­side of the Letha­by num­ber­ing machines which I use.

Han­dling such small card is fid­dly but thanks to the thick­ness you can push the print­ed tick­et along the bar with the new one you are lay­ing down. I arrange for the print­ed card to fall into a tray along­side the machine.

Pos­si­bly because I am left-hand­ed, I have always pushed down the han­dle with my right hand and fed in the card with my left — so the receiv­ing tray is on the right.


Tra­di­tion­al­ly tick­ets were print­ed from hot met­al although BR changed to plates when they opened the new com­bined tick­et print­ing unit at Crewe.

If you use stan­dard Adana chas­es you will need a large amount of fur­ni­ture — except per­haps for the No.1 H/S chase. I am for­tu­nate to have some of the very small chas­es sup­plied for the Water­low machines used by most British rail­ways and these will just fit into a 5 – 3 size chase.

It may well be worth mak­ing some small chas­es if you intend to print large num­bers of tickets.


At first I used a hand oper­at­ed plunger machine (by ENM), with a guide to posi­tion the tick­ets. I was sub­se­quent­ly able to buy two sec­ond-hand Letha­by machines for mount­ing in the machine chase.

The plunger can play hav­oc with the dress­ing on the padding card and so I posi­tioned it towards the edge of the plat­en. I took an ini­tial print and then stuck (with dou­ble-sided tape) a small square of paste­board to take the impact.

One friend has mount­ed a hand oper­at­ed machine in a ver­ti­cal drill stand; two oth­ers had twin box­es made espe­cial­ly by Letha­by with a remote plunger to oper­ate them.

I usu­al­ly feed and remove the tick­ets from the plat­en indi­vid­u­al­ly, stack­ing them in piles of 25 until ful­ly dry. Remem­ber that most pre­served rail­ways use tra­di­tion­al grav­i­ty-feed tick­et racks for which the low­est num­ber needs to be at the bot­tom of the pile, so a for­ward-count­ing box is best. Mod­ern plas­tic tick­et racks need them to be num­bered with the low­est num­ber at the top of the pile — for which a back­wards-count­ing box is ideal.

Tra­di­tion­al­ly tick­ets have been sup­plied bun­dled in 250s.


Although I began by pro­duc­ing runs of 240 for the Talyl­lyn, as my “fame” spread I was asked to pro­duce longer runs and for many oth­er lines at home and abroad. Some week­ends would find me push­ing the machine hand down 20,000 or more times. Hind­sight tells me this was very fool­ish because I now have a per­ma­nent strain in my side which can be most uncom­fort­able — and has caused me to “retire” from tick­et print­ing at the age of 71.

Cer­tain­ly there is not so much need for ama­teurs to pro­duce tick­ets by hand as there are many indi­vid­u­als and pre­served lines who own the for­mer BR Water­low machines and are will­ing to print for oth­er cus­tomers. I am sure there will always be a need for short runs to be pro­duced by hand.

Adana Machine Models

When I left school I invest­ed £4.17s.6d in an Adana No. 1 “High-speed” machine, which was quite capa­ble of print­ing Edmond­son tick­ets. I pro­gressed to the 5 – 3 mod­el which ran much more smooth­ly (and qui­et­ly) but there were sev­er­al advan­tages of pro­duc­ing even tiny tick­ets on a larg­er machine, such as the 8 – 5. This needs less effort to obtain a good impres­sion and it is pos­si­ble to print more than one tick­et at a time. I have print­ed fronts and backs at the same time, though this needs very care­ful organ­i­sa­tion to pre­vent hav­ing some tick­ets with two fronts and oth­er with two backs!

…and finally.

I have thor­ough­ly enjoyed my tick­et print­ing. So far as the Talyl­lyn was con­cerned I felt I was able to help the rail­way even though I lived 200 or more miles away and was unable to vis­it it reg­u­lar­ly. I have also struck up many friend­ships with peo­ple who give so much time to pre­serv­ing the past.

I would not rec­om­mend tick­et print­ing as a lucra­tive past-time. One has to com­pete with the peo­ple who have pow­er-oper­at­ed machines and with each card need­ing more than one run the work is time-con­sum­ing. As I became old­er (and ? wis­er) I often struck barter deals which mean I can now enjoy a free ride on some lines, know­ing that by print­ing the tick­ets for a spe­cial­ly low price (or more often free) I helped an impe­cu­nious line in its ear­ly days.

If you have a small hand-oper­at­ed let­ter­press machine and an inter­est in pre­served trans­port, why not have a go? You can begin by using card cut to size in a guil­lo­tine, but please try to cut accu­rate­ly or your cus­tomer will find the tick­ets stick in the issu­ing tubes.

Good luck!

Michael Farr