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Majestic emblems with funny nicknames

In the UK, the railways were nationalized in 1948, merging the "Big 4" Southern, Great Western, LMS and LNER into the newly established British Railways (BR). During the early years, BR had the opposite of consistent corporate identity and a whole range of typefonts and emblems were applied to rolling stock, station signs and printed materials. From the late 1940s to 1956, the so-called "Cycling Lion" was in official use and mainly graced the tender of steam locomotives, especially new-build models like the standardized series.

The "Cycling Lion" is still easy to spot on countless preserved steam locomotives today, some on the main line and even more at heritage railways. What gives this emblem enduring popularity and legions of nostalgic fans, is its majestic apperance and regal refinement, features that are generally appropriate for the United Kingdom! While the rendering of various details like the lion's ears, mane or tail have received humorous commentary over the years, the animal does radiate strength and determination, while occupying pride of place, wherever it appears. Above all, this emblem is visually pleasing as it is structurally well balanced, with the legs of the lion framing the wheel and cohesively arching around it.

Officially, the "Cycling Lion" was replaced with the "Ferret and Dartboard" emblem in 1956, although the former never dissappeared entirely and continued to adorn various steam locomotives until their categoric withdrawal from BR freight and passenger services in the late 1960s.

The "Ferret and Dartboard" was applied to both steam and early diesel locomotives and remained in use until 1965. Although chronologically it was newer, stylistically it was actually much more traditional and retrospective than the Art Deco inspired "Cycling Lion". Instead the "Dartboard" actually included heraldic imagery that was a throwback to the transport iconography of the 19th century.

Real change and finally more consistent corporate identity would come to BR in 1965, when the instantly iconic "Double Arrow" logo was unveiled. It was combined with an overhaul of all company typescript as well as the introduction of a new blue and yellow color scheme for the rolling stock.

The timeless quality and visual effectiveness of the "Double Arrow" remains obvious, as it has long outlived British Rail itself and continues to function as the over-arching emblem of rail transport in Britain, even in the era of privatization. At a time when the names and emblems of franchised operators change every few years and usually are eminently forgettable, that sort of staying power is all the more remarkable. Passing that test of time, hasn't made the BR logo immune to typical British humor though, as it has been called many a nickname, including "Barbed Wire" or "Arrow of Indecision".

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