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London Brighton and South Coast Railway Luggage Labels
O   v   e   r   v   i   e   w

by Mike Morant
 
A couple of points were made in the general synopsis that apply particularly to an LBSCR collection:
  • the sheer volume of material available;
  • and just what is the individual collector's objective.
The Brighton made more use of station to station labels than any other railway in addition to which some determined collectors appropriated vast quantities of LBSCR labels during the 1950s and 60s when they were still, theoretically, in daily use. Much of that material has survived to the present day.

LBSCR labels always carried the full company title as their heading and not even the word 'Railway' was abbreviated as was the case with so many other railways. Many railways took to printing the production date from the early 1900s but The Brighton never followed that trend. However, the penchant for station to station labels finally ended, it is believed, some time around the beginning of the 1st World War but more of that change of policy anon. It is worth pointing out that, until that change, all LBSCR labels were printed on white paper. That is particularly apparent in the case of the oldest type of label as most of the surviving examples still look as good as the day they were printed some 120 to 140 years ago. It has been pointed out by an art teacher (who is also a luggage label collector) that the reason for their incredibly good survival rate is that the paper has a large cotton content.

The company's labels fall into 3 distinct categories and there is, of course, the inevitable 4th one which is the exception to the rule. As this is a general description of the main types of label for this railway there is no attempt being made to delve into the details of the additional types which are either scarce or extremely rare. They do, however, deserve a brief mention as they were an integral part of the labels infrastructure albeit at a very specialised and local level. They are also the only labels which deviated from the standard full company name as the title.

All followers of Southern history will know of the legendary 'Sunny South Express' which plied its trade between Brighton and various points on the LNWR as a summers only through service. Both the railways involved produced their own red printed labels for that service and examples have survived from Brighton to several destinations. Similarly, labels were also produced for a joint operation with the GWR although only a single example is known to have survived. The Brighton was also heavily involved in cross-channel operations and several examples survive of labels to French destinations. It is only recently that an example from Brighton to Caen has come to light which proves beyond doubt that previously unknown historical material and/orartefacts are still waiting to be discovered.

There is a distinctly odd aspect to Brighton labels. Mention has already been made of the fact that vast quantities have survived and it is inevitable that a few stations of origin, a hallmark of the genre, should be missing from the record. It is no surprise that, for example, Kemp Town is missing from the roll call. In contrast, labels survive which mention California (renamed Belmont in 1875), New Arundel, West Brighton and Lewes Road. It is within the missing stations that the surprises occur: there are no surviving station of origin examples from Epsom Downs, Selhurst, Waddon or Wandsworth Common. Even stranger is that, at the time of writing this, South Bermondsey is a complete unknown either as origin station or destination but its antecedent, Rotherhithe, does crop up now and again.

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This page was last updated 23 November 2007

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