British Rail advert from 1980 with Jimmy Savile.

British Railways (BR), which from the 1960s traded as British Rail, was the operator of most of the rail transport in Great Britain between 1948 and 1997. It was formed as a result of the nationalisation of the “Big Four” British railway companies and lasted until the gradual privatisation of British Rail in stages between 1994 and 1997. Originally a trading brand of the Railway Executive of the British Transport Commission, it became an independent statutory corporation in 1962: the British Railways Board.

The period of nationalisation saw sweeping changes in the national railway network; a process of dieselisation occurred which saw steam traction eliminated in 1968, in favour of diesel and electric power. Passengers replaced freight as the main source of business and one third of the network was closed by the Beeching Axe of the 1960s.

The British Rail “double arrow” logo is formed of two interlocked arrows showing the direction of travel on a double track railway and was nicknamed “the arrow of indecision”. It is now employed as a generic symbol on street signs in Great Britain denoting railway stations, and as part of the Association of Train Operating Companies’ jointly-managed National Rail brand—being still printed on railway tickets.

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