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British Rail’s ‘Age of the Train’ ads

That Subterranean Homesick Blues homage in fullBrainchild of boss Peter ‘Mitsubishi’ Parker, British Rail’s first proper TV ad campaign was a whistles-and-bells extravaganza of cut-price offers and posh cinematic entreaties. Dozens of Inter-City fleets, bodywork glistening in a perpetual rainstorm, plied forever-rolling countryside. Their cargo: the honourable Sir Jim’ll Savile. His armoury: a dark suit, a Maxpax coffee, shockingly sensible hair and an endless amount of paperwork that had to be done before that pressing engagement with the man who makes the machines for the hospitals. Wine-bar funk played while the kid who sang ‘Walking in the Air’ (Not Aled Jones, The Other One) belted out, ‘this is the age of the train.’ From a time when audiences were impressed by extended sequences of carriage exteriors, the ads did their job in leaving the slogan – somewhat meaningless out of context – in everyone’s heads.



  1. Glenn Aylett

    August 31, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Not mentioned in the advert- inedible food, stewed tea, the likelihood of industrial action and platform staff at Newcastle Central with all the charm of Pol Pot. However, the Inter City 125 was a good train in its day and certainly cut journey times from Newcastle to London.

  2. Andy E.

    September 1, 2009 at 10:00 am

    And of course, a double thumbs up. Although I thought Peter “Pub Quiz Argument” Auty only sang “This is the age…”… it was Sir Jim’ll that did the “of the train” bit. Time to check out youtube.

    Although to correct Glenn, the InterCity 125 will never be bettered. Surely the Creamiest of trains, with the posible exception of Glasgow commuter trains – although that’s more due to their brown-and-orangeness

  3. Lee James Turnock

    May 4, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Jimmy got more money for the adverts than Peter Parker got for running the railways. That’s according to Michael Palin’s diaries.

  4. Adrian

    May 5, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Not a patch on the late 80’s ‘relax’ tv adverts for BR, though.

    Remember when BR trains were painted blue and yellow during the Cream era?

  5. Glenn A

    November 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    The local DMUs/EMUs tended to be blue all over with yellow ends for elf and safety purposes and Inter City trains were blue with light grey window surrounds. A yellow band above the windows, or a 1 sign on the windows, indicated, this was first class seating. The red band above the windows indicated this was the buffet.

  6. Big Dave

    September 16, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Dunno whether you might want to look at the photo with this one again, chaps.

    An accurate images from the advert though it may be, I’d hate to see TVC get vilified for publishing photos of “one of the most prolific sex offenders the NSPCC has ever dealt with”.

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