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9 of the best, funniest and oddest rail commercials made for TV.

Posted by Luke Upton on Dec 10, 2015

CaptureVideoUPRail and metro has always had to compete with other transport modes, negative public perceptions and sometimes confusing changes of brand name and ownership. A big part of promoting the positive nature of train travel from operators all over the world has been television commercials. They can have a big impact on the public’s view of trains, for example in the UK, a 1988 advert coined the phrase ‘Let the train take the strain’ a phrase that is still commonly used, even if British Rail whom it advertised ceased operations in 2001. Today SmartRail World Editor Luke Upton, runs down nine of the best, funniest, most unusual and quirky ral adverts from around the world. Let us know which one is your favourite or which we’ve missed ( and we’ll add them in! Happy watching!

Virgin Trains - "Return of the Train" (UK, 2006)

Movie stars including Cary Grant, John Mills and Jack Lemmon are brought back to life in the new Virgin Trains advert, The advert uses footage from classic films featuring trains, such as 'The Railway Children', 'The Lady Vanishes', 'Some Like It Hot' and 'North By Northwest, from which Grant delivers the ad's end-line: "It beats flying, doesn't it?"



DB Deutsche Bahn -  "Macho" (Germany, 2012). English Subtitles.

Even a owner of a BMW or Mercedes-Benz is unlikely to impress a train driver...



Canadian Pacific, Brothers  (Canada, 2011)

A story about the rivalry between two brothers who grow up with different interests. The story symbolizes the relationship between Canadian Pacific and Canadian grain farmers who have 'grown up together' over the past 130 years.



SmartRail Europe 2016

Metro Trains in Melbourne - Dumb Ways to Die (Australia, 2012)

Our only video that went truly viral. Advertising agency McCann Melbourne estimated that within two weeks, it had generated at least $50 million worth of global media value in addition to more than 700 media stories, for "a fraction of the cost of one TV ad". According to Metro Trains, the campaign contributed to a more than 30% reduction in "near-miss" accidents, from 13.29 near-misses per million kilometres in November 2011 – January 2012, to 9.17 near-misses per million kilometres in November 2012 – January 2013.



SNCF – Europe. It’s Just Next Door (France, 2013)

I’m a big fan of this one. A door placed in the middle of plazas across Europe, each with the name of a different city (able to be reached by train of course!) Those who opened the door found a live video stream linking them with street performers in Milan, dancers in Barcelona, a painter in Brussels, a rowboat in Geneva, and a bike ride in Stuttgart. Created by the French ad agency TBWA.

Union Pacific - "Great Big Rolling Railroad" (USA, 1970s)

A real classic this - featuring hand-clapping, foot-stomping and dancing from a host of American Class 1 operators Union Pacific's finest employees. They don’t make ‘em like they used to!



Indian Railways – “Vision Counts More” (India, 1990s)

The world’s biggest rail network focusses on courteousness and passenger behaviour in this initially confusing effort from the 1990s.



JR Tokai – “Christmas Eve" (Japan, 1990s)

A festive series here from the Central Japan Railway Company showing the love and joy that combining train transport and Christmas can bring. The music is "Christmas Eve" by Yamashita Tatsuro.



Renfe – “My grandson, my grandson!” (Spain, 2010) – press the subtitles button to get some English.

A nice look at the family legacy that is often found within rail workers… and a reminder that there was a time when the future of rail wasn’t nearly as solid.



Let us know which rail TV advert is your favourite or which we’ve missed ( and we’ll add them in!


If you like rail commercials made for TV you may also be interested in...

10 of the best (and most unusual) rail passenger information posters from around the world.

9 unique subway and metro maps from around the world.


Topics: quirky

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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