Edmondson-style Rail Tickets

The char­ac­ter­ist­ic stiff card rail­way tick­ets, and how you can re-cre­ate them


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, 214 x 1316 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.

Update from Michael, June 2021
It may be pos­sible to pur­chase stock from Aeschbach­er AG of Worb, Switzerland.

Update from Nor­man Brown, Early 2023
It is easy to repro­duce blank tick­ets by sand­wich­ing 700 micron grey­board (the mod­ern equi­val­ent to straw­board) between col­oured 80 gsm copi­er paper, 70 gsm would be near­er the ori­gin­al thick­ness but there is less of a sec­tion of col­ours and can be more expens­ive! The fin­ish tick­et thick­ness comes out to .035”

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, with update in June 2020