To read this content please select one of the options below:

Marketing strategy in Britain’s mainline railways, 1923-1938

Hiroki Shin (Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 20 November 2017




This paper aims to reassess the marketing strategy of Britain’s Big Four railway companies during the interwar period to locate railway marketing in the broader context of railway business and the general development of service marketing in Britain.


By a detailed analysis of internal company records, this paper discusses three aspects of railway marketing: the development of marketing departments within the companies, the control of marketing expenditure and the industry-wide marketing alliance. The three areas of railway marketing are examined by way of comparing them with the corresponding situations in other British industries.


It reveals the relatively advanced state of railway companies’ marketing in the contemporary context. Furthermore, a series of re-organisations are interpreted as a response to the inter-modal competition from road traffic.


By characterising railway marketing in the interwar period as part of the industry’s rear-guard battle in the competitive travel market, in which railways were clearly losing out to road traffic, the paper provides a perspective that enables to understand how the “golden age” of railway marketing coincided with the railways’ decline in the passenger business.



The paper draws on research findings from “The Commercial Cultures of Britain’s Railways, 1872-1977” project (UK AHRC, AH/G000298/1). The author would like to thank the JHRM editor, the two anonymous reviewers, Colin Divall, Matt Thompson, Alex Medcalf and participants at the Association of Business Historians Annual Conference 2010 for their comments and suggestions at various stages of writing this paper.


Shin, H. (2017), "Marketing strategy in Britain’s mainline railways, 1923-1938", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 425-450.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles