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Branding and the Three Beasties

Just before the first lockdown last year, I met up with Frank Paterson to take part in his programme of rail privatisation memories being archived for the NRM. Seeing Frank again, skipping down the stairs from the overbridge at Newark Northgate after an interval of 36 years was a shock, as he hardly seemed to have aged at all.

Tom Connell being presented with his plaque by Richard Holmes, EWS communications manager. (Nigel Harris)

Frank had already undertaken many interviews by the time I met up with him, but that was appropriate as freight had always been a bit of an afterthought at privatisation meetings involving the Department or nascent Railtrack, when the phrase ‘….and freight’ would be mentioned right at the end of the session. In fact, ‘….and freight ‘ became a popular catchphrase of the period.

I hope that over the two days of recordings I retrieved many anecdotes and fundamental episodes for posterity, but there was only one subject that really got Frank’s curiosity juices flowing---the origin of the three pseudo-heraldic creatures that was to become the logo of EWS, or as he put it, ‘the three beasties’.

We have to go back to late 1995. The flip-flopping decisions of the previous two years on what to do with freight…MBOs, Trade Sales, several companies, one company?.... had been resolved in Wisconsin Central’s favour. Loadhaul, Mainline, Transrail and Res to WCT, Freightliner as a token giveaway MBO and RFD to stay with the BRB along with derelict bridges and abandoned tunnels.

Concern over names and titles did not really figure on our list of preoccupations at the time, but it did not bode well that our new owners had come up with the name ‘North and South Railways’ to christen the purchase vehicle for the freight companies. That only made sense shortly afterwards when it emerged they had trusted their lawyers to come up with the name. Worse was to come.

58037 outside Toton paintshop on January 14 1997 (Nigel Harris)

Bear in mind that as a group, freight railwaymen had always had their feet on the ground in terms of nomenclature. In the late 80’s the lady on the Board responsible for design and corporate identity had insisted we employ brand consultants in funny trousers to name the new sectors.

They got away with the inspiring two shades of grey for locos and the ‘Crown Paint’ lookalike sub-sector logos but we dug our heels in over the likes of ‘Astoria’, ‘Borealis’ and ‘Putalia’ for the Sector and stubbornly insisted on ‘Trainload Freight’, because that was what it was. Even the entrepreneurial Ian Brown opted for the fairly self-evident ‘Railfreight Distribution.’

So when in March 1996 Ed Burkhardt announced ‘English Welsh and Scottish Railway’ (note, never was Railways) we could only conclude that megalomania and an appeal to nationalism had trumped marketing nous. (Bear in mind that in those pre-reality TV, pre UKIP, pre-Brexit days no-one would have dared float ‘Great British Railways’ with a straight face.) Shortly after the name came the livery and it was no surprise that the by then corporate WCT red with gold stripe was adopted and enthusiastically applied, initially by Toton depot, especially when painting over former ‘Loadhaul’ locos. Such was Toton’s enthusiasm that they turned out quite a few with E W & S in Arial script on the side before our own Communications Department could set the rules on type face (more traditional railway Gill Sans), placing and spacing. From then on it was the less fussy EWS, which also assisted the name of the monthly company NEWSpaper.

Staff mug of the period

Ed Burkhardt however was still not content. He had acquired a piece of Olde Englande (Scotlande and Walese?) and wanted to exploit the fact. Given that Beeching’s footprint is impossible to equal let alone beat (look at LNER, East Coast or GNER), the professionals struggled to come up with something. Ultimately during the summer of ’96 it was the deepening relationship with influential freight supporter Nigel Harris and his ‘Rail’ magazine that produced the idea of exploiting Ed’s growing popularity (cult status) amongst railway enthusiasts by launching a competition to come up with a logo.

Over a thousand entries were received and whittled down to a shortlist which was presented to Ed for final selection. Ironically the three beasties (English Lion, Scottish stag and Welsh dragon) was actually the work of professional freelance illustrator, Tom Connell, at that time a 38 year old living in Reading. It was so good out of the envelope that the original assumption it would have to go to a studio to be finessed was quickly dropped. Tom’s reward? A visit to Toton depot to be presented with a cast aluminium plaque of his design on January 14 1997 in front of 58037, the first loco to which it was applied (See accompanying photo).

Pewter wine stopper presented to customers at marketing events

Our Communications people had originally planned to provide two of the cast plates for every loco but it soon became clear that the cost of that would be significant as well as the incentive it might provide for trespass and attempted theft. (The special plates did find their way on to the ‘Royal’ 47s but not on to the later Class 67 replacements.) The more practical solution of yellow vinyl was rolled out nationwide and the design was used extensively on letterheads, brochures, business cards, vehicles, buildings, staff equipment and signs as well as providing the inspiration for many marketing incentives over the next few years…the pewter wine stopper prominent amongst the more durable.

Ian Braybrook

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