Somerset & Dorset (Joint) Railway Luggage Labels

by Mike Morant
The earliest lugage labels pertaining to the S & D were, strictly speaking, issued by the Bristol & Exeter Railway and examples such as one to Glastonbury exist. However, the initial incarnations of labels for what was the embryo S & D emanated from the Somerset central, Dorset Central and Somerset & Dorset Railways prior to the formation of the joint operation in 1878. The author has no examples from the first two of those railways and the B & E has, arguably no place on this SR web site. And so we&ll start with the earliest Somerset & Dorset Railway label types.
S41_axminster S42_evesham That to Axminster is the oldest type whilst the example to Evesham is believed to have been printed in 1874/5.

The first label type to use the word 'Joint' in the title was almost identical to the Evesham example and the author will add an illustration thereof as and when one becomes available.

We now progress to the era when the title becomes self-explanatory and is spread over two lines which, henceforth, is to be the norm.

There is actually a third variation on the title text but obviouly only two are displayed here.

S52_bradford S52_exmouth
Thus far the labels bear a distinct resemblance of form to those of its forebear the B & E but from this point onwards it becomes very interesting indeed as the Joint Committee produced a mass of labels that bear little resemblance to those produced for any other railway let alone the joint owners of this one. This design includes the company's title on two lines which rarely occurred on luggage labels other than those for joint lines. Note, also, that there is mention of neither of the words one would expect namely 'Railway' and 'Committee'. Hiterto, the labels' destinations had been limited to indigenous one, the LSWR and the Midland but this type of labels spread its favours to the LBSCR, SER, SEC and surprisingly the GWR.
S53_bridgwater A reminder that the S & D did produce labels to home stations and in some profusion too. Note the rider (S & D) to differentiate the destination from the GWR one of the same name. Many of this type of label are routed to GWR destination via Highbridge but Bridgwater isn't one of them!
A typical example of this type destined for a Midland Railway destination although this example doesn't mention the Midland's name specifically. S53_york
S53_cardiff The example to a GWR station specifies Cardiff via Highbridge and there's a similar one to Swansea as well as several other GWR destinations some of which are routed via Bath rather than Highbridge.

Note the subtle change at the top right corner of the label in the form of a print quantity along with the printing date. This was a purely Midland Railway practice in which the LSWR didn't indulge although the date aspect did manifest itself in a big way during the post-grouping Southern era.

There are several surviving examples of this label type to destinations on the SER/SECR but none that I'm aware of to the LCDR. This example is to Woolwich Arsenal and there are examples to Rochester, Strood and Well Hall. The reason for these south east destinations isn't known but it would be reasonable to assume that there's a military connection. S53_woolwich-arsenal
S53_gillingham_(lamp;sw) This type of label, designated S53 in the RPS coding scheme, produced considerable variations of text and typeface for individual destinations. This example to Gillingham specifically mentions that it is on the L&SW but there are two more that don't with one in each case and two different typefaces.
There are a few surviving examples to the LBSCR not all of which include Wimbledon on the routing line.

there was usually some measure of reciprocation between railways within the luggage labels genre but I have examples from Norbury, Thornton Heath and Carshalton to the S & D which have no surviving reciprocal labels. Those stations mentioned probably had the labels in conjunction with pigeon racing traffic as two of them had no facilities for handling dairy and other farm produce.

S54_devonport The final type of pre-grouping S & D labels brought an end to individuality for the time being as, two heading lines apart, this is purely Midland in origin. This example is shown purely for the peculiar use of Ford as the intermediate routing station when it would seem that Okehampton or Tavistock might have been more appropriate.


This type of label is simply the successor to the previous one with the changes to the owning companies' names changed to reflect the grouped status. The design, as mentioned above, is pure Midland which was adopted subsequently by the LMSR. S55_shapwick
S56_derby 1928 saw the introduction of this type of hybrid label which has obvious Southern design origins in terms of size shape and typfaces for the destinations plus the standard style of printing date for the period. Even the stock number, 787, is pure SR and dates back to the very earliest labels of the LSWR. The one new introduction though is the word 'Committee' into the second title line. All destinations for these labesl appear to be on either the SR ot the LMSR.
Only two examples of this label type are known the other being to Bournemouth and they're peculiar in many ways. The ornate title text has returned albeit very small, they're printed in grey, the title part of the label takes up almost half the surface area and despite inital appearance it is a purely Derby product with the LMS's E.R.O. number at the top right whilst beneath it the printing date is partially in Roman numerals: VIII 33. Yes, this type of label must, indeed, have been designed by a committee! S57_blank

Routing Labels

S5x_routing_carlisle S5x_routing_chinley Two typical examples of S&D routing labels. Although they are post-grouping  - the railway name and printing date tell us that -  the design is pure Midland Railway.

All photographs are copyright

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This page was last updated 15 December 2007

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