Engineers v. industrial designers: The struggle for professional control over the British Railways Mark 2 Coach, c. 1955–66

Colin Divall*, Hiroki Shin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the jurisdictional battle between engineers and industrial designers over railway coach design as an episode in the post-war modernisation of the UK. Engineers’ long domination of the design process was challenged from the mid-1950s by the nationalised British Railways’ employment of industrial designers. These emerging specialists used the new Design Panel to consolidate their professional status by transforming British Railways’ public image and competitiveness against road and air transport. Engineers still had much to contribute but establishing a working relationship between the two expert groups was difficult, made more so by frequent changes to management structures. The reconciliation of professional tensions and organisational schisms resulted by the mid-1960s in a highly successful new range of standard coaches, the Mark 2 (1964–75). These became a key to the creation of the internationally recognised business brands, ‘British Rail’ and ‘Inter-City’.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Transport History
Early online date11 Apr 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Apr 2018

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  • business brand
  • Industrial design
  • mechanical engineering
  • professional jurisdiction
  • railway modernisation

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