Totem station signs were brought
in by the newly nationalized British Railways in 1948. The plan was to use the totem as
the BR logo on all equipment and to give each station signs in a regional
To start with the signs were
½ flanged but the edges were prone to rusting and the wings were ideal for vandals to fold in.
Later fully flanged totems were introduced and the ½ flanged were dropped.
example of an unrestored half flanged totem
shows you the sort of rusting you will see on a
totem that has been out in the weather for a
number of years
On a fully flanged totem you can see that
the flange extends right round the edges and so gives it much
greater strength making it much more difficult to crease.
Some stations had a mixture of
½ and fully flanged, some had all of one type and some were never given totems.
There was an element of randomness as to whether a Station got totems or not and
if you want to check whether one you are interested in had totems and get some
idea of its rarity then take a look at our
totem rarity guide.
A plan was made at
one time to make all stations uniform with black totems and a few were made and
tested at BR(W) stations, but
this idea was dropped with the advent of the new corporate image. Gradually all the
totems were replaced with many finding their way to Collectors Corner at Euston
station and others going to the scrap man. Many were rescued by someone simply
being in the right place at the right time.
All totems are now highly
collectable with most Railwayana collectors having at least one in their
collection - with many collectors opting for one of each colour. - Hundreds
of totems go through auction each
year and so it is quite easy to start a collection. There were six regional
colours and also the experimental Western Region black ones.
NORTH EASTERN REGION
WESTERN REGION EXPERIMENTAL (Enamel)
WESTERN REGION EXPERIMENTAL (Plastic)
There were many other variations and a number of
different Totem types are shown below starting from the very first
examples that started to emerge shortly after nationalisation in
earliest BR(W) Totem sign was in this format which was a
flanged rectangular sign with wooden ends. They were
used at just two stations - this in Devon & Helston in
Western region also had three stations with non flanged
Totem signs that had a greater curvature on the top and
lower panels - these were also found at Little Kimble &
stations on the Southern Region had totems with dark
green enamel and black edges with no internal lining. (Wraysbury
also had conventional white edged totems.)
Central Station had 4 foot totems with wide flanges that
were mounted in pairs back to back above the timetable
boards. Three pairs to the station - these also had no
Totems were used at six Southern Stations - in
Axminster's case there were no conventional enamel Totem
signs on the Station.
substantial Western Region Totem Direction Sign being 5
feet long and almost certainly from somewhere in Devon.
from Pontefract Station on the North Eastern Region had
the edges and back finished in tangerine enamel.
totems on the North Eastern region had black edges to
the lettering which was presumably to make them easier
to read under station lighting at night.
Midland Region had more 4ft long totems than any other
area. These never look right in proportion and that is
probably why 36" long remained the norm.
Wembley Stadium Station was given totems but quite late
on so rather than make new enamel ones redundant totems
from Watford Junction were over painted to impress the
Totems were mounted Back to back hanging from the
pair from Bristol. Only four Totems survived when the
Station was cleared of BR enamels
The largest Totem in
the World! - 8 feet long and quite likely to be from the
station frontage at St Pancras Station.
Totems were added at the end of station Facia
boards as at Farnham Station. These could have a name included
inside the totem as below or just white
Let Sleeping Dogs Lie - but not in the
SR influence in BR Station Direction enamel
BR(S) pattern of similar sign
The totem was the Corporate image for the new
British Railways and so appeared on many enamels during the
1950's/1960's. A few more examples are shown below.
BR(NE) small Totem Posterboard
BR(M) small Totem Posterboard
BR(E) Totem Cap Badge
BR(S) Totem Cap Badge
Totems can turn up in the most
unlikely places. I don't think that this one was on the Carriage
shed of the Bideford -Westward Ho & Appledore Railway located in
Bideford when it opened! At least it is still standing - it and the
Loco shed were both listed but somehow the Loco Shed was knocked
down by the next door garage owner!
Paper advertising also had the totem logo with the most viewed
being Railway Posters.
We have made a list of all the Stations that appear to
have had totems and and give an approximate price guide as to how much
you might have to pay to purchase any particular totem. Click
to view our Rarity Guide.