hidden europe 51

More than Hours and Minutes: Thomas Cook's First Timetable

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: The 2013 reprint of Thomas Cook's very first timetable.


The reprinting of old, out-of copyright train timetables has become quite a craze - and a money-spinner for publishers keen to exploit the nostalgia market. We look at a reprinted 1873 timetable and find that the advertisements are a good deal more interesting than the railway schedules.

The nostalgia market has driven demand for reprints of old railway timetables. But who could have anticipated that reprints of out-of-date timetables would feature in the bestseller lists? In recent years we have seen highquality reprints of handsome Victorian-era and early 20th-century Bradshaw guides selling in extraordinary quantities.

This is not an entirely new phenomenon. Rail enthusiasts have always been interested in old timetables as well as current ones. More than 30 years ago, English publisher David & Charles found a market for reprinted ABC Guides from the interwar period. The now defunct German publisher Ritzau KG had considerable success from the mid-1970s in reprinting German railway timetables from the first half of the 20th century. But a new generation of timetable reprints aims well beyond the rail enthusiast market to a broader audience interested in social history.

One of the more oddball ventures into heritage publishing was in 2013 when, without much fuss or fanfare, Thomas Cook Publishing released a reprint of the very first issue of Thomas Cook’s continental rail timetable. The reprint was prepared to coincide with the 140th anniversary of the book’s initial publication.

The reprint teamed up perfectly with the special March 2013 edition of the monthly European Rail Timetable which was then still run by Thomas Cook Publishing. Cook’s Continental Timetable first appeared in March 1873 and marked the start of an extraordinary publishing story. Latterly known as the European Rail Timetable, it is still going strong today, with print editions published six times each year by an independent publisher which took over the title in March 2014 after Thomas Cook closed its publishing division.

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