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Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
is a typeface designed by Jock Kinneir
Jock Kinneir
and Margaret Calvert for British Railways. First used by them at London Liverpool Street Station, it was then adopted by the Design Research Unit
Design Research Unit
(DRU) as part of their comprehensive 1965 rebranding of the company.[1] Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
is similar, but not identical, to a bold weight of Helvetica. It is not quite as similar to Akzidenz Grotesk
Akzidenz Grotesk
or Arial. Akzidenz Grotesk
Akzidenz Grotesk
had earlier also provided the same designers the broad inspiration for the Transport typeface used for all road signs in the United Kingdom.

Contents

1 British Rail 2 Post British Rail 3 Other uses 4 New Rail Alphabet 5 See also 6 References 7 External links

British Rail[edit] In 1949 the Railway Executive decided on standard types of signs to be used at all stations. Lettering was to use the Gill Sans
Gill Sans
typeface on a background of the regional colour.[2] This style persisted for nearly 15 years. In the early 1960s, British Rail
British Rail
trialled new signs at Coventry station that made use of Kinnier and Calvert's recently launched Transport typeface. While Transport has since been an enduring success on road signs, it was designed around the specific needs of the roadside environment - such as visibility at speed and in all weathers. The subsequent creation of Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
was intended to provide a style of lettering more specifically suited to the station environment, where it would primarily be viewed indoors by pedestrians.[3] The DRU's 1965 rebranding of British Railways
British Railways
included a new logo (the double arrow), a shortened name British Rail, and the total adoption of Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
for all lettering other than printed matter[4] including station signage, trackside signs, fixed notices, signs inside trains and train liveries. Key elements of the rebranding were still being used during much of the 1980s and Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
was also used as part of the livery of Sealink
Sealink
ships until that company's privatisation in the late 1980s. However, by the end of the 1980s, British Rail's various business units were developing their own individual brands and identities with use of Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
declining as a consequence.[5] The typeface remained in near-universal use for signs at railway stations but began to be replaced with alternatives in other areas, such as in InterCity's 1989 'Mark 4' passenger carriages which made use of Frutiger for much of their interior signage. Post British Rail[edit] The privatisation of British Rail
British Rail
from 1994 accelerated the decline in use of the typeface on the railway network with most of the privatised train operating companies who now manage individual stations choosing to use the fonts associated with their own corporate identities for station signs and publicity. More recently, the custom Brunel typeface introduced by Railtrack
Railtrack
for signs at major stations and adapted by Network Rail
Network Rail
as NR Brunel
NR Brunel
was recommended as a new national standard for station signs by a 2009 report commissioned by the Secretary of State for Transport,[6] and has since been adopted by South West Trains and East Midlands Trains. Meanwhile, Helvetica
Helvetica
Medium has replaced Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
as the industry's preferred typeface for safety notices within passenger trains due to the ready availability of the former and for consistency with British Standards
British Standards
on general safety signs.[7] Some of the privatised train operators, such as Arriva Trains Wales,[8] and Merseyrail[9] have continued to use the typeface for station signage and its use is still prescribed for trackside warning signs and safety/operating notices.[10] Other uses[edit] The National Health Service
National Health Service
in England, Scotland and Wales adopted Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
for its signs. It is still the dominant typeface used on signs in older hospitals. It ceased to be used in new builds in the late 1990s. The English NHS now uses Frutiger,[11] while NHS Scotland
NHS Scotland
uses Stone Sans.[12] Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
was widely used on signs by the British Airports Authority and by Danish railway company DSB.[13] New Rail Alphabet[edit] In 2009, a newly digitised version of the typeface was publicly released. Created by Henrik Kubel of A2/SW/HK in close collaboration with Margaret Calvert, New Rail Alphabet
Rail Alphabet
features six weights: off white, white, light, medium, bold and black, with non-aligning numerals, corresponding italics and a set of Eastern European characters.[14] See also[edit]

UK Railways portal

Gill Sans
Gill Sans
– the predecessor typeface to Rail Alphabet, used until 1965. Johnston – The typeface used by London Underground, designed by Edward Johnston. NR Brunel
NR Brunel
– the typeface introduced by Network Rail
Network Rail
to replace Rail Alphabet Transport – Another typeface designed by Kinneir & Calvert, for use on UK road signs. List of public signage typefaces

References[edit]

^ Design Museum - Jock Kinneir
Jock Kinneir
+ Margaret Calvert. Retrieved 1 July 2010. ^ "Railway Station Signs. Standard Lettering". Warminster & Westbury journal, and Wilts County Advertiser. England. 20 May 1949. Retrieved 13 February 2017 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)).  ^ https://thebeautyoftransport.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/on-line-typeface-rail-alphabet-typeface-uk/ ^ http://www.doublearrow.co.uk/manual/1_10.1965-04.jpg[permanent dead link] ^ "Institute of Railway Studies: Railway Ephemera".  ^ "Better trail stations" (PDF). November 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 November 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2010.  ^ "Research Programme" (PDF). Rail Safety and Standards Board. April 2003. Retrieved 31 October 2010.  ^ "Making Rail Accessible". Retrieved 14 January 2012.  ^ "Liverpool South Parkway on Flickr - Photo Sharing!".  ^ "Lineside Operational Safety Signs" (PDF). October 2009.  ^ "NHS CFH visual identity guidelines, section 4" (PDF).  ^ "NHS Scotland: Corporate Identity".  ^ "Eye blog » Rue Britanica. Typeface
Typeface
name changes after Eye magazine goes to press".  ^ "New Rail Alphabet". 

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rail Alphabet.

External links[edit]

Commercial release (includes pdf specimen and archive photos) Flickr photos of Ra

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