More on Railroad Timetable Authenticity

[Editor's Note: We received the following comments from a collector in Australia and are reprinting them here with permission and minor editing. This is a nice discussion of some issues concerning railroad timetables and their authentcity, and we thank the author for his comments!]

In your Fakes section, you discuss fakes, reproductions, generic, and fantasy items, etc., but I feel that what you list in your website is only the tip of the iceberg. There are 12 more catagories of the "level of authenticity" beyond the several you categorize which may be more unique in timetables than in general transport collectibles. For at least the "paper" and subcategory "timetables", I'd suggest including them in your listing of "fakes, reproductions, etc" since they are quite different from what a collector would ordinarily expect to find in more general terms, and all these "new" catagories represent a new "twist" on the issues of "authenticity"! They are:

  • Third Party Timetables - Authorized
  • Third Party Timetables - Unofficial
  • Informational Research Timetables
  • Digital Media Timetables
  • Internet Timetables
  • On-the-Spot Printed Timetables
  • Handwritten Timetables
  • Handwritten, Revised Printed Timetables
  • Sticker-revised Timetables
  • Timetables Printed in News Media
  • Officially Published Timetables but of Poor Quality
  • Model Railroad Timetables

Third Party Timetables - Authorized

These are timetables which are not actually published by the public transport operating carrier, but by other parties with the official authorized sanction of the carrier. Examples of this the TDI (Transportation Displays Inc) suburban specific station timetabes published commercially BY THEM funded by advertising in the timetables, often promoted to specific businesses in the immediate area where commuters at specific stations are targeted for marketing by these local businesses. The carrier provides the service information for the public to the publisher who then prints and distributes it at stations and elsewhere in the community. The same information, though in a different and station-specific form, may also be published by the carrier itself but in the form of a full train schedule of a line. An example would be like the New York Central Railroad (now Metro-North service) timetable for the schedules of the entire length of the Hudon Division Line, New York-Poughkeepsie published by the railroad itself, with a TDI- published timetable showing the same service for only the station at the suburb of Yonkers on that line. In other cases, another publisher might also publish an authorized timetable showing a parallel carrier's timetable in full service, but who might wish to include it for tourist promotional advertising in a general broader region. Many of these are more of a "glossy" brochure" type with photos rather than the carrier's own timetables in more plain paper and printing, even though both might be distributed in the same station rack. The third party's timetable will generally appear in other racks around town, but the carrier's timetables will not. The format, quality, and sophistication for many of these third party timetables may vary considerably.

A more substantial and very professional authorized example of third-party timetables were the Cook's Continental (later European) and Cook's Overseas (International) timetables, the "Official Guide" of railroads in North America, (Russel's Guide Bus Timetable), and several international shipping and airline guides, which were all very hefty substantial books. In the case of Russel's Guides, many bus companies actually omitted publishing their own timetables but used excerpt pages from Russel's Guides modified somewhat by having Russel's Guides actually publish their timetables on behalf of their own operations for a fee, so that there would not be advertising and it would "look" as if the carrier itself had published its own timetable. The telltale marks of this would be the common format and type font, as well as "Table Number" taken directly from the pages of Russell's Guides. A bus company of routes total having table No's 4533 4537 and 4538, and another company's table numbers 4534, 4535, 4536, and 4539 is a sure guarantee that it was published by Russell's Guides since the services did not necessarily follow the number sequence in the book by company, but by geographic area.

Third Party Timetables - Unofficial

These are timetables which are not actually published by the public transport operating carrier, but by other parties, most often private individuals, without sanction by the carrier, often because either the carrier does not provide a timetable for a service, or the timetable setup by the carrier is not conducive to the information needs of the public. So the private parties publish a "better" timetable (in terms of comprehensiveness of information, but not necessarily of better quality of paper, artwork, or printing). There are two (including some further editions) examples of this that I know of, but there may well be others, since the distribution of such timetables may be limited in scope due to the financial resources of the publishers, which is generally on a voluntary and self-funded basis as a "labor of love".

One example of this type of timetable was a Reading Railway "SYSTEM" timetable of what one might call Reading Railway's "intercity" services. Such a System Timetable was published till about the early 1950's, but then, due to the retraction of many of Reading's services, Reading stopped issuing the "System" timetable and continued the individual line timetables. Since a member of the NAOTC, Allan Follett of Chicago, felt that passengers transferring between the main lines at Philadelphia would require an armful of timetables and consequently not have a single "System" Timetable to bring together the main intercity Reading Railway services as an attempt to promote passenger travel on lines where insufficient timetable information was available to the public, he at his own initiative and expense, published several periodic issues of such a timetable, of his own cover-map layout of design. For the schedule pages, he simply cut and pasted together (physically, remember PC's weren't around yet) those relevant pages from Reading's own timetables. Remember that all he had done was simply to collate existing timetables into a System" folder for the main intercity routes. I am not sure how many revisions for date changes were done by Allan. His timetable was actually distributed in the racks of Reading Terminal Philadelphia.

The two other examples were from a Long Island Rail Road service for the "Lower Montauk Branch" (between Jamaica and Long Island City via Richmond Hill, Glendale, Fresh Pond, Haberman, Penny Bridge). This very marginal service operated 2 peak-period trains a day in each peak direction of travel, and by the early 1960's, the LIRR had stopped issuing any information at all, let alone a timetable, for that line. This service essentially became a secret known only to those commuters who discovered it word of mouth. While commutation tickets were still officially on the tariff books, ticket agents at New York Penn Station or Jamaica Station where one would need to go to buy them (local stations were by then unmanned, or some just grade crossings like at Glendale) would deny any knowledge of the service and would often refuse to sell you one for a "service that did not exist". But the handful of us who used it knew it was there and kept urging our neighbors to give it a try, since we felt it was really the best way from Richmond Hill to Midtown New York, and maybe the LIRR (by then part of the MTA) would take this service seriously. To get to midtown from Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Glendale, and other stations to Long Island City Terminal, there was an adjacent IRT Subway station at Vernon-Jackson for the one stop under the East River to Grand Central Station, then 5th Avenue (at the NY Public Library stop) and Times Square. The LIRR line had to stop at the East River at Long Island City since this line, unlike virtually all other LIRR lines in New York City, used trains that were powered by diesel locomotive-drawn coaches rather than 3rd-rail electric MU railcars.

The occasion for us to do something about it was in 1973, the centennial of the neighborhood of Richmond Hill. By fortuitous coincidence in time, the LIRR was constructed through Richmond Hill and therefore 1973 marked the occasion of opening of the original LIRR station at Richmond Hill. Fifty years later, the LIRR was elevated in Richmond Hill by a viaduct in a grade crossing elimination project which resulted in the construction of a new Richmond Hill Station above with the only high-level platforms on the "Lower Montauk", so again, it was a 50-year occasion of the Richmond Hill Viaduct and new Richmond Hill Station. The handful of us commuters put our money together for the print job, and being a timetable-astute commuter, I designed, drew, and laid out the timetable which included the schedule, a map of the route, station locations along the route, other major train connections from New York at Grand Central Terminal to show the convenience of using this particular LIRR route, and a photo of a train at Richmond Hill Station in a 3-fold, letter size, back-to-back printed sheet. This was our creation of a timetable. Aside from handing it out at the Richmond Hill Centennial festivities, MTA information staff "at the clock" of Grand Central Terminal were happy to put our timetable in the timetable racks, since the unusual route of a LIRR service was being shown as an Amtrak/MTA Metro-North Grand Central connection, even though the LIRR itself did not encourage this. But they did not prevent it anyway, lest the news media pick up on the fact that there was a service running "in secret". When the schedules shifted a bit some years later, we again issued a small pocket card timetable without the centennial "br u-ha-ha" as a utilitarian need for a correct timetable. Eventually in the early 1980's, The LIRR probably became embarrassed in the public eye that the customers had to promote their own product while the company had kept it secret. Therefore, using the opportunity of a general reconfiguration of its timetables, the "Lower Montauk" finally re-appeared about 20 years in hiatus (except for our 2 Third Part issues, included into the LIRR's "City Terminal Zone" timetable folder which remained till the late 1990's when the "Lower Montauk" service was completely discontinued, ostensibly due to the inability to provide disabled access at stations other than Richmond Hill. Obviously, the LIRR wanted to discontinue the line decades ago, and the way they were going to do it was by denying its existence to prospective passengers. I feel that while in the final result the line eventually was discontinued, our effort by publishing this timetable probably allowed it another two decades to continue. Our efforts did bring in some new regular commuters, but it was not enough to get masses of people in, due to the LIRR fare structure where the inner-city fare zone was about 4 times the subway fare plus an additional subway fare to cross the river from Long Island City into Manhattan. Still, under these conditions, we waged an honorable battle and made it last as long as it it was able, given that by 1982 I was no longer in New York.

Some might consider these 2 unofficial Third Party Timetables as "fantasy" timetables under your listing, but I do not, mainly in that they both were distributed at actual station timetable racks by information agents at both Reading Terminal Philadelphia and Grand Central Terminal New York. These timetables were available to pick up, read, and be used by passengers, so I would consider them as being "authentic" even if "unofficial", especially when the LIRR actually had to revert back from their "secret" existence on account of our timetable's existence in the community. Even though some variations of printing runs did exist, in terms of authenticity (as opposed to reproduction or "fake") this should not be too much of a problem due to the small familiarity by the community where few would have been aware of the existence of such a timetable. But admittedly, because neither were "professionally" nor even just "commercially" done, anyone wishing to duplicate it as a "fake" could pirate them by not appearing to be distinguishable from a "copy of a copy". The saving grace is that no one would be that interested in doing so, since they do not represent what pirates might be looking for in terms of dollar value. Timetable collectors are not generally "investment-oriented" but rather"interest-oriented" and so the possible commercial values are very different from other types of collections.

Information Research Timetables

These are timetables reproduced for the purposes not for actual collecting of the artifact but for research using the information contained therein. When one must peruse information, be it historical research, or current research in planning a trip, many wish not to wear out an original, but use a photocopy or other reproduction which may not always be labeled as a reproduction, yet the unmarked copy is not there for purposes of deception but to protect the document from wear.

Digital Media Timetables

Several airlines, Ansett Australia, for one, distributed a 3.5 inch floppy computer disk, with fully printed cardboard sleeve cover. One might be able to authenticate the printing and texture of the sleeve, but how would one know that a floppy disk is a copy or original? This is a major authenticity issue.

Internet Timetables

More and more carriers are dispensing with printed timetables and are simply advised by prospective passengers to go to their website for timetable information. What is worse, a lot of carriers now just ask the internet passenger's origin and destination and give simply the flight (or even train) numbers. With internet timetables, the speed of revision and interactivity means that schedule changes can be instantaneously revised several times a day. So unless one is constantly , say hourly, monitoring a carrier's website, how does a timetable collector actually denote a "revision b" of an effective date that all collectors can collectively decide upon? And for a passenger seeking a more interesting routing, the "best" (i.e., by the criteria of the carrier, not the passenger) departure/arrival/routing combination may be difficult to set up as an itinerary when intermediate points on a flight or train may be ignored. A real dilemma, I say!

On-the-Spot Printed Timetables

If there is no publicly available distribution of travel information, the information agent or travel agent may just print out a computer printout or a photocopy sheet to the passenger. To that passenger, it is an original, but if someone else photocopies it, how can you tell the difference? Can color of paper be a factor? Or how else can it be authenticated?

Hand-Written Timetables

This is an issue not just for the Third World countries. I have seen timetables in the USA where they were hand-written in blank grid sheets. Again, there are major issues of authentication. How can you guarantee that a station agent wrote a timetable on a sheet but not by someone who could have written in hogwash for schedule times?

Hand-written, Revised Printed Timetables

Any kind of printed timetable, be it classy and sophisticatedly printed, or done crudely but authentically, is sometimes hand-corrected or revised as an economy measure so as not to have to reprint a it. Do you have to get a handwriting expert to authenticate such handwritten revisions as having been done officially at times to passenger making personal notes? Are the notes or listings authentic or not?

Sticker-revised Timetables

There are similar situations as for Hand-Written revised timetables, but even more confusing if multiple layers of stickers are used. What is the ultimate and intermediate revision dates?

Timetables Printed in News Media

Timetable information is sometimes included in the newspapers or magazines. How do you store them? Do you rip out the page, or does the integrity of the journal matter as a document matter, and what then is its authenticity?

Officially Published Timetables but of Poor Quality

Some less well-to-do carriers may issue timetables which may appear to be fakes due to poor quality or the fact that they were "printed" by photocopied means. A classic example was the last issue of the New York, Susquehanna & Western Railroad. This timetable was partly pasted up from a previous timetable, partly typewritten, used crude graphics and awful green ink on yellow plain paper, and offset or photocopied. Yet it was an officially published carrier's timetable. But given its crudity, how can you authenticate a fake when genuine article is worse than he copy?

Model Railroad Timetables

Not quite a fantasy timetable, since it does operate on a regular schedule even though at smaller size scale. Some modelers have printed very nice timetables to the point that other people have misconstrued them to be from real railroads. If someone pirates that, is it not also the same situation if one pirates a real railroad's timetable?


Finally, there are two organizations relevant to collecting railroad timetables: National Association of Timetable Collectors (based and focused in USA but with global membership and item interest), and Australian Association of Timetable Collectors (based and focused in Australia, but also with global membership and item interest as well). While both focus mainly on railroad timetables, they do cover all modes of transport as well: bus lines, airlines, ferries, ships, aerial cable cars, taxis, whatever. I understand that there may be a similar British association as well, and possibly others. I am in both the USA and Australian association because I originally lived in New York but moved to Perth in 1982, so my collecting interest has had extensive input in both. It may be of interest for your website visitors to be in touch with these organizations.

Vytautas B. Radzivanas
Perth, Western Australia