NotesThe design of this type of ticket, known as an Edmondson, goes back to the beginning of the railway age in England in the 1830s. A clerk named Thomas Edmondson invented a ticket printing and numbering machine, which pioneered a system of fare collection subsequently used by railways around the world for over 150 years.
Thomas Edmondson (1792-1851) was born at Stonewell, Lancaster, England, on 30 June 1792. He was originally a journeyman cabinet-maker for the Lancaster furniture manufacturer, Robert Gillow & Company where he improved cabinet-making tools and invented a device to churn butter while rocking a cradle. Edmondson left the firm and began his own cabinet-making business in Carlisle with a fellow Quaker. However, the firm went bankrupt in 1836 and at the age of forty-four Edmondson began work as a stationmaster at Milton (now Brampton) on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway. It was said that he found the task of handwriting the individual journey details on the tickets irksome and a delay for customers. He also worried that using such a system was open to fraud. He was particularly concerned that there was a lack of revenue control over the ticket sales with no satisfactory way to check that money collected by the stationmaster reached the company's office.
Edmondson subsequently devised the design of the tickets being small pieces of cardboard or pasteboard 3 cm by 5.75 cm. His tickets were initially handwritten but later, using his woodworking skills, he made a simple ticket-printing frame and designed a wooden press for dating them through an inked window. These he numbered by hand and placed in a vertical tube for each destination, with a counterweight device to push up the next ticket when one was issued. Edmondson also invented a foot-operated date-stamping press, the early version of which was dreaded by ticket staff as it could crush the fingers. However, Edmondson's most significant contribution was a machine that printed tickets in batches complete with the serial numbers to enable all sold and unsold tickets to be accounted for.
Edmondson's tickets met the three basic needs for revenue control in that firstly they provided a receipt for the passenger's money. Secondly, they authorised the passenger to travel a certain distance by a specified route and in a particular class, and thirdly they ensured the company received its full dues. Each ticket was serially numbered so that the clerk had to account for either the cash or the unused tickets.
Apparently the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway showed little interest in Edmondson's inventions so he transferred to the Manchester and Leeds Railway and became their chief booking clerk at Manchester. He introduced his ticket system over the entire line when it opened in 1839. To enable illiterate railway staff to check tickets he printed different patterns on the reverse side. (Manchester had wavy lines). Two years later Edmondson left the Manchester and Leeds Railway to establish a ticket a business to make tickets and machines, which traded under the name of his son, John B. Edmondson, in Manchester.
The Railway Clearing House, an organisation of various British railway companies established in 1842 to allow passengers and goods to easily travel between locations, adopted the Edmondson ticket system. It became a virtual condition of membership that Edmondson tickets were employed by railway companies and so spread its adoption widely. Participating railways paid Edmondson a royalty of 10 shillings per route mile for using his pasteboard tickets. Most standardised the colours for different classes, finally using white for first class ordinary and green for third.
Edmondson's original timber dating presses were developed into metal ones and mass-produced by John Blaylock, a clockmaker of Carlisle. At this time an automatically fed ticket-printing machine was also produced. Edmondson also collaborated with William Carson of Scotland to make a printing and dating press, which was later refined by Carson. Edmondson's machines and their improved successors quickly became the standard for British railways and in many other countries. By 1843 twenty-seven English companies and the Paris and Rouen railway were using his system.
Thomas Edmondson died on 22 June in 1851 and his work was carried on in the family business by his son John and brother Joseph producing the tickets and associated machinery. (Edmondson tickets continued to be in used until British Rail finally replaced them in February 1990.)
In New South Wales the Edmondson tickets first appeared shortly after the Parramatta Junction (now Granville) to Liverpool railway extensions opened in 1856. The Edmondson system provided a tight check on revenue collection and passenger travel. It was used in New South Wales for some 150 years prior to the gradual introduction of machine-printed tickets from 1989.
The main drawback of the Edmondson system required each station booking office to hold huge stocks of pre-printed tickets in racks to every destination regularly used, multiplied by each of the many types of fare, single, day return, period return, excursion, dog, cycle etc. The serial numbers had to be recorded meticulously in a ticket ledger and each clerk's sales accounted for accurately. To cater for bookings of infrequently used journeys or routes, every station was provided with blank cards or paper tickets.
Pasteboard railway tickets have generically been known as Edmondson tickets even though companies such as Waterlow & Sons of London also made printing and number machines and later electric printing machines. In Australia, government railways and the Emu Bay Railway used a mixture of Edmondson and Waterlow machines for ticket printing.
The railway tickets were printed at the New South Wales Government Printing Office in Ultimo in Sydney. Initially ticket production was under the control of the Commissioner for Railways. In the late 1850s James Ball was appointed the Government Ticket Printer in New South Wales and tickets were originally printed on thin paper with butts. It was not long before Edmondson's patent railway ticket machines were used by the New South Wales Government Railways to print tickets. This task was taken over by the Government Printer in 1867, which eventually established its operations at Ultimo in 1880.
By the late nineteenth century, the railway ticket printing staff at the Government Printing Office comprised a foreman, four printers, three apprentices, a ticket entry clerk and a ticket despatch clerk. Each quarter the English firm of Thomas De La Rue & Co. supplied a range of blank tickets in fifty to sixty colours ready for printing. The machinery in the ticket printing section comprise five special printing machines, three counters, three typing up machines and one dater.
By the 1950s the Government Printing Office was producing 68 million rail tickets annually. Almost every form of ticket was produced at the Government Printing office including bus, tram, and betting tickets, motor labels, and schoolbooks as well as electoral lists, Hansard and the Government Gazette. However, the Railways apparently accounted for the largest percentage of the Government Printer's work.
By the 1980s desk top publishing and the development of computer technology began to threaten the viability of the Government Printing Office. Consultants were engaged to examine the possibility of modernising the Office or deregulating it. The consultants recommended that much of the work be contracted out to the private sector except for the core business of parliamentary work, subscription sales and confidential work. Consequently, in July 1989, the Greiner Government abolished the Government Printing Office and railway ticket printing was then contracted out. At least six different firms then produced Edmondson tickets. However, from 1989 the State Rail Authority of New South Wales had begun converting to electronic tickets issued at the point of purchase. (The first magnetically encoded tickets had been used on the Eastern Suburbs railway when it opened in 1979.)