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Thomas Cook: RIP Overseas Timetable

By Eleanor Flagler Hardy

I feel like the voice of gloom and doom, but really, it is sad saying good-bye to the Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable. If you want to get the last edition of this venerable publication, order. And do it now. We very recently got the bad news that the current issue is its last. IRT caught up with Editor Peter Bass of Peterborough, UK, who will be 62 in January, and who has worked for the Thomas Cook timetables for almost 36 years. It would be 36 years to the day on Dec. 2. He became editor of the Overseas Timetable in 1980. That winter, the publishers decided to split the overseas info from the European edition.

Stopping the presses on the OTT “was a shock on this end…We have known it was probably going to happen at some stage or other, but to be so quick. This was quite a shock,” said Bass in a telephone interview today. “Everyone who has heard the news has been upset by it.” Basically, the information from the OTT won’t be available in any one place, he said. You can get it from each railway separately — if you are lucky. But the OTT had 100 contributors from all over the world. Bass and his part-time assistant had to condense the info significantly and well, edit it. “If we published timetables from every country, the book would be the size of a bus… The art is to get enough information to make it useful, but not so much that people are overwhelmed.”
Mr. Bass was philosophical about his upcoming retirement. “The OTT was so much more than just an information pack. It was an aspirational thing. A lot of people buy the timetable and never go anywhere. They just loved to read and work out how they could go from A to B.”

The Society of International Railway Travelers® and our far-flung members wish it a fond farewell. As Owen Hardy, Publisher of The International Railway Traveler, wrote before he knew this was the last issue: “Adventure and romance drip from its pages…In the past 30 years, travel has become safer, speedier-and more blandly homogenous. But as long as travelers crave adventure, as well as solid travel information, there will be room for the OTT. Thanks for the fantastic ride, OTT editors.”

Thanks indeed. And readers, what say you about the Overseas Timetable?