* British Railway Nibs...

It may help collectors to know a little about the imprints on the nibs of British Railway companies.

 In the early years of railways in the British Isles there were very many separate companies running rail services all over the country. On the 31 December 1922 there were 153 companies shown on the railway atlas. The next day, 1 January 1923, four large companies were formed by the amalgamation of smaller companies. These were :  

  • S.R. (Southern Railway) ;


  •  L.M.S. (London, Midland and Scottish Railway); 
  •   L.N.E.R. (London and North Eastern Railway);  


  • G.W.R. (Great Western Railway).


Many of the pre-1923 companies were very small and would not have had the resources to imprint their own pen nibs. There is no record of those that did. My own collection, which is certainly not comprehensive, includes only : 

- G.E.R. – Great Eastern Railway


 - G.N.R. – Great Northern Railway

GNR No 5.jpg

- L & S.W.R. – London and South Western Railway ;

- N.E.R. – North Eastern Railway ;

- MET. RLY. Metropolitan Railway ;

- Midland Railway ;

- Highland Rly.

Unfortunately there is one big problem! The name Great Western Railway (G.W.R.)


 was retained from a smaller company and was used to name the larger grouping in 1923 – so it is very difficult to date those nibs. They could be of any time from mid 1800s to 1922 !

A number of small companies were brought together in 1890 to form the G.C.R. (Great Central Railway). 

GCR No6.jpg

This was swallowed up into L.N.E.R. in 1923. Thus, any nibs marked G.C.R. can be dated 1890 – 1923. Many L.M.S. nibs have an ERO number (e.g. LMS ERO 90397). 


This was an initiative of that company to rationalise stationery used by giving each item a number. This work was done by the Executive Research Office (E.R.O.).

It is worth noting that some companies used initial letters for nib imprints, others used full words and some used both. Southern Railway and Great Western Railway are examples of where full words are used. 

The railway system was nationalised in 1948 after which pen nibs were stamped with B.R. (British Railways) followed by one of the two new regions in brackets – B.R.(W) and B.R.(E). Numbers (from the B.R. stationery catalogue) followed these letters (e.g. B.R. (W) No.14 or B.R.(E) B657). 

BR (W).jpg

After some years (in the mid-1950s) the regional identities disappeared and all nibs were imprinted with the simplified B.R. and a stationery catalogue reference number (e.g. B.R.1352/3). Finally, the organisation that administered the stationery for the nationalised railways was called the Railway Clearing House (R.C.H).


 BR N0 4.jpg

Some nibs are found with those words or letters. (e.g. RCH No 6 or Railway Clearing House B). 

Most of the nibs do not have a maker’s mark although there are examples where they do. The LNER B 664 nib is an example where Macniven and Cameron negotiated the inclusion of the name of their company on the nib. 

I hope this is of some help when railway nibs of the British Isles find their way into your collections. It is not an easy story to follow. If you find something that does not fit this simplified pattern then please let me know. It is likely that you will have found one of the pre-1923 independent companies.

It would be very good if Portmadoc, Croesor & Beddgelert Railway (P.C & B.R) or Campbeltown and Machrihanish Light Railway (C & M.L.R.) were to appear in a flea market in Paris or Antwerp !

I'd like to   point out that there are other railways around the world that use the English language - notably the USA - and that these could appear to the British.  I wonder if we could find a list of all the American companies to help us solve these puzzles ? I am looking at one imprinted '' N. & W R'Y CO''.  Is it from the USA ?




 Michael Woods









Grazie Michael,
le tue informazioni, sempre precise e circostanziate, arricchiscono noi che abbiamo la fortuna di leggerle.
Valerio Pacciolla

Merci Michael,
la lecture de tes informations, précises et circonstanciées, est toujours un agréable enrichissement.

Écrit par : Valerio Pacciolla | 28/09/2010

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