Back in 1985, National Rail came up with a superhero-inspired promotion, no doubt in the hope that Captain Caution would do for rail safety what the Green Cross Man had been doing to encourage kids to be careful crossing roads.
The still nationalised National Rail commissioned 2000AD Ron Smith – then working on the daily “Judge Dredd” strip for the Daily Star – to create the look for a for the flying character, seen here saving two New Engine Desperados from the line of death!
The look doesn’t quite work – whoever developed the project clearly thought an Enid Blyton schoolboy look to the potential trespassers was a great idea, despite the fashions of most genuine teenagers of the day. Still, either Ron or the ad agency came up with an interesting take on the British Rail double arrow logo that is still in use to denote Britain’s railways for Captain Caution’s emblem – counter to all the usual restrictions on changing it.
British Rail didn’t just have Captain Caution saving kids from harm in the 1980s, of course – there was also the Rail Riders young rail enthusiasts club, originally called Great Rail Club, run by British Rail between 1981 and 1991, promoted by Keith Chegwin. It had its own quarterly magazine, Rail Riders Express.
The magazine featured some great art worthy of appearance in Eagle, Look and Learn or other such titles, cartoon characters dressing feature pages – and, we understand, its own comic strip starring BR’s chief test driver, Ben Stacey, although as yet we’ve been unable to find examples of this so it’s possible the character featured in text stories.
Former members recall he had a big “BR” emblazoned on his chest and was there to combat trespass and vandalism. He saved the Forth Bridge from being stolen by aliens, rescued the Maglev on the moon and more.
Membership of Rail Riders also entitled children aged 5-15 to discounted rail travel and free entry to the Rail Riders World model railway exhibit that used to be sited at York railway station, but closed in 2011 after British Rail was privatised and was moved by its owner William Heron to Hemswell Cliff in Lincolnshire, now operating as the Gainsborough Model Railway.
The club sponsored two Class 47 locomotives, one from 1981 to 1988 and another from 1988 to 1992, named 47406 Rail Riders and 47488 Rail Riders.
• Do you have copies of Rail Riders featuring the Ben Stacey stories? Let us know!
• The Southern Railway Publicity Site has images of various Rail Clubs of the past here, including the Sea Link Club and Rail Riders
• There’s a terrific archive of British Rail ephemera here on Flickr, curated by Mike Ashworth – and an album of Railway Publicity here