The Edmondson railway ticket was a system for recording the payment of railway fares and accounting for the revenue raised, introduced in the 1840s. It is named after its inventor, Thomas Edmondson, a trained cabinet maker, who became a station master on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway in England. He introduced his system on the Manchester and Leeds Railway. Previously, railway companies had used handwritten tickets, as was the practice for stagecoaches, but it was laborious for a ticket clerk to write out a ticket for each passenger and long queues were common at busy stations. A faster means of issuing pre-printed tickets was needed. There was also a need to provide accountability by serial-numbering each ticket to prevent unscrupulous clerks from pocketing the fares, since they had to reconcile the takings against the serial numbers of the unsold tickets at the end of each day.
The tickets were printed on card cut to 1 7⁄32 by 2 1⁄4 inches (31.0 by 57.2 mm), with a nominal thickness of 1⁄32 inch (0.79 mm). The whole system, from printing to bulk storage to ticket racks, dating and issue, was based on these measurements. Although there is some small variation nowadays (metricated to 30 x 57 x 0.75 mm for example), it is still a vital component of the system.
The tickets in each series were individually numbered. When a ticket was issued, it was date-stamped by a custom-made machine. The tickets to different destinations and of different types were stored in a lockable cupboard where the lowest remaining number of each issue was visible. Different colours and patterns helped distinguish the different types of tickets.
British Rail's centralised paper and printing centre at Crewe had a number of pre-1900 Waterlow printing presses which met its annual demand for 320 million tickets. The last press was switched off in 1988 and the use of Edmondson tickets by British Rail completely ceased in February 1990 after being replaced by the standard APTIS orange card tickets.
Vertical-format Edmondson card-size tickets were the final manifestation of the Edmondson in the UK. The NCR21 system was used at Southern Region station booking offices from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s, until supplanted by the early generation of computerised systems including INTIS and APTIS. Vertical-format Edmonsons were validated in NCR21 cash registers—this is the machine printed date/fare/machine number on the ticket front. Some NCR24 machines were later bought from Dutch Railways for use on the Southern and these were distinguishable from NCR21 because the machine data—in a slightly different format—appeared upside down on tickets. To interest collectors, even the smaller stations would carry pre-printed ticket stock for single and return, adult and child journeys to numerous local stations and London, with "blank" stock also available for use for journeys for which no printed stock was available.
Use of Edmondson tickets issued by British Rail declined during the 1980s as computerised systems superseded them. After APTIS was launched in 1986, NCR21-equipped stations were converted to the new technology, concluding in June 1989 with the removal of Edmondson tickets from Emerson Park railway station.
The Edmondson system is still in use on many heritage railways in the UK. For example, the Severn Valley Railway, the West Somerset Railway, the Bluebell Railway, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and the Swanage Railway print Edmondson tickets for their own use as well as for a number of other heritage lines. In Sussex the Bluebell Railway has a number of Edmondson printing machines that are to be placed on display in a specially-built museum at the front of Sheffield Park station. There are several small companies that still produce Edmondson tickets on request.
Typically, half-fare tickets (e.g. for children, dogs, and bicycles) would be created by cutting the ticket in half vertically, return tickets by having a diagonal cut across the ticket, having the value of half the adult fare. The remaining part was placed in groove in the lid of the ticket rack above its tube. It could then be used as another child ticket, or counted as a credit.
The reverse side of a ticket might be endorsed that it was Subject to rules and regulations of the issuing railway company. In Poland alternative (less popular) destinations were printed there (e.g. "albo [Polish for 'or'] Lucynów, albo Mienia" for a ticket from Warsaw to a then-popular summer vacation village, Urle).
The Edmondson system was widely used in European countries such as Belgium, Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy (until mid 1995), Poland, and Switzerland, and outside Europe, for example in Australia and Argentina. The use of Edmondson tickets ceased in most countries in the 1980s or 1990s.
In Switzerland, Edmondson tickets were issued until December 2007 at some stations, especially of the RhB. Edmondson tickets are still printed and distributed (also via internet order) by Druckerei Aeschbacher in Worb (Bern/Switzerland).
While they are no longer used on main-line railways in Australia, Edmondson tickets are still issued by many heritage and tourist railways; the Puffing Billy Railway prints its own Edmondson tickets, having five ticket printing machines including a working Edmondson original. It prints tickets for most of the preserved or heritage railways in Australia, as well as exporting tickets to the Talyllyn Railway.
In Czechoslovakia there were two printing houses that printed Edmondson tickets, the first at Prague from 1898 until 1999, the second at Vrútky, both part of the state transportation publishing house NADAS, since privatized as NADAS AFGH s. r. o. (Ltd.). In 1993 Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia and the state railway company ČSD was divided into České dráhy (ČD) and Železnice Slovenskej republiky (ŽSR). The Prague printing house produced 50,000 tickets per day until start of decrement[clarification needed]. Since 1999 ČD stopped ordering these tickets and production stopped. In 1999, the new private narrow-gauge railway company Jindřichohradecké místní dráhy (JHMD, Local Railways of Jindřichův Hradec surroundings) bought the machine accessories from Prague and since 2000 it has run its own printing house at Kamenice nad Lipou, for its own use and for nostalgic trips on ČD and a number of museum railways. JHMD has one of two extant Goebl printing machines from 1895 in the world, together with four newer machines. In the eighties, at ten of the biggest railway stations in Czechoslovakia special mechanical printing machines were used, which printed tickets in Edmondson's format.
Edmondson tickets are used by heritage railways in India like the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. They are still used in Paraguay by the Ferrocarril Presidente Don Carlos Antonio Lopez, now Ferrocarriles del Paraguay SA (2011).
In Japan most local railway tickets keep the Edmondson format. These are modern magnetic back tickets issued by vending machines, punched by automatic station entry gates and collected at the exit gates. In some rural stations hand-punching by railway employees is still done.
Due to the Japanese occupation of Korea, South Korea used to use the Edmondson tickets for certain types of trains until the introduction of computer in ticket issuing. In some local lines and lower-grade trains, Edmondson format was used even after the computerisation for a while before magnetic stripped card-shape tickets became in use. The ticket was usually hand-punched by employees at the boarding gate, which now replaced by Trust system process.
On the Taiwan Railway Administration lines, tickets for local trains also keep the Edmondson format as in Japan. Reserved tickets on the Tzu-Chiang express and high speed rail tickets have a larger format. Some tourist lines (e.g. [Pingxi Line]) still use Edmonson tickets.
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